Wyre Forest Labour Blog

Sensational news broke today that the Tory controlled Worcestershire County Council, which has local Wyre Forest big wig Tories sitting on it, tried to cover up the extent of the black hole in its finances. It could lead to it declaring bankruptcy like Northamptonshire Tory Council.

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown said “I believe what’s happened demonstrates the folly of austerity in a climate of rising demand. There is simply insufficient Govt funding to provide what’s required, and the Tory County Council, which is wedded to austerity and doesn’t criticise it, has been living in a fantasy land thinking it can fit a quart into a pint pot.

Further, it demonstrates why the Cabinet model does not best serve the community that elects these politicians. It puts power in the hands of the few that creates an insular and authoritarian environment without challenge. It seeks to bury bad news rather than dealing with the issues. The myth that the Tories can be trusted to run the council and its finances is well and truly busted. The chickens are coming home to roost and significant efforts now need to be made to prevent Worcestershire becoming the next Northamptonshire. 

That Minister Sajid David’s own constituency sits in Worcestershire and he’s totally oblivious, shows he’s been spending too much time smearing Labour, like the rest of his cronies, and not putting enough attention into doing his own day job or concentrating on his own backyard. And what of our own local Tory MP Mark Garnier? What has he been doing whilst services have been cut and voted through by him? It’s no surprise the council is in crisis, just like our NHS. The common thread here is obvious - it’s the Tories, they couldn’t run a tap in a wash house without messing everything up.”

Full story here:

http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/16163039.Fury_over_Worcestershire_County_Council__39_s___39_financial_black_hole__39_/

 

http://wyrelife.co.uk/2018/04/16/county-chiefs-suppressed-critical-review-of-its-finances-new-investigation-finds/

Cover Up At County Hall

Sensational news broke today that the Tory controlled Worcestershire County Council, which has local Wyre Forest big wig Tories sitting on it, tried to cover up the extent of the...

Wyre Forest Labour today set out its 7 key policy pledges ahead of May’s Council Elections with the slogan “Vote Labour: for people, communities, & businesses”.

Stephen Brown, Labour’s Media spokesperson said

“Labour believes there is a different way to run the council that puts people, communities, and business, at the forefront of investment and our local democracy. For too long, the Tory council has been run in an insular and authoritarian way ignoring the wishes of local people. Labour will put an end to this approach. Our people, communities and businesses are our biggest assets and they deserve to be treated with respect and listened to properly. Labour will carry on making the case for protecting our local services and ending austerity, but will work in partnership to deliver positive change for the District, including on business investment and much needed affordable housing.”

Wyre Forest Labour’s 7 Key Pledges:

  1. HOUSING: Prioritise the building of affordable housing, including self-build and co-operatives.
  2. LOCAL SERVICES: Protect local services and retain the use of Kidderminster Town Hall for Wyre Forest Hub.
  3. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Invest in local businesses and work with them and trade unions to improve local wages and apprenticeships.
  4. COUNCIL FUNDING: Lobby Government for more money for Wyre Forest and increase income from commercial activity.
  5. LOCAL PLAN: Prioritise development on Brownfield Sites and regenerate our town centres.
  6. BUS SERVICES: Campaign with the Regulators for better bus services.
  7. KIDDERMINSTER TOWN CENTRE: Increase residential occupation of the town centre through new construction and retail conversion.

Wyre Forest Labour Candidates:

(Personal statements from candidates about their localised priorities will be available on our website and Facebook page in due course)

  • Ben Davies - Aggborough & Spennells
  • Jamie Shaw - Areley Kings & Riverside
  • Rod Stanczyszyn - Bewdley & Rock
  • Daniel Crampton - Blakebrook & Habberley South
  • Gareth Webster - Broadwaters
  • Brian Seymour-Smith - Foley Park & Holbrook
  • Christopher Nicholls - Franche & Habberley North
  • Cliff Brewer - Mitton
  • Nick Savage - Offmore & Comberton
  • Philip Edmundson - Wribbenhall & Arley
  • David Jones - Wyre Forest Rural

Wyre Forest Labour Launches Council Election Manifesto: “for people, communities, & businesses”

Wyre Forest Labour today set out its 7 key policy pledges ahead of May’s Council Elections with the slogan “Vote Labour: for people, communities, & businesses”. Stephen Brown, Labour’s Media...

Wyre Forest Labour today reveals the huge row that’s developed over the last 2 years between Worcestershire NHS Health & Care Trust, and Tory Controlled Worcestershire County Council over the Ludlow Road closure. This, in a week that the Tory council plays the worst kind of politics with the families and lives of severely disabled children, by putting back a decision on the service until after the May council elections.

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour said “The Tories at County Hall are engaging in what is a contemptuous and politically motivated move by putting back its decision on Ludlow Road, and so creating yet more stress and anxiety for the families. It seems they are fearful of a voter backlash that the closure of Ludlow Road will have on its vote before May’s council elections. And so they should be, local people expressed their support for the disabled children and their families in their thousands. The council should be taking note of that and keeping it open, not playing cynical political mind games with voters in the hope they can win votes and yet still quietly try and close Ludlow Road once the elections are out of the way.”

Stephen Brown continued. “It gets worse, because the FOI I’ve requested to get to the truth on this reveals the warnings the NHS gave to the Tory Council going back 2 years about the negative impact of closing Ludlow Road. What’s abundantly clear is the breakdown in the relationship between the NHS and Council over this, with the council even making threats against the NHS that it will find other providers if the NHS fails to work ‘collaboratively’ with it. The council also said it aims to ‘reduce dependency on specialist provision’. This, in a nutshell, confirms early on that the council totally failed to understand the complex medical needs of the disabled children. It views them as engaging in some kind of scrounger dependency culture rather than being medically dependent and it being part of the council’s statutory duty to provide care. It compares disabled children to those who’ve made some kind of lifestyle choice. Frankly, it’s appalling heartlessness and you have to question whether some of these people are fit for public office, especially when allied to the political ‘decision’ to delay a decision until after the elections. Nevertheless, this is unprecedented stuff, dynamite in fact. The NHS has even criticised the consultation saying it could lead to a Judicial Review. This is exactly what the Labour Party, supporting the campaigners, have been saying. The Council, in putting its pursuit of austerity and privatisation ahead of everything else, has lost sight of its duty of care to our most vulnerable citizens. It’s a scandal. We’ve seen it in Children’s Services, and now sadly it’s being replicated again here. For these Tories, finding money for repairing Pot holes has a higher priority than the most vulnerable or disabled children in its care. That shows you where they’re coming from. Well, where we’re coming from is supporting the parents group to the hilt. We’ll push the Tory Council all the way on this one.”

Wyre Forest Labour FOI reveals the following key issues:

15th March 2016: NHS to WCC - NHS state “We are very concerned about the way this has been approached and resultant consequences for children with complex and often life limiting conditions.” NHS Letter also refers to correspondence in August 2015 about removal of ring fenced monies, concerns about the impact on the children, and need to follow appropriate process. NHS also asks how can it work ‘collaboratively’ if WCC is withdrawing entire budget?

30th March 2016: WCC to NHS - confirms no resources for service 2018/2019 and redesign in 2017. States aim is “promoting wellbeing and independence reducing demand and dependency on specialist provision”. Sum required to be saved is £540,285. Also states Council threat that it will put contract out to “competitive tender” if collaboration with NHS fails.

13th April 2017: NHS to WCC - NHS warns council again about the need for “adequate consultation.”

19th February 2018: (Official NHS consultation response) NHS to WCC - NHS states “concerned that a proposal which ceases provision at the unit is being considered ahead of the work that needs to be undertaken to assess whether this is a viable option or not.” 

Letter critical of WCC view on OFSTED considerations being factored in by WCC when the unit is NHS owned, and so nothing to do with WCC. 

(Labour comment - this can be seen as an attempt by WCC to lay it on thick to achieve an end result the Tories want rather than have a truly impartial needs based review).

Letter refers to “complex and exceptional needs” of the children, and that it’s a nursing lead unit and the children will require “appropriate staff competencies”. NHS critical of plans at Osborne Court (potential alternative site) by re-designating “emergency beds” as “routine beds” and what impact this could have on emergency admissions; eg it’s a flawed consultation premise if decision making on any of the alternatives available is done on this basis. Letter concludes that it’s not clear how the needs of the disabled children will be met and so they can’t comment on suitability of alternatives, and questions whether WCC will meet the terms of Equality Act, and that a Judicial Review (legal challenge against any decision) is “likely”. 

(Labour comment - overall it’s clear the NHS view the consultation process as flawed, that it lacks critical thinking about process and alternatives available, and is not putting the needs of the disabled children at the centre of the changes).

 

Tories “unfit for public office” over Ludlow Road closure

Wyre Forest Labour today reveals the huge row that’s developed over the last 2 years between Worcestershire NHS Health & Care Trust, and Tory Controlled Worcestershire County Council over the...

Brian Seymour-Smith, the Labour Party Candidate for Foley Park and Hoobrook, is calling on Worcestershire County Council to urgently make safe and clear the main footpath which runs alongside and up to the Severn Valley Railway Bridge on the busy main A442 Worcester Road leading into Kidderminster.

Brian_on_A442_footpath.PNGBrian wants action taken before someone is very seriously injured or killed by the heavy passing traffic which constantly uses the main road.

For several years, residents who use this pavement on a regular basis, have been warning the council about the dangers the footpath poses, asking them to do something about it.

The Worcester Road is an extremely busy road. The A442 dual-carriageway narrows as it meets the Severn Valley Railway Bridge. This means traffic, in particular heavy lorries, are then suddenly forced into an almost bottleneck situation. This forces the vehicles and particularly those drivers who do not know the road, to sometimes mount the pavement in order to avoid a vehicle collision. For any pedestrians walking on the footpath at the very narrowest point, this leaves them vulnerable to a potentially life-threatening situation, especially the elderly and parents pushing baby buggies.

As Brian explains, “The problem has come about because over long period of time, earth has eroded from the embankment overlooking the pavement. Foliage has grown up from the spillage, narrowing the footpath. Because no proper action has been taken to remove this overspill, it means the footpath has become extremely narrow at one very dangerous pointwhich is no more than a baby buggy wide”.

He adds, “Local residents have been telling me they want the following to happen:

  • The earth mound which has found its way onto the footpath to be cleared back to its original width, providing ample room for pedestrians to walk along the footpath
  • A wall to be built (as previously suggested) to stop the earth from collapsing onto the pavement. This needs to be done with the agreement of adjoining private propertieswho must also share major concerns about this problem
  • That metal fencing be erected along the side of the footpath adjacent to the main road
  • Barriers and clear signage erected which clearly warns about the dangers for traffic approaching the Severn Valley Railway Bridge
  • And a meeting held with local residents in a suitable location to listen to their concerns and to talk about how and when this work will be carried out, together with all local recommendations taken into account.”

Brian has written to Worcestershire County Council and requested that urgent action is taken to resolve this situation. He will also be writing to local residents to back his local campaign to demand Worcestershire County Council resolve this dangerous situation.

Brian concluded, “I understand the local Tory MP and local Tory councillors have in the past been approached to resolve this matter. An inspector came from the council to investigate the situation, but nothing more was done. Therefore, I am launching this campaign so that I can support local residents and send a clear message to Worcestershire County Council to take urgent action before someone is killed or seriously injured.”

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Press Officer added “Brian is to be congratulated for raising this issue and highlighting Tory inaction on it despite repeated requests to local Tory Councillors and even the MP. Wyre Forest Labour are right behind Brian and calling for urgent action on this dangerous road. What are the council going to do? Wait until someone is seriously injured or killed before bothering to do anything? Local residents, and incidentally drivers using the road, deserve a better response from the Tory County Council. Those senior Wyre Forest Tory Councillors in influential County positions need to start earning their money and step off their gravy train and support the local residents they were elected to serve.”

Read Brian's letter to Foley Park and Hoobrook residents here

Labour Activist calls for action on dangerous Kidderminster Road

Brian Seymour-Smith, the Labour Party Candidate for Foley Park and Hoobrook, is calling on Worcestershire County Council to urgently make safe and clear the main footpath which runs alongside and...

Wyre Forest Labour recently drew attention to a sneaky Tory plan to cut the free school meals of 800 of Wyre Forest’s poorest children. Labour has managed to force a vote on this issue in Parliament this week. 

Wyre Forest Labour is urging Wyre Forest’s Tory MP, Mark Garnier, to vote with Labour and protect free school meals for the children of some of his poorest constituents.

This week will see a vote on this matter that Labour has forced in Parliament. Our Tory MP Mark Garnier has been decidedly quiet on it. The fact that the price for the DUP propping up this moribund Tory Government is free school meals for the poorest in Northern Ireland not being under threat of being removed says it all. What’s good enough for Northern Ireland’s poorest families is good enough for the rest of the UK. Well this week we’ll get the chance to see whether Mark Garnier again reveals his true Tory colours. If he votes to cut free school meals from 800 of the poorest kids in Wyre Forest we’ll know for sure he holds his poorer constituents in contempt. No doubt he’ll try and dress it up in platitudes about him really caring but most of us know his usual routine in baloney when we hear it.


Letter to Mark Garnier

In responding to Mark Garnier’s reply to my letter on 800 children losing free school meals in Wyre Forest, Stephen Brown said “I’m not misinformed Mark, and frankly it’s a lazy excuse because children will lose out when they change schools, so my figures of about 800 in Wyre Forest are accurate over the timescales I predicted.”

“This is all about the Tories cutting £600million from Universal Credit and Mark should just be honest enough to admit it. But policy honesty isn’t his strongpoint is it.”

“Nor is anyone suggesting 50% of children should or are eligible under Universal Credit so that’s a red herring. This is about the Tories slashing the threshold on earnings in half, with the result being local children in the poorest families being targeted and losing eligibility for free school meals. The fact Mark demonstrates no empathy with the impact of that is revealing in itself of his lack of concern for a good number of his constituents.”

“Is Mark also suggesting we should align with all Scottish practices then? How about scrapping student tuition fees then for a start? A vacuous reply in my opinion but at least Mark replied. There will however be a health and social care impact down the line, which will result in additional cost to the taxpayer, so this is a brutal and unnecessary cut meaning it’s ideologically driven and a false economy.”

Stephen Brown

From: "GARNIER, Mark" <mark.garnier.mp@parliament.uk>
Date: 13 March 2018 at 13:22:01 GMT
To: Stephen Brown
Subject: FW: Parliamentary Free School Meals vote

Dear Stephen

Thank you for contacting me about eligibility for free school meals under Universal Credit.

Your suggestion that children will lose out on free school meals is misinformed. This suggestion is based on a hypothetical situation where all children in receipt of Universal Credit receive free school meals, which was never the intention. If all children in families receiving Universal Credit were to become eligible for free school meals, around 50 per cent of all school aged pupils would be eligible. Instead, free school meals are rightly targeted at the children who need them most, with around 14 per cent of children eligible for and claiming free school meals last year. The approach of setting an income threshold is comparable to the approach taken in Scotland where a similar net earnings threshold was introduced in August 2017.

You may be encouraged to learn that the Department for Education recently ran a public consultation, seeking the views of parents, schools, local authorities and charities on eligibility for free school meals. In light of this, the Department has proposed transitional protections so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit.

Kind Regards

Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen Brown
Sent: 12 March 2018 14:12
To: GARNIER, Mark <mark.garnier.mp@parliament.uk>
Subject: Parliamentary Free School Meals vote

Dear Mark,

Can you tell me which way you’ll be voting this week on this matter please now that there will be a vote forced through by Labour?

I’m sure the parents of the 800 children who were set to lose out under the originally intended non votable statutory instrument would be keen to know where you stand.

Keeping their free school meals or voting for cuts of another £600million to some of societies poorest and most vulnerable children?

I hope you vote against this cut and would urge you to do so.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour


There are around 12,000 children of school age in Wyre Forest, and 3,400 of them will already be living in households deemed to be in poverty. The average eligibility in the Midlands for free school meals is 14.9% and in Wyre Forest it’s higher at 18.9%.

It means we currently have a potential for 2,200 children to benefit from school meals in the District, which is less than the 3,400 deemed to be officially classed as living ‘in poverty’. If this Tory plan happens, I calculate that we could see free school meals eligibility cut by 36% and 800 children in some of the already poorest families losing out.

Children eating school mealLow pay is currently a huge problem in Wyre Forest with 8,500 affected. Just how they'll cope when many of them find out from their upcoming Universal Credit assessment it will mean the loss of free school meals for their children is anyone’s guess. I can’t see their employer readily agreeing to pay them £1,000 extra a year to feed each of their children just because the Tories think it’s a good idea to remove their free school meals. Can you? Whilst Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier trumpets falling unemployment in the District, the reality is, it’s based on false statistics and a low wage, low employment rights, job market; and under this Government, and with a Tory Brexit, there seems little chance of an economic boom to increase workers’ wages. In 8 years he’s done nothing about low pay which has stagnated at 2008 levels. In 8 years he’s also voted for every welfare cut and every austerity measure that detrimentally affects the most vulnerable. This will be another example of that. So, my question to Mark Garnier is, ‘given the reality of low pay here, how many families will be hit by this change, how many children will suffer, what’s he going to do about it, and does he even care?’ I suspect the answer will be, ‘don’t know, don’t know, nothing, and no’. The usual mealy mouth platitudes and a letter to the Minister aside of course.

Wyre Forest needs a people’s champion as MP to address some of the serious economic, poverty, health, housing, and educational attainment issues we face. Mark Garnier is not that champion, he just sees us as ‘dog end voters’ who, when his cuts hit, are mere ‘statistical anomalies’. He’s ill equipped to be our MP. Nevertheless, I’m urging him, if he really cares about his constituency, to resist this plan and vote against it. The question is, does he have the guts?

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour

800 children in Wyre Forest set to lose free school meals

Labour puts pressure on MP Mark Garnier over Free School Meals vote

Wyre Forest Labour recently drew attention to a sneaky Tory plan to cut the free school meals of 800 of Wyre Forest’s poorest children. Labour has managed to force a...

Wyre Forest Labour today rallied around our local market traders, who face a threat to their livelihoods thanks to yet another daft decision by the Tory District Council.

Wyre Forest District Council wants to kick local traders off their pitches in favour of International traders on 3 dates in the year: 24th March, 14th July, & 1st December.

The most crucial of these dates is 1st December as the traders do a lot of pre-Christmas trade that makes up for lean periods and carries them through January, and so making a large dent in their income.

Nick Savage, Kidderminster Market Trader (left) with Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour (right)Labour Plan Action To Support Our Market Traders:

Wyre Forest Labour Party will be leafleting shoppers this coming Saturday 17th March, between 10.00am and 12.00midday. Please come and join us – contact Market Trader Nick Savage if you can help on nicksavage55@yahoo.com

Wyre Forest Labour Press Officer, Stephen Brown, said “The local market traders are happy to share the market and work together with the international market traders, but their requests to the Council have been rejected. They have a right to know why, and what’s in it for the Council?”

“A shared market would mean everyone wins, local traders, international traders, and local people. It will help keep the town centre vibrant, especially in these hard times. Local Market Traders and their shoppers keep money in the town and in the local economy, International Traders don’t. Surely the Council has a duty to look after local people and the local economy? We’ll therefore be helping the traders leaflet shoppers this coming Saturday to raise awareness of their situation. Our local traders deserve our support, not least because many local people use the market and rely on it. Traders tell me that for many people the market can be a lifeline, as it offers the chance to get out and about and chat to people and it may be the only time in the week they see or even talk to anyone.”

Nick Savage, a local market trader, and prospective Labour candidate for Offmore & Comberton ward added “I have spoken to the local traders, who are devastated at being kicked off the market on major sales days. They all feel a combined market would make more sense. Many hundreds of shoppers will be denied the goods they need. This is yet another mistake made by the Tory Council who give the impression they don’t care about local traders, local people, or the local economy.”

The public can show support by letting Wyre Forest District Council know what you think: worcestershirehub@wyreforestdc.gov.uk

You can also contact, Nick Savage, market trader and Labour Candidate for Offmore & Comberton Ward, to show your support or offer help on 07790 862071 or nicksavage55@yahoo.com

Support Your Local Market Traders

Wyre Forest Labour today rallied around our local market traders, who face a threat to their livelihoods thanks to yet another daft decision by the Tory District Council. Wyre Forest...

Following concerns raised by a job hunter about a local business exploiting young workers, (Delicious Desserts, New Road Kidderminster) and who is expecting new staff to work for free for 7 days, Wyre Forest Labour called for a “Fair Pay Employer’s Charter”.

A local job hunter had alerted Labour after spotting the advert on a national recruitment website, and which was expecting applicants to work for free for 7 days, and often late hours, whilst being ‘trained’. The job hunter who wishes to remain anonymous because it might harm her chances of getting work, said she’d told us because she herself is sick and tired of low pay and working for other exploitive employers in the District.

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Media Spokesperson said “It is totally wrong, and unlawful, for any employer to use exploitative practices like this. Whatever way you dress it up, it’s taking advantage of vulnerable workers, usually very young, and in this case most certainly teenagers, who are desperate to find work. How would this employer feel, or anyone, if their son or daughter was being treated this way? We know that this isn’t the first time this employer has tried this trick to get free work done. But how many others are at it, and contributing to Wyre Forest’s low pay ‘gig’ economy?”

Following an investigation by Wyre Forest Labour, it was found that Delicious Desserts has form. An ex-employee named Chloe, aged 16, has since been in touch and confirmed the practice. She and her colleagues were also prevented from taking breaks, again, unlawfully.  Wyre Forest Labour will be looking at this matter carefully, and will offer what support it can to any person employed by Delicious Desserts to see if there is a case to take to an Employment Tribunal. Anyone affected should contact us.

Stephen Brown continued by saying “I’d urge the business to stop this practice, treat their staff fairly and with dignity, and comply with the law. Wyre Forest Labour is quite prepared to start calling out bad employers who break the law and campaign on it. We’d also happily champion businesses who engage in good employment practice. Maybe it’s time for a Wyre Forest Charter of ‘fair pay employers’?”

ACAS guidance and the law is very clear on such work related training, it has to be paid. There can however be exceptions with trial shifts where agreed between the parties, but this should last no more than a couple of hours. 

Stephen Brown added “It is nevertheless the view of Wyre Forest Labour that even trial shifts are exploitative. Work is work and it should be paid for. No form of employment exploitation is acceptable. How can we ever hope to build trust between employers and workers and develop our economy, offer hope to young people, or build cohesive communities based on an exploitative economy? The Tories have created this problem with their erosion of worker’s rights, attacks on trade unions, and their austerity agenda. Our local Tory MP, Mark Garnier, with his votes in Parliament and endless faux sympathy about low pay being a problem in Wyre Forest has helped create this environment. It should not surprise anyone that some employers then see exploitation as both normal and acceptable. It’s an awful situation for workers, including vulnerable young people. We have to turn back the dial on this and establish fairer practices”

Chloe’s Story:

Chloe said the person who interviewed her was called 'Abz', a "co-owner" of the business.
When she first went for the job, Abz didn't tell her that she wouldn't be paid during training, and in fact, told her that training would be for one day and if she was kept on she would be paid. That promise turned out to be a lie. After she completed her first day at work (unpaid), she was then told 4 more days training were needed from her. Her first shift was 4:30 to 10:30pm which is a late finish for a 16 year old girl in the centre of town, and she was only able to finish then because her Mum got in touch as she was sat outside waiting to give her a lift home, asking where her daughter was. Chloe said it is mainly all 16-17 year olds working there, and she was actually trained by a girl of the same age who is in her year at school. Meanwhile, the Co-owner ‘manager’ didn't train her and spent his time chatting/not working and would shout at her if she made orders incorrectly. During her 'training' shifts, she made orders and shadowed the other 16 year old girl training her. Chloe wasn’t allowed any breaks, and two staff working with her and who started their shift earlier and later then her, were timed a maximum of 2 minutes for a cigarette break. As the late shifts clashed with her GCSEs, Chloe contacted the Co-owner manager to terminate working there and she was told this was “typical of her” and that he would be “happy for you to quit”.

It is quite clear this was actual work, not even a trial shift, and is a breach of the minimum wage regulations. It is also a breach of the EU Working Time Directive, especially so for Chloe, because as a young worker she should be afforded additional breaks protection.

Employer Response:

Wyre Forest Labour’s Secretary, Ben Davies, contacted the owner, who had this to say: 

"Hi Ben, thanks for asking me about 7 days unpaid training and we would like to mention that an inexperienced person would not make any pudding for a customer during training as we are different to other businesses and it’s not ‘productive’ work. We prefer an experienced employee but also encourage an inexperienced person and give them a chance to start their career without having experience in the dessert field. We know they would not be very expert after 7 days training but at least they can work up to our required standard with minimum supervision and do the practice during training because new staff waste food and the time of senior staff. Making desserts is an art and we don't let a trainee staff serve our valuable customers .........We used to start paying from the first day but this policy was misused as some of the inexperienced persons left us after few days for slightly better wages soon after they finished training with us. Some of our trainee staff started their wages after 4 days as they learnt quickly.”

Ben Davies said "This is a clear case of a local business exploiting young workers for their labour, promising pay, and then requiring additional shifts. This is despite workers generating money for the business by making orders for customers and in total contradiction to what the owner claims and said to me. Chloe’s experience is not unique and you wonder just what the turnover of staff actually is in this business. The public, who now know about this, may well vote with their feet. It’s clearly what the workers are doing because they’re fed up with being taken advantage of. It’s actually also quite unacceptable that the owner uses the excuse that trainee’s waste food, and the time of senior staff whilst learning the job. It’s a job he wants doing and is making money out of. Worse still, that he moans about staff leaving for better pay elsewhere, or that they will get paid after working for 4 days for free like it’s somehow acceptable. How long will it be before the owner realises it’s all very counter productive and isn’t doing him or his business any good?”

Stephen Brown finished by saying “We know the economic climate for business is tough, especially for small and start-up ventures. However, exploiting workers, particularly young workers, and not paying them in this way is not, and never will be, the answer. Labour would seek to reverse the regressive Tory laws on worker’s rights and trade unions, and offer full protection from day one, as well as a £10per hour minimum wage. We are also concerned that post Brexit, EU laws that protect our workers, like the Working Time Directive, will be scrapped by the Tories. They’ve already threatened it. We’d reverse any such Tory changes to ensure worker’s keep their rights. Labour would also help support business with a regional development bank to ensure they get the finance they need to develop their business. There has to be mutual respect and cooperation between workers, employers, and the communities they serve. Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom that helps no one. Labour will create an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour Party

Wyre Forest Labour Calls For A “Fair Pay Employer’s Charter”

Following concerns raised by a job hunter about a local business exploiting young workers, (Delicious Desserts, New Road Kidderminster) and who is expecting new staff to work for free for...

Labour exposes Tory MP Mark Garnier’s crocodile tears over student debt and tuition fees

Stephen Brown of Wyre Forest Labour exposes Tory MP Mark Garnier’s crocodile tears over student debt and tuition fees

Labour Responds to this story in The Shuttle about gender Pay at WFDC calling it “hardly a women’s world”:

http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/15997528.Pay_figures_show_it___s_a_woman___s_world_at_Wyre_Forest_District_Council/

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour said “The Shuttle story about WFDC & women’s pay being more than men fails to factor in the number of outsourced jobs the council funds. It’s hardly a women’s world for female cleaners, catering & leisure workers, etc - these are now agency staff and on minimum and low wage. So, of course the council figures look good, they’ve removed a number of bottom rungs of mostly female staff who would otherwise sit below those lower paid manual and mostly male workers eg refuse collectors. Equal pay claims have centred around parity for cleaners verses refuse collectors as Work of same value. Eg Birmingham. Plus, the rates for the actual council staff left are determined by union collective pay bargaining that the Tories would prefer to ditch.

It’s actually really great there are more women in good paid top jobs but the pay figures are actually skewed. Nathan Desmond & Co have gotten away with more or less gloating about their ‘policy’ without being challenged on the reality of throwing those really low paid women workers from council employment rights to now being at the mercy of agency contractors. Those contractors don’t have much by the way of gender or pay parity versus their male dominated management.

Outsourcing is the real story here, and the lack of employment rights and pay parity for those female workers now ‘employed’ by such council funded contractors. If the Tories, including our Tory MP who has claimed for 8 years he wants to address Wyre Forest’s low pay, can start putting that house in order, then overall things might improve. So, how about the council looking at ensuring a proper living wage in its dealings with contractors? That, and returning services in-house so workers come under collective pay bargaining by the unions. Only then will they be able to properly address the gender pay issue in a fair way.”

Council figures look good after they outsource mostly female staff on minimum and low wages

Labour Responds to this story in The Shuttle about gender Pay at WFDC calling it “hardly a women’s world”: http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/15997528.Pay_figures_show_it___s_a_woman___s_world_at_Wyre_Forest_District_Council/ Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour said “The Shuttle story about...

Lobbying_Council_Ludlow_Road-web.jpg‘Save Ludlow Road’ Campaigners today (15th February 2018) took their message to full council at Worcestershire. A collective statement from parents and the 8,000 signature petition was delivered. 

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour said “Parent Amanda Danby today passionately delivered a tearful appeal to save Ludlow Road at a full meeting of Worcestershire County Council. Her own words, her own emotions, explaining the stress the consultation and possible closure has caused her and her family. No one could fail to be moved by what Amanda said as she tried in vain to hold back her tears and had to stop several times to gather her thoughts. Fellow parent Tracey Rochelle read out another letter from a parent pleading to keep Ludlow Road open. All as councillors listened intently. They both received prolonged applause from councillors when they’d finished, such was the powerful impact. If Ludlow Road is closed after this, you can only conclude that the ruling Tory Cabinet really don’t care.”

Amanda’s message can be seen in the screenshot picture.

The fight goes on......

Amanda_Danby_statement-Ludlow_road.jpg

Save Ludlow Road Campaigners lobby full council

‘Save Ludlow Road’ Campaigners today (15th February 2018) took their message to full council at Worcestershire. A collective statement from parents and the 8,000 signature petition was delivered.  Stephen Brown,...

The collapse of Carillion in January shows the terrible, human effects of business failure. It threatened the jobs and pensions of more than 43,000 employees. Just today 377 Carillion employees were made redundant and sadly many of those affected are from the West Midlands.

There is a small glimmer of hope that a significant proportion of workers maybe taken on by the companies taking over the Carillion contracts. However, it’s vital that the 669-bed Midland Metropolitan Hospital Carillion was responsible for constructing is not delayed. I spoke about Carillion workers in plenary in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I hope that this crisis acts as a wake up call for the Conservative government. Public contracts should not be exploited by private companies for private profit, at the expense of workers' security and pensions.

Brexit impact

We are only one month into the New Year and already the government has been plunged into deeper crisis over Brexit. The leaked impact reports, compiled by the government's own economists, confirmed what we already knew about the effects of Brexit. However, the government's complete dismissal of its own civil servants' work is newly worrying.

The West Midlands region (Comprising: Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Shropshire, Staffordshire) is expected to suffer the most from Brexit, due to its impact on our huge manufacturing and export sector. The Department for Exiting the EU predicts a soft Brexit would cost the West Midlands 2.5 per cent of GDP over the next 15 years. A hard Brexit, with a Canada-style free trade deal would shrink our region's GDP by eight per cent. While a no-deal scenario, with the UK left to trade on WTO terms, would slash 13 per cent from the West Midlands’s GDP. What about trade deals with countries outside of the EU? The report expects that a future trade deal with the US would add just 0.2% to GDP, and treaties with other non-EU countries would add a somewhere between 0.1 and 0.4%.

The government's reaction to these shocking statistics has so far been to ignore them. This is really concerning. Brexit is the single most consequential policy any government has pursued since the second world war. We therefore need a government that takes a fact-based approach, rather than one which acts on bluster. The Labour Party has been clear that it will not sacrifice jobs for Brexit and I agree that maintaining opportunity and employment always has to be the priority.

Neena Gill CBE
Labour MEP - West Midlands Region
Member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs at the European Parliament
www.westmidlandslabour.org.uk/meps

West Midlands Regions including Worcestershire expected to suffer the most from Brexit

The collapse of Carillion in January shows the terrible, human effects of business failure. It threatened the jobs and pensions of more than 43,000 employees. Just today 377 Carillion employees...

“Save Ludlow Road” campaigners, Ben Davies (Wyre Forest Labour), Amanda Danby (lead parent), and Stephen Brown (Wyre Forest Labour) {photo left to right} met Ms Debbie Herbert, Head Of Commissioning at Worcestershire County, on Friday (9th February) to discuss the Ludlow Road potential closure.Meeting_Council_Pic_Ludlow_Road.jpg

The meeting did not go smoothly, and can be described as “frosty” at best. It did not start well when Ms Herbert advised campaigners that the purpose of the meeting was to go through the consultation document relaying what their plans were. Essentially, this was a way of telling campaigners about the ‘alternatives’ for Ludlow Road. Campaigners were told that if they wished to say anything about their views on the closure of Ludlow Road, they had to be submitted through the normal WCC consultation portal on this matter.

Campaigners raised objections to this and stated they will speak about the parents and public’s views, and will submit to the meeting the documents they had come to submit. Namely, the collective parents letter outlining their views and fears over this closure, and the public’s comments arising from the campaigner’s petition (attached).

Eventually, Ms Herbert accepted this position but under duress, and got quite flustered at points. Equally, in the opinion of campaigners, it raised questions about how genuine this consultation process is, if this is the way officers of the council were running it. It was clear that council officers wish to control both the information flow and agenda.

Amanda Danby complained in the meeting that her one-to-one consultation meeting was essentially about the council officer wanting to ascertain whether she would accept the alternatives on offer, “yes” or “no” and not about discussing the impact of closure on her son or her family. Amanda did also express the views of parents about this potential closure, speaking about the collective letter drafted by several parents, and the difficulties with the alternatives on offer.

Ms Herbert went to great lengths to explain about the 4 ‘new’ beds at Providence Road & Osborne Court and how they would make up for any Ludlow Road closure. Never mind the difficulty with travel to locations further away or the impact on families in the view of campaigners. Indeed, two of these ‘new’ beds were not new at all, they had been introduced a few years back but not used because there was no funding available – a stark warning if any was needed about the impact of further cuts going forward. Additionally, Ms Herbert believed their plans were about providing the same level of care as now, even when “in the community”. Although Ms Herbert also confessed under questioning that the proposals to close Ludlow Road were being caused by more recent Government cuts, and consequently in the view of campaigners, it could never therefore be about better or equal care plans.

Campaigners could not reconcile how the cuts equalled providing the same care, nor how it would not place extra burdens on the health and care system down the line. Campaigners argued this is more about saving money and not maintaining or improving services as being claimed by the council. The council doesn’t really wish to consider the overall picture, only their own finances. A lot of Ms Herbert’s presentation focused on money, savings, facilities and beds, but little in the way of impact on the disabled children and their families. Campaigners made the point strongly that this decision is all about impact on the families, and when challenged Ms Herbert did say she will put parents views in the consultation report she drafts to Cabinet member Cllr Roberts. Parents collectively will also get the chance to meet Cllr Roberts, after the report is finalised and before he makes the final decision.

Ms Herbert stated that 7 of the parents had indicated their acceptance of alternative provision. Of course, what campaigners did not know at that time was how other parents consultations had gone. At that time, campaigners only had Amanda’s experiences to refer to. Campaigners now know, this particular consultation is, yet again, a WCC fix. Other parents have since reported to us that Amanda’s experiences in her one-to-one consultation were not unique. Evidence of this is also attached in the parents Faceboook users group, albeit only those parents prepared to go on record. You can imagine that parents are very nervous about this and saying in public what happened publicly in their private meetings. It is clear parents felt under pressure, and are worried about such disclosure on their own vulnerable situations.

parents_consultation_views_1.jpeg

parents_consultation_views_2.jpeg

Ludlow Road Parents Consultaion Letter

Ludlow Road Public quotes

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest labour & Save Ludlow Road Campaigner said

“What is becoming clear is that this Council consultation is a sham. It’s about pressurising vulnerable families and by default, their disabled children, into accepting the alternatives the Council prefer to present so they can save money. At the same time, the council is dressing it up as something the parents are happy to accept and as being appropriate care plans. Well parents are not happy about it and neither are campaigners. Let me make it quite clear to the council that if they continue down this path and do end up closing Ludlow Road, and on the false premise that it’s what parents want, it won’t be the end of the matter. We are prepared to take this fight as far as it needs to go. Councillors and Officers need to ask themselves is this what they signed up for when standing for election, or becoming involved in the caring profession? What kind of society do they want for our most vulnerable children? The parents collective letter is heart wrenching and says everything that needs to be said about why Ludlow Road should stay open. Any decision to close Ludlow Road will be borne of callous indifference to the plight of the disabled children and their families. A civilised society, the 5th richest country in the world, would not allow such a closure to happen. The council should pull out all the stops to keep Ludlow Road open”

DEMONSTRATION Thursday 15th February at County Hall:

Campaigners will be taking their message to full council Thursday 15th February. There will be a demonstration at County Hall at 9:00am before the council meets at 10:00am. Amanda will be delivering the heart wrenching parents letter and petition containing over 8,000 signatures against this closure.

Ludlow Road Respite consultation sham

“Save Ludlow Road” campaigners, Ben Davies (Wyre Forest Labour), Amanda Danby (lead parent), and Stephen Brown (Wyre Forest Labour) {photo left to right} met Ms Debbie Herbert, Head Of Commissioning...

Wyre Forest Labour today claimed eight hundred (800) children in the poorest families in Wyre Forest will lose their free school meals under Tory Government Plans.

The Tories are set to attack free school meals despite claiming that they both want an “economy that works for everyone”, and that they’d dropped their manifesto proposal to cut free school meals. Where Tory promises and lies collide is getting harder and harder to work out.

We already know Wyre Forest has 3 of the most deprived wards in Worcestershire and child poverty across the District stands at 20%. However, it seems the Tory Government is now targeting the parents of these children’s families and are about to make life much harder for them. Under new Tory Universal Credit plans, it will mean any family earning more than £7,400 net, will see their children’s eligibility for free school meals removed. On current terms that could mean a 36% cut in eligibility, or 800 children losing out in Wyre Forest.

free-shcool-meals.jpgNationally, this is part of a Government plan to save £600million per year in response to them realising they’d got their sums wrong in their much criticised Universal Credit rollout. A rollout that could have seen an expansion in free school meals from 1.1 million to 1.7million children. Under this new plan only 700,000 children will be eligible, which means not only have they reduced the number of children who currently qualify, but also those who might have qualified. It is effectively saying they’ll take one million children who would have qualified under UC rollout off free school meals, and 400,000 children currently eligible for free school meals will have them removed. The plan has been heavily criticised by both the children’s charity ‘The Children’s Society’, and the Head Teachers Association.  

For families, it means they’ll need to earn an extra £1,100 per child per year, to make up for it. Universal Credit is due for full rollout in Wyre Forest in July of this year, and it will likely impact local families almost immediately when the new school year starts in September.

There are many families in Wyre Forest already struggling. There are over 3,000 on the official Housing waiting list unable to afford a house, and fuel poverty affects 13,500 people (13.5% of households) with some 8,500 of them in the lowest paid jobs earning less than £10 per hour. There is just not an abundance of well paid jobs in what is a low pay, zero hour, minimum wage, seasonal and temporary job market in the local economy, to make up for this devastating loss of financial support which helps their children get a decent hot meal.

Stephen Brown, of Wyre Forest Labour, said “There are around 12,000 children of school age in Wyre Forest, and 3,400 of them will already be living in households deemed to be in poverty. The average eligibility in the Midlands for free school meals is 14.9% and in Wyre Forest it’s higher at 18.9%. It means we currently have a potential for 2,200 children to benefit from school meals in the District, which is less than the 3,400 deemed to be officially classed as living ‘in poverty’. If this Tory plan happens, I calculate that we could see free school meals eligibility cut by 36% and 800 children in some of the already poorest families losing out. Low pay is currently a huge problem in Wyre Forest with 8,500 affected. Just how they'll cope when many of them find out from their upcoming Universal Credit assessment it will mean the loss of free school meals for their children is anyone’s guess. I can’t see their employer readily agreeing to pay them £1,000 extra a year to feed each of their children just because the Tories think it’s a good idea to remove their free school meals. Can you? Whilst Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier trumpets falling unemployment in the District, the reality is, it’s based on false statistics and a low wage, low employment rights, job market; and under this Government, and with a Tory Brexit, there seems little chance of an economic boom to increase workers’ wages. In 8 years he’s done nothing about low pay which has stagnated at 2008 levels. In 8 years he’s also voted for every welfare cut and every austerity measure that detrimentally affects the most vulnerable. This will be another example of that. So, my question to Mark Garnier is, ‘given the reality of low pay here, how many families will be hit by this change, how many children will suffer, what’s he going to do about it, and does he even care?’ I suspect the answer will be, ‘don’t know, don’t know, nothing, and no’. The usual mealy mouth platitudes and a letter to the Minister aside of course. Wyre Forest needs a people’s champion as MP to address some of the serious economic, poverty, health, housing, and educational attainment issues we face. Mark Garnier is not that champion, he just sees us as ‘dog end voters’ who, when his cuts hit, are mere ‘statistical anomalies’. He’s ill equipped to be our MP. Nevertheless, I’m urging him, if he really cares about his constituency, to resist this plan and vote against it. The question is, does he have the guts?”


Stephen Brown added this explanatory note to the Press Release: The decision by the Government to reduce the entitlement to Free School Meals using Universal Credit was laid down by Minister’s Statutory Instrument on February 7th in order to avoid a Parliamentary vote and any scrutiny by MP’s. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has lodged an Early Day Motion no.921 for a Parliamentary vote on it. It is essential that this vote takes place. Not least because Labour won a vote in October 2017 to halt the rollout of Universal Credit that would stop this proposal. Unfortunately, the Tories have consistently ignored that decision by Parliament. Whilst there are some interim protections for those who receive free school meals under the old rules, they will cease when a child transitions from primary to secondary education.

800 children in Wyre Forest set to lose free school meals

Wyre Forest Labour today claimed eight hundred (800) children in the poorest families in Wyre Forest will lose their free school meals under Tory Government Plans. The Tories are set...

The County Tories intend to make a Cabinet decision this week (8th February) on the future of The Grange in Kidderminster. Their recommendation is to close it.

The Grange serves older people as a rehabilitation facility and is residential, including for dementia sufferers. For many, it is an essential and important lifeline in the delivery of care services.

Not content with going after closing down Ludlow Road, which is a respite service for children with disabilities, the heartless Tories have now turned their guns on to our older people’s services.

Is nothing safe from their ruthless pursuit of crippling and closing our vital services?

The people of Wyre Forest, we hope, would support us in calling for an end to the austerity the Tories love so much. Enough is enough. Certainly, when it comes to Ludlow Road, the people have spoken with over 8,000 of you voicing opposition to the closure of Ludlow Road.

What’s more incredible about the Tory closure of The Grange, however, is the blatantly misleading information the Tories are putting out about it.

Tory PR StuntIf you look at the leaflet they are currently distributing to Wyre Forest households, it gives the distinct impression they care about saving The Grange. What’s more, it tries to put distance between what’s happening to The Grange and the Tory involvement in that process by deflecting the attention of voters on to the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) making out they are responsible for it. Oddly, this is the exact opposite of the story they are trying to peddle about Ludlow Road, which is NHS owned and Council funded. On that issue they say, and despite Labour’s calls, that there can’t be any joined up thinking between the County Council, NHS or the CCG. It’s bizarre, unless that is you understand why they are doing this and what’s going on here.

For instance, one might wonder just how much Labour’s campaign to “Save Ludlow Road” and our work with parents and the public has stung them? A lot it would seem to generate this kind of response by pretending to care about your views and involve you in saving something THEY intend to close.

Let’s be clear here, the County Council own The Grange. The Tories run the council. So, they own this issue and are the ones recommending its closure. They cannot hide from that fact. The Tory campaign to save The Grange, such as it is, is a feeble attempt to court voter favour by hoodwinking you, and looks like being something of a pathetic effort anyway, a damp squib if you like because its primary purpose is to mislead you and hope you don’t notice. They are taking Wyre Forest voters for mugs.

The misleading leaflet has come from the highest echelons of the local Tory Party. Just look at the names on the leaflet. It has the Councillor whose patch it is on, Tracey Onslow, she who has been a Cabinet member and flitted about like a Tory intern working for both Mark Garnier MP and now John Campion Police & Crime Commissioner. Her involvement is inseparable from this decision. The other names on this leaflet include Marcus Hart’s (Local Tory Leader and County Council Cabinet member who will be helping make this decision) father, John Hart; plus Nathan Desmond, another senior local Tory; and even your Tory MP, Mark Garnier. They all have their grubby paws all over this. It would be great if the Tories were in open rebellion with each other like their national Party is as a reason for this bizarre leaflet, but no, this is a much more sinister effort to mislead you and steal your vote. Don’t fall for it.

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Media Officer said “this Tory leaflet is a flagrant misrepresentation of the Tory position on The Grange being a deliberate and wilful attempt to sell a mistruth to the people in our community. What’s more, they are doing it to try and suppress older people’s inevitable worries over the further loss of local services that distinctly serve them. People need to realise just how far the Tories will sink to hide their actual policy intentions on health and care issues. That they are doing this ahead of local elections is totally shameful. By believing this leaflet, people may vote Tory thinking that by doing so, services like The Grange will be safe, and that Tories actually care about such services. Unfortunately, the good people of Wyre Forest will quickly discover the truth, and probably when it’s too late. It is a merciless exploitation of the electorate’s good will. This leaflet shows you can’t trust the Tories on anything. Only Labour is committed to ending austerity and investing in our health and care system to ensure we have the type of health and care services for the many not the few.”

** NEWSFLASH: Update 08/02/2018**

Stephen Brown reports the latest on this issue: “So, of the 2 Tory options on The Grange - close it or change of use - Tory Cabinet opted to keep it open and change its use to show how caring they are and how they too can run a successful “Save The Grange” campaign against and for their own recommendations. Duplicitous politics at its best.

We in Labour strongly believe this was a Tory PR stunt and they’ll be back to attack The Grange in the future as they place Dementia Care on the open market making it ripe for outsourcing or privatisation. After all, they’ve done such a great job on Children’s Services, they sold the old people’s homes off years ago as well as decimated Council Home Care Services. Don’t trust them. Wyre Forest should be very cautious about this apparent ‘good news’. Labour is watching the council and our local Tory Councillors very closely.”

Tories deliberately misleading voters on The Grange closure in Kidderminster

The County Tories intend to make a Cabinet decision this week (8th February) on the future of The Grange in Kidderminster. Their recommendation is to close it. The Grange serves...

Despite the cold and rainy weather on Saturday 3rd February, a good number of people turned up to support the “Fix Our NHS” Demo in Kidderminster.

Although organised by activists from Wyre Forest Labour, it was made clear that this was an open, and non politically partisan event, to highlight the problems in the NHS. The message was to keep it a public service, and restore funding levels to the universally accepted historical norms of 4% per year increases to keep pace with both inflation and demand. The cost of not meeting this historic funding level since 2010 has meant the NHS has seen a real terms cut of 3% per year, which has directly lead to the problems it faces. Worcestershire NHS has seen a loss of funding of over £30million since 2010, and any organisation would struggle under such financial restraint.

Fix our NHS protest in wyre forest

Ordinary people came along, as well as representatives of Health Concern, and the Green Party, who stood alongside Labour members. This level of solidarity on the NHS is testament to the fact that Wyre Forest cares very much about our NHS and will do all it can to save our NHS.

Stephen Brown, Labour Media Officer said “I’m grateful to everyone who turned out in the bad weather today to support the ‘Fix Our NHS’ Demo and to engage with the public about why saving our NHS is important. Having a mix of ordinary people and representatives from both Health Concern and the Green Party turn up shows it’s possible to put differences aside and put the NHS first. My thanks go to all for attending, and to the public for their obvious interest in listening to what we had to say to them. It’s clear the NHS is important to everyone and they want the NHS properly funded.”

 

Wyre Forest “Fix Our NHS” Demo attracts wide support

Despite the cold and rainy weather on Saturday 3rd February, a good number of people turned up to support the “Fix Our NHS” Demo in Kidderminster. Although organised by activists...

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