Wyre Forest Labour Blog

The Trust’s rating of inadequate is overall the same as before. Whilst improvements in some areas have been made, and maternity services are rated good, it’s more a reflection of the excellent staff doing their best under difficult circumstances, rather than any perceived material change in the effectiveness of the management to manage. That the caring of staff itself has been rated as good in the Report confirms this fact but let’s not lose sight of the fact some services are not safe.

So, let’s be clear, any management would struggle given the challenge they face thanks to Tory Government NHS cuts, not to mention their refusal to give work visas to much needed doctors to work here.

Our local Tory MPs are quick to take the credit for good news but predictably go into hiding when the situation is more damaging for them. Your local Tory MPs have voted for NHS cuts, are content to see it privatised, and have supported a hostile immigration environment. All have consequences and that is being played out now in Worcestershire Acute NHS.

We have a Tory Health Secretary in Jeremy Hunt who has written a booklet on defunding and privatising the NHS, so no one should be surprised that is what’s actually happening now.

Waiting lists are an issue, as is capacity in A&E, so it’s obvious Ms McKay will cling to any lifeboat of good news, and does. Frankly, it’s not a good enough response to be pleased about maternity services when there is a shambles going on around her. Let’s not forget, this has been going on for a long time now.

The extra £8million she refers to might help in the Winter, but in case it’s escaped her attention, the NHS is in a year long crisis. Worcestershire Acute is short of £60million overall had it kept pace with Labour funding and the deficit as if by coincidence is around £60million.

Just this last weekend the same problems of capacity in A&E surfaced again. Things won’t change until we have a Labour Government who will give the NHS the funding that it, our communities, and people deserve. And on the 70th anniversary of the NHS, that moment can’t come soon enough if we are to save our NHS from Tory dogma that is killing the NHS in a thousand cuts inflicted on a daily basis.”

Tory cuts leave Worcestershire Acute NHS still being rated as overall inadequate

The Trust’s rating of inadequate is overall the same as before. Whilst improvements in some areas have been made, and maternity services are rated good, it’s more a reflection of...

Wyre Forest Labour today reacted with disbelief at the financial incompetence of Tory run Worcestershire County Council, when it was revealed by the NHS that the council’s costs figures used for the basis of the consultation to close Ludlow Road, are actually nowhere near the sums the council claimed.

It was the council’s claim that Ludlow Road was too expensive to run that prompted their decision to start the consultation to close the service, but NHS figures now show it costs £166,000 less than claimed per year and, it is in fact, Osborne Court running at a loss of some £237,000 per year.

The decision to close Ludlow Road in Kidderminster, which offers respite to some of the District’s & County’s most disabled children, so’s to allow their parents a break to recuperate, caused outrage from parents. It prompted Wyre Forest Labour to launch a campaign to save it and support the parents affected as it quickly became clear that the council’s consultation was deeply flawed and shambolic in approach. A campaign that has seen the parents gain considerable confidence to take on the council and now own the issue and the campaign itself, and in which they have been hugely successful with Labour’s help. It also triggered a Report from the Council’s Scrutiny Committee as other Party’s politicians came on-board to express concerns, and which was highly critical of the council’s consultation and proposal.

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown said “What these figures reveal is a staggering level of incompetence and political manipulation of the process, all so the Tory council could achieve its objective to shut this much needed and very valuable service. It’s quite unprecedented and heads should roll. The political leaders at County Hall seem to have completely lost sight of their duty of care to the disabled children, the children’s families, and the council’s own responsibility for due diligence when paying for such services. The children and families should be their priority here, not slavish adherence to their austerity agenda for political reasons. However, we shouldn’t be surprised given the mess that the Tories have gotten their services and finances in but this takes even that up a shocking level. When will they wake up and realise the damage they are doing? If the council plough ahead to close this service, they will quite rightly find themselves on the end of a legal challenge. It has also cast a spotlight on the running of Osborne Court and I think the parents of the children there need some immediate reassurances. We set up the campaign to highlight the childrens and parents cause and it’s fantastic how parents have become empowered, with our initial help, to take on the council. This really has been about a community coming together to work for the good of the community against uncaring authorities.”

Tracey Rochelle, and Amanda Danby, from the parents group, expressed their frustrations with it all issuing a joint statement saying “Parents are demanding an urgent meeting with the council and the NHS to get to the bottom of the figures that clearly don't match the information the council told parents originally. Do the council even know how much they are spending on Ludlow Road? Because as far as we can see they haven't got a clue. It's far cheaper than they think and without the funding for Ludlow Road, and if all the children move over, Osbourne Court could potentially go into crisis. They have either mislead us or don't know how or where their money is spent.”

The costings are listed below:

ludlow road costs

Financial ‘incompetence’ claim over Kidderminster's Ludlow Road centre’s running costs

Council branded 'misleading' and 'incompetent' over Ludlow Road financial revelations

Wyre Forest Labour today reacted with disbelief at the financial incompetence of Tory run Worcestershire County Council, when it was revealed by the NHS that the council’s costs figures used...

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown today reacted to the appointment of Sir David Nicholson to chair Worcs Acute Trust by calling it a “bad appointment” and one which “should be reversed immediately.” He went on to say “someone more suitable should be appointed who can command the trust of local communities. Why on earth have they given the job to someone responsible for what happened at Mid Staffs NHS?”

Sir David Nicholson oversaw a failure to address the issues raised with him by families about the problems in the Mid Staffs NHS scandal. Campaigners claimed he was overly focused on finances at the expense of people’s lives, and patients died in consequence. He later apologised for his errors. Worcestershire Acute NHS already has a raft of problems it needs to solve and Wyre Forest Labour believes it needs more money, proper leadership, and not novelty appointments.

Further, Wyre Forest Labour is of the view that the problems in Worcs Acute NHS are as a result of Tory Govt policy in deliberately underfunding and wanting to backdoor privatise our NHS. All Worcs Tory MP’s bear responsibility for the malaise that is Worcs Acute NHS, which is in special measures, with A&E in crisis, and has chronic medical staffing shortages. All Worcs Tories, including Wyre Forest’s Mark Garnier, have voted for these policies, including for the hostile environment on immigration which has just last week meant overseas doctors not being allowed by the current Tory Government to work in our local hospitals, despite there being an urgent need for them.

The Tories cannot be trusted on the NHS, and only Labour has a plan to fund our NHS properly, train enough of our own doctors and nurses, and end NHS privatisation.

Disgraced NHS boss who retired on £1.9million pension pot four years ago RE-HIRED

Mid Staffs hospital scandal: the essential guide

Disgraced former NHS boss appointed as the new boss of the county's major hospitals

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown today reacted to the appointment of Sir David Nicholson to chair Worcs Acute Trust by calling it a “bad appointment” and one which “should be...

Garnier In Junket to Saudi Arabia:

In February, Mark Garnier went on a fully expenses paid trip to Saudi Arabia costing £7,800 and paid for by the Saudi Government, “to gain a deeper understanding of the strategic links between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UK.” 

In layman’s terms, the Saudi/UK “strategic links” can only mean it’s about supporting the arms trade or at least the regime there. An arms trade that sells missiles made in Kidderminster, that the Saudis and under UK supervision, use, it is claimed, to kill innocent Yemeni men, women, and children. There’s also the case of the Proxy war going on in Syria of course, where Saudi has funded and armed some very unpalatable rebels like Al-Qaeda (those of Nine-Eleven origin) to fight Iranian and Russian backed Assad. Those same rebels, who credible journalists claim, ran a false flag chemical attack operation, to draw us into a war they are losing. That incident resulted in a contentious UK bombing of Syria, unapproved upfront by Parliament, such is Theresa May’s contempt for democracy, that some say, served the Saudi rebel backed interests. Saudi Arabia would love to see the Iran regime toppled, and Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Iran deal only escalates tensions in the region. Of course, at the time and rather predictably, Mark Garnier having just been to Saudi Arabia, claimed in The Shuttle, he didn’t have a view on the bombing of Syria. Nevertheless, a few days later, he backed the lame duck PM Theresa May on it, so showing his true colours and probably the value of his Saudi trip, at least to the Saudis.

Oddly, he’s been pretty quiet on this particular trip with his constituents. Why? Has he got something to hide?

Stephen Brown said “As a reminder, following a previous trip to the Middle East to the UAE, paid-for by the UAE Govt, Garnier reckoned there were “huge advantages” to having a “dictator” and having “no planning laws”. The Bewdley Gladmans objectors might have a view about that. In Mark’s world, it seems those he feels are “dog-end voters” are second to his own ambitions, and second to the fact he’s easily persuaded by dictators when on junkets to appalling regimes. That should be of deep concern to all of us. It demonstrates what he thinks of regimes who have terrible human rights records and is prepared to go into bat for them, and at what cost to our own democracy?”

Stephen Brown went on to add “Garnier has some serious questions to answer about why, especially as he’s no longer a Minister, he’s accepting Saudi Govt paid-for trips as a backbench MP ‘to gain a deeper understanding of the strategic links’? His constituents, and I’d agree with them, might rightly think that he needs to spend more time dealing with the problems in his own backyard than swanning off poking his nose into issues he clearly doesn’t understand. You know, the local issues his Government, and supported by his votes, have caused for us in Wyre Forest: Like, low pay, insecure jobs, household debts, fuel poverty, insufficient affordable housing, rising foodbank use, child poverty, loss of free school meals for the poorest children, school funding crisis, our failing NHS, the calamity that is the near bankrupt Tory County Council, the threat to Ludlow Road Centre, and the fact we’ve got the dubious distinction of being the drug addiction death capital of the Midlands.”

Garnier’s Brexit Delusions:

Coincidentally, as well as developing his ‘voice’ for Saudi Arabia, he’s also developed it in Parliament and for a hard Tory Brexit too. What “a road to Damascus” (ironically in Syria) conversion he’s had eh? From campaigning Remainer to “happy clapper Unicorns promised here Brexiteer”. He is a man with no principles save for those that keep him in his seat as an MP. He’s clearly courting UKIP votes to bolster his majority, and with his votes in Parliament for a “hostile environment”, along with supporting the Windrush scandal and subsequent cover up, he’s supporting racist policies. He’s already voted against equal marriage, and so equality and human rights are not much of a Garnier concern.

Stephen Brown commented “After years of silence in Parliament, with written questions being his modus operandi and usually on his single issue focus of banking and finance, he’s majoring on Brexit. He’s popped up in a few recent debates defending the Govt shambles on Brexit, and commenting upon those post Brexit trade and borders debates in the Commons, whilst not really adding much to it. Why?”

“He’s also had a vacuous sunny uplands and unicorns article in the Tory Telegraph newspaper about why he’s now a Brexiteer. This despite a Tory dominated Commons Committee stating the Govt position on Ireland and having no customs union is problematic and will result in an unwanted border. He’s getting in his practice defending the indefensible. A cynic might be forgiven for thinking he’s after a new Ministerial job. I mean, the Tories are happy to reinstate racist councillors in order to regain control of a council, so a mere sexist being reinstated should not worry them too much at all. I’d say Garnier’s on a mission, what with his Brexit conversion and Saudi connection, it seems he thinks he’s in with a shout of a Ministerial rehabilitation.”


Stephen Brown asks “Who is the real Mark Garnier?”

“The one who at least tries to appear rational, sympathetic and understanding in his weekly Shuttle column by facing in all directions at once to maintain his charming facade?”

“Or the one who’s voted for austerity, inflicting debt, low pay, pain and misery on the poorest and most vulnerable; the one who’s voted against equal marriage; the one who’s voted for racist policies and cover ups and demonstrated empathy for totalitarian dictators and their human rights abuses whilst sending his former Secretary out to buy sex toys and using sexist language, then passing it off as a joke?”

“Will The Real Mark Garnier please stand up, please stand up.”

Wyre Forest Labour has a fundamental question for Mark Garnier’s Wyre Forest constituents: “If you have an issue you’d want his help on, say about equality, benefits, the NHS, or even Windrush, would you trust him to help you get justice knowing what you know about his voting record?”

Most might conclude not, and that Wyre Forest really does need an MP “working for ALL Wyre Forest on EVERY issue” as Garnier claims in his online profile. Wyre Forest Labour argues that this person is not, and never will be, Mark Garnier. He’s damaged goods and running out of time. 

Will the real Mark Garnier please stand up?

Garnier In Junket to Saudi Arabia: In February, Mark Garnier went on a fully expenses paid trip to Saudi Arabia costing £7,800 and paid for by the Saudi Government, “to...

Labour — For People, Communities and Businesses

Wyre Forest Labour 2018

Wyre Forest District Council Elections 2018

Labour — For People, Communities and Businesses Read more

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:




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


-----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”:


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......


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,...

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