Monthly Archives: July 2011

Walk to save Merrishaw Day Nursery


Merrishaw Day Nursery – rated outstanding by Ofsted – is under threat of closure. Parents have been told that the nursery will close on the 26th August. Merrishaw is one of 8 nurseries around Birmingham facing closure, with parents being offered spaces at alternative nurseries (many of which are run by private companies, and may not have the same outstanding rating as Merrishaw), which are never as close as the current provision, and in some cases are a couple of miles away.

A parents campaign to save Merrishaw has been running, supported by Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts, and this morning they met at the nursery to walk to Hampstead House where the local councillors hold surgeries.
Around 30 parents, grandparents and children were joined by local anti-cuts activists and Richard Burden MP.

Vanessa, a parent of a child at the nursery said

We need to make sure people realise how important Merrishaw Day Nursery is and what a wonderful service they provide

Millie and Charli with their banner

Millie and Charli, two children who attended Merrishaw said

The best thing about Merrishaw was the finger painting because it got really messy. I liked the dressing up and the puppets and the gardens

It was more fun than school and I think it helped with my education because we learned to count to 10 and the colours and shapes. All the workers were really nice and we made lots of friends at the nursery

Bob Whitehead from Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts said:

this is a valuable resource to the community, it cannot be downgraded or lost. The council is spending millions on unneccessary consultants they can easily afford a few thousand to keep this open. If the worst comes to the worst Labour must re-open it next May

Richard Burden MP with Vannessa

Richard Burden, Labour MP for Northfield joined parents on the March. You can read what he said last year about community nurseries here. Today he said:

They are saying no service is being lost … the trouble is they are doing that whilst slashing lots out of the budget … if you are going to do integrated family services properly you can’t do it on the cheap

The group walked from Merrishaw Day Nursery to Hampstead House, where Conservative party Councillor Randal Brew was running the surgery this morning. He met with the group to hear their concerns. He has said he will be meeting other councillors about the nursery on Monday and will report back to the parents about the meeting.

If you want to get involved with this campaign and other campaigns in the area, contact Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts – email StirchleyAntiCuts@Gmail.com, call 07828013091 or go along to their next meeting on Tuesday 16th August, at the Whit Marley Social Centre, 10 Ivy Road, Stirchley (Just off Pershore road on Stirchley high street) from 7:15pm.

If you are a parent at one of the other nurseries, please get in contact with us as we would like to support you to fight these closures – the parents at this nursery made it clear to Cllr Randal Brew that they were against the closure of all nurseries, and not just Merrishaw. Given a concerted effort, we can fight the cuts and keep our services open. Get in touch, and get active with a group in your area.

Other reports: B31 Blog
Dr Miles Weaver (Labour party activist)

Update on the campaign: Parents’ outrage at closure

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts, Events, Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts

Jarrow March for Jobs 2011

Jarrow Crusade march for jobs 75 years ago

75 Years ago, Jarrow workers were forced to march for jobs. Today unemployment is soaring and we face an onslaught on jobs and services. We’re marching again from Jarrow to London in 2011

Youth Fight for Jobs are organising the march, more information can be found on the website dedicated to the march.

The route will pass through Nuneaton and Coventry, and a regional demonstration is planned in Coventry on October 22nd. We hope that many people from Birmingham will travel over on that day to support the marchers, who will have been on the road for 3 weeks by that point. Their eventual destination is London for a national demonstration on Saturday November 5th – by which time they will have been on the road for over a month.

If you would be interested in going to Coventry on the 22nd and/or London on the 5th to support their demonstration, please let us know – either by commenting here or emailing BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com.  If there is enough demand, then we will organise coaches.

Update: We will be taking the 11:03 Cross Country Train from Birmingham New Street to Coventry. An open return is currently £4.60. It would be great to occupy a carraige on our way over there!

The event is supported by Unite, CWU, UCU, RMT, PCS, Becut, FBU and Tssa unions.

Update: there will be a public meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday 19th October, from 7pm at Briar Rose hotel/pub on Bennets Hill. Full details are to be confirmed, see our Upcoming Events page for most up to date details / link to post with full details when they are confirmed.

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Mark Serwotka speaking at Lib Dem conference demo

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS, has confirmed to speak at the rally following the Liberal Democrat conference demonstration on Sunday 18th September.

Mark has been one of the best received speakers over the past 6 months, and it will be great to have him here in Birmingham on the platform of this demonstration.

PCS have been active locally in fighting cuts, and were one of the unions on strike on the 30th June, defending public sector pensions and services, and we are sure they will be well represented on 18th September. You can read about their proposed alternatives to the cuts here

Mark Serwotka speaking at the March for the Alternative on March 26th.

The next planning meeting for the Lib Dem conference is on Saturday 6th August, 11am, at Unison Offices, 19th Floor, McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7NN. This will be followed by street stalls & leafletting from many of the groups involved in building this demonstration.

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UNITE & UCATT Balloting for strikes

UNITE and UCATT unions at Birmingham City Council will be balloting for strikes over contract changes which will see workers lose shift allowances, and be told they can work any job, any place at any time.
These ballots will take place in August. GMB are currently deciding if they will ballot their members for strike, whilst UNISON have already balloted, and took strike action on 30th June.

We are hearing that there are plans for strike action in September and October, as well as periods of work-to-rule industrial action.

The changes to the contract affect all workers below grade 4 (obviously cuts don’t come to management, only to the lower paid workers – just as nationally cuts aren’t affecting the bankers or super-rich, just ordinary working class and average earners – truly giving the lie to the ConDems well worn cry of we are all in it together).

UNISON strike on 30th June

At the moment, the council are holding 1 to 1 meetings between managers and their workers to explain individually how much money they will be losing and asking them to sign the contract. We have heard of managers walking out of these sessions in disbelief as to just how much people will be losing.
One home carer who is currently on around £22,000/year has been told he will be losing £6,000/year under the new contract – a 36% pay cut! He has said that he will no longer be able to afford his mortgage, and will lose his house.
This is someone who travels around Birmingham supporting vulnerable people to help them maintain an independent life, and live in their own home. A variety of people make use of these services, mostly elderly or disabled people but also adults with learning difficulties who require support for instance to cook or clean the house.

In addition to pay cuts, workers are being told that the new contract means that they can have their job changed to any other job at their pay grade, in any location in the city, working any hours. This means someone who has accepted a job in their local area with times to fit around looking after a family can be told to work evenings and weekends on the other side of the city, and they will have to do it or resign. Such conditions being placed on workers cannot be accepted.

At Birmingham Against the Cuts, we would encourage all members to vote yes to strike action, to show the council that such savage cuts cannot be implemented, and that the council will not function until they back down.

You can read more about the “martini contract” on page 2 of the Unison newsletter (PDF)

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Creating more local groups

Over the past few months, some local groups have formed in Birmingham, based around postcodes/city areas, groups like Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts and Handsworth Against the Cuts have been active in building resistance to cuts at a very local level.

We want more of these groups to form in the city, and are particularly interested in anyone around the Northfield and Yardley areas as there are activists there who are wanting to form a group.
We will also be campaigning around the city on nursery closures in the following areas: Aston; Bordesley Green; Ladywood; Highgate & Alum Rock.
There is also a nursery in Castle Vale that is already closed, and nurseries in West Heath and Kings Heath that are going to be campaigned on by Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts and Kings Heath Against the Cuts respectively.

However, there are cuts taking place all over the city, from nurseries to connexions offices, council offices and civil service workplaces, hospital staff & bed cuts, libraries and many other services that will no longer operate, and we want to see local groups covering every postcode area in Birmingham.
If you can get involved in your area, and want to start a group, then please contact us and we will seek to put you in touch with other activists in your area.
Have a look at our local groups page and see if there is already a group in your area to get involved with.

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National TUC back party conference marches

The TUC have backed the marches at the Liberal Democrat conference, in Birmingham on 18th September, and the Tory party conference in Manchester on 2nd October.
They will be promoting them under the banners of March for the Alternative 2 & 3.

With the support not just of regional TUC, but also nationally, this should make these marches even bigger than expected. The TUC mobilised nationally for March 26th and got 500,000 people on the streets of London. These events will give a chance for people who were unable to travel down to London the opportunity to demonstrate against the coalition in areas closer to them. We also hope that many people will travel from around the country to each of these demonstrations.

Right to Work are organising coaches, and we are sure that unions will get on board now and run coaches from their areas, and we will be running coaches up to Manchester along with local unions.

The demonstration in Birmingham is building nicely, and there are many events and meetings coming up to ensure that this is as big as possible. Many more things will be added to this, including leafletting campaigns so keep an eye on our upcoming events page.

6th August: 11:00-12:30, planning meeting – Unison Offices, 19th Floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7nn – everyone welcome to attned
1pm – 3pm, Stalls & leafletting in Birmingham City Centre – many campaign groups and unions will have stalls along New Street/High Street – Facebook event, please let us know if you can help.

15th August – 6:30pm, planning meeting at the CWU building (sorry, I still need to get the address!), Birmingham. All welcome to attend.

8th September – provisional date for a public meeting to build for the demonstration

10th/11th September – Stalls & Leafletting at Arts Fest

12th-16th September – Leafletting at train stations/bus stops – details to be arranged

17th SeptemberChainmakers Festival (not related but hopefully will serve as a timely reminder of what unions can achieve when they put their minds to it)

18th September – the demonstration! Assembling at 12noon, final assembly point / march route and rally point to be decided.

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Hands off Brum Services public meeting

Panel of speakers: Brian, Simon, Linda, Graeme and Paul

SWAN, DPAC, Unison, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts held a joint public meeting this evening, examining the cuts to social & care services being brought in by the local ConDem coalition.

The meeting was chaired by Caroline Johnson from Birmingham Against the Cuts and Unison.

The first speaker was Graeme Horne from Unison, who told us about the level of cuts to social care services in Birmingham.

Adult care services are facing 16%-17% budget cuts this year, with cuts over 3 years totalling 40% of the budget – and that doesn’t take into account inflation, which could easily see real terms budgets shrinking by 5% year on year.

The outcome of these cuts – part of the council budget cuts approved this year by the ConDem coalition in Birmingham – is that they will only support those judged to have “critical” needs. Explaining the system, Graeme told us that there are 4 levels that needs can be assessed at – Critical; Substantial; Moderate and Low. Previously, those judged to have substantial needs would have been supported, but now they will only support the critical needs of those judged to be in the critical category (so someone with critical needs will not get support with needs considered to be moderate).
To illustrate what the difference is in the categories, Graeme told us that one of the criteria is that a need is “critical” if the person is at risk of, or has experienced, serious abuse or neglect, whilst a “substantial” need is someone at risk of or has experienced abuse or neglect. So the abuse must be “serious” for someone to get support.

These cuts will remove support from 4,500 adults around Birmingham – 30% of all those currently supported by the council.

Next to speak was Simon Cardy from Social Work Action Network (SWAN). He works in childrens care, and talked about the issues of backdoor privatisation and ideology in the upcoming struggle to defend care and support services.

Social enterprises and private organisations have difficulty in raising cash when costs rise suddenly. This is especially true when they are very small units. Costs can rise suddenly when a single person being supported suddenly needs a lot more support, for instance due to a deterioration in their health. Local Authorities are much better placed to cope with this as they can re-allocate funds from budgets

He talked about a pilot for a Social Work Practice (essentially a small grouping of social workers in a social enterprise – think on the scale/model of solicitors practices) in Sandwell, and how it failed because social workers refused to volunteer for the trial, knowing that it was a path to privatisation, and then collapsed when Ofsted said that the council needed to consult the children affected.
He attacked the ideology of both the current coalition and the previous Labour government for introducing market based ideas into social work and called for an end to quasi-business practices and models being used for public services.

Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) also talked about the 4,500 people facing the loss of their support services.

Having substantial needs means that you need help to get up, to get out of the house and to go anywhere. The biggest worry is that people will become unable to leave their house. I know people who would like to have attended the meeting tonight, but simply don’t have enough hours of support allocated to them to allow them to do it.

She then told us of a woman in Kensington and Chelsea, who is 62 and has worked all her life. She had a stroke, and now has to go to the toilet every 2-3 hours. Kensington and Chelsea council have decided to withdraw nighttime care, and instead give her incontinence pads. She is not incontinent, but simply needs help to get up out of bed and get to the toilet in order to use it. The supreme court decided that it is acceptable for someone to be put into bed at 8:30pm and left there until 8:30am the next day. There is rightly concern that other councils will see this ruling and also remove nighttime care.
In the discussion after the meeting there was a call to take this to the European Courts, or even to the UN and to contact NGOs like Amnesty International to raise awareness of the effect that cuts to care and support services are having, and what we can do about it.

Linda mentioned some alternatives, including ending tax avoidance and evasion, and talked about upcoming events that disabled people could get involved in. There is a protest tomorrow in Kensington and Chelsea about the decision to remove care. They are intending to setup a Birmingham DPAC group which will be active in the city. At the Lib Dem conference in September, they are going to target Maria Miller, the “so-called minister for disabled people”. So there is action coming up that around the UK to defend people who need these services.

Building on the message of what the alternatives to cuts are, Brian from Birmingham Against the Cuts spoke about the cuts, the crisis and the alternatives

Nobody should be fooled that this is anything other than a political move. Cameron, Clegg and Osborne want to achieve a Thatcherite dream – low tax, small state and everyone for themselves

He said that the government were very good at talking up the line that there is no alternative, but the reality is there are plenty of alternatives. You can read more about the alternatives to the cuts on False Economy, or our series on alternatives.
Brian said that the government is relying on there being too many cuts for us to fight them all, but that we need to fight all of them and we can do it.

Birmingham Against the Cuts is an umbrella organisation working in this city you can get involved with. You are already reading the website, you could join our monthly e-mail newsletter list, like our facebook page and/or follow us on twitter to keep up with what we are doing, you can see events that you can come to on our upcoming events page, or you could get more involved by attending one of our planning meetings.

The final speaker on the panel was Paul from Right to Work.

It is quite clear that if the truth is exposed then people start to understand and people become compassionate

Paul outlined a strategy for fighting the cuts, saying it needed now to compose of three parts: Strikes, Direct Action and Occupations, and that we also need to offer an alternative. On strikes he said 30th June was incredibly important and that in the Autumn there would be more strikes. Direct Action makes headlines and exposes what is going on, we need more of it. With occupations he said that at Bombardier meeting there was talk of occupying the factory if the government did not reverse its decision, and that he felt more of this would be needed.

He also mentioned the Liberal Democrat conference demo on 18th September in Birmingham, and the Tory conference demo on 2nd October in Manchester.

Abu speaking from the floor

There followed a discussion from the floor, with many people speaking, which was great after the unexpectedly short time available at our last public meeting. The DWP protest on Monday was mentioned, as were Stop the War activities. Two speakers (Abu Alamgir and a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch) raised the question of what electoral parties will be options for us to vote for as Labour do not seem to be opposing cuts fully – the prospect of anti-cuts candidates standing at the next election was raised.
Bob Findlay-Williams spoke about the question of accepting the ideological framework that these cuts are framed in, that he wants to smash the concept of community care because it is a concept built on capitalist ideology. Not everone needs care, they might need support or equipment but the mainstream wraps that up in the word care which reinforces ideas of dependency.
Sam Brackenbury called for direct action, referring to the Iraq War marches of 2003, he asked whether it might have succeeded if the people decided they weren’t going to leave. Marching has it’s place, but once you’ve gone from A to B you’ve got to think about what’s next. He said that he is honestly worried about cuts to support services and benefits and how it might affect him.
Matt Raine said that the conference demonstrations provide a good place to build numbers to take direct action in the future. There was talk of the Tory conference planning for up to 100,000 people, whilst the aim for the Liberal Democrat conference should be 20,000-30,000 people.

Speakers from the floor

There was also more talk of the need to push our alternatives, and to be sharper at doing it. One alternative that was mentioned was the cost of war – Trident costs £38.5million every week, whilst Afghanistan costs £4.5bn and hundreds of millions are being spent on Libya.

The speakers rounded off the meeting with comments on what had been said from the floor, and the announcement of a pamphlet being produced on the issue of the removal of care and support services from 4,500 adults in Birmingham and what we can and are doing about it.

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