Monthly Archives: August 2011

Merrishaw Day Nursery Closes

UPDATE: Merrishaw Nursery is to re-open, following continued pressure on the Council. Parents and staff have been told it will re-open in April 2012. This is a great success for the campaign, and shows that sometimes even when something seems over, it really isn’t. We will of course cover the re-opening when it happens.

Despite a campaign by parents and Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts, Merrishaw Day Nursery has closed, along with 7 other nurseries around Birmingham.

Workmen board up Merrishaw Day Nursery

A last minute push to save the nursery from closure did not succeed, with parents and supporters gathering at the Nursery for what looks to be the final open day. Although all three councillors had been invited, only Cllr Reg Corns turned up to hear parents concerns. You can hear what he had to say on the B31 Blog post.Cllr Ian Cruise, Labour councillor for neighbouring Longbridge ward took the photo of Merrishaw being boarded up and said this on Twitter:

A sad day as workmen board up Merrishaw Community Day Nursery in West Heath. A relic of the cuts

Marrishaw achieved the highest grade possible (Outstanding) in it’s last Ofsted inspection. It has served the community for 26 years, and done so very well. Now parents are being moved to private nurseries, some of which are up to two miles away in Stirchley, as nursery provision is oversubscribed locally.
Quite what logic is used to decide to close a high performing nursery, in an area which does not have overcapacity is hard to discern.

Our hope for the nursery, and for the parents, is that Labour take control of the council next year and reopen the nurseries that have closed around the city, restoring excellent state provided provision, and ensuring that the youngest residents of our city have access to the best facilities in a nearby location.

With more time, this service could have been saved, but in June, parents were told it would stay open – only to find out a week later that it would close. Since then they have been working tirelessly to try to keep it open.
If we are to stop these cuts, we must continue to resist them at the local level as well as the national level.
Have a look at our Local Groups page to see if there is a group in your area, and if there is not, then we can help you to create one, by putting you in contact with activists in your area and supporting events that you run.

Regionally, we are holding a meeting, called jointly with Right to Work, on the 8th September at 7pm, at the Birmingham Midland Institute. Build the alternative, Broaden the Struggle. Speakers: Jack Dromey MP, Bob Crow, Jody McIntyre and more talking about the cuts, resistance and alternatives. Please attend our facebook event and invite your friends.
Nationally the party conference season is almost upon us, with the Liberal Democrats holding their conference here in Birmingham, and a demonstration on Sunday 18th September, whilst the Conservatives are in Manchester and the demonstration there is on Sat 2nd October.

Join with us to fight these cuts, and prevent more services like Merrishaw Day Nursery closing.

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Birmingham for the Alternative: March Against the Lib Dems

Assemble 11am, Granville Street, B1

The Liberal Democrat conference is being held at the ICC in Birmingham from the 17th – 21st September, and the TUC, along with Right to Work, DPAC and all the anti-cuts groups in the West Midlands have come together to create a march, assembling at Granville Street, just off Broad Street, and marching down Broad Street, around the Ring of Steel, into the city centre, up Corporation Street to a rally at Lionel Street car park.
The TUC rally will have Billy Hayes (CWU), Mark Serwotka (PCS), Paul Kenny (GMB) and Christine Blower (NUT) speaking.
Follwoing this rally, Right To Work have a rally starting at 3:30pm at the CWU offices, just around the corner from Lionel Street. Speakers there are John McDonnell MP, Mark Serwotka (PCS), Billy Hayes (CWU), Estelle Cooch (Right to Work), Linda Burnip (DPAC), Maxie Hayles (BARAC) and is charied by Lee Barron (CWU Regional secretary)

The police have imposed the same ring of steel as was used at the tory party conference last year. Sign this statement calling for it to be removed. In Manchester, the Tory party conference march – which is likely to be bigger than the march in Birmingham – is being allowed to pass directly in front of the conference, but West Midlands police have decided in their infinite wisdom to keep us away. Please sign the statement in that link to call for us to be allowed to march past the ICC.

Tory conference march, Birmingham 2010

In October last year, 7,000 people marched through the rain in Birmingham when the Tories held their conference here – we can make this march much, much bigger, with the support of the TUC and a year into the coaltion government, we should be getting tens of thousands of people out to call for an alternative to the austerity policies of this government.

Over the past year we have seen our economy falter, with growth flatlining in the 9 months since the first budget review of this Government. We need to abandon austerity policies, and instead develop policies for growth – stimulate the economy by investing in sectors which either need support or which investment would help achieve other policy aims as well. Without growth we will not see the deficit being reduced.

Cuts will not help our economy, or solve our deficit problem. What they will do, and are doing, is cause hardship to average and low income people of this country. The wealthiest are not hurt by these cuts, and are seeing their wealth continue to grow. The bankers continue to receive bonuses for doing exactly the same kinds of things that caused the financial crisis in the first place – and since no reforms have happened to the banking sector, they continue to pose a risk to us.

Connexions workers on strike on 30th June

In Birmingham, the council cuts are already seeing youth services, Connexions, museums and charitable organisations losing funding and closing. Council workers face pay cuts and changes to their conditions. Adults with “substantial” care needs may lose their support. Refuse workers who cleaned up the city after the riots striking over £4,000/year pay cuts.
Across the country this picture is being repeated at every council. Nationally we have seen strikes from public sector workers whose pensions are being attacked to pay for the deficit. There will be cuts to Legal Aid, police and almost every government funded service you can think of. The NHS, which was promised would not be cut, is instead having to find 4% “efficiency savings” every year. Schools are not having their teaching budgets cut, but face the loss of outside services such as the School Sports Programme, and other funding like the schools maintenance budget, as well as the scrapping of EMA which will reduce pupil numbers and in doing so reduce funding to schools and FE colleges.

The Liberal Democrats are not an unwilling partner in this coalition. They are fully committed to the austerity agenda, as we saw when they broke their pledge to vote against tuition fees back in December, or when they failed to impose any kind of reform on the banks, let alone a version of the Glass-Steagall Act.

Join with us on September 18th in Birmingham to call for an alternative to this government and the austerity policies they are imposing on us. To find out more about the alternatives, look at False Economy or our posts on alternatives to the cuts.
Right to Work are running coaches from around the UK.

If you fancy making a weekend of it, the Chainmakers Festival, celebrating the victory of the Women Chainmakers who went on strike in 1910 to get equal wages to men, is being held in Cradley Heath on Sat September 17th.

On September 8th, Birmingham Against the Cuts and Right to Work are holding a public meeting – Build the Alternative, Broaden the Struggle, with Jack Dromey MP, Bob Crow, Jody McIntyre and Paul Brandon speaking, chaired by Caroline Johnson.
We will also be holding many leafletting sessions, so keep an eye on our upcoming events page or our facebook page for details of those events, or email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com or comment on this article to let us know if you would like to help and when and where you might be avaialable.

Some of the organisations supporting the demonstration on the 18th September

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Build the Alternative, Broaden the Struggle – Public Meeting

Thursday 8th September, 7pm, at the Birmingham and Midlands Institute. Margaret Street, Birmingham, B3 3BS

Birmingham Against the Cuts and Right to Work are pleased to announce the details of our next public meeting, to be held in the run up to the Liberal Democrat conference demonstration on Sunday 18th September.

We have a great lineup of speakers already, with more to confirm. If you’re on facebook, attend our event and invite your friends

Jack Dromey MP
Bob Crow, General Secretary RMT union
Jody McIntrye, journalist and political activist
Paul Brandon, Right to Work
Eleanor Lisney, Disabled People Against Cuts
more speakers to be confirmed.

Chair: Caroline Johnson, Birmingham Unison / Birmingham Against the Cuts

Jack Dromey is the Labour MP for Erdington. He has been outspoken against the cuts, and has supported many events locally, including the Justice for All march, and gave an excellent speech at our public meeting on May 26th.

Bob Crow is the outspoken leader of the RMT union, who regularly take industrial action over health and safety issues, wrongful dismissals or in defence of their pay and conditions. Bob is a union leader who is not afraid to ballot his members for strike when it is needed, and is well respected by them in return. It will be great to have him talk here, in the light of potential upcoming strike action by public sector workers in the Autumn

Jody McIntyre is a journalist and political activist who was pulled out of his wheelchair by police during the student demonstration on the 9th December. Ever passionate and always interesting, it will be a pleasure to welcome Jody to our city.

Paul Brandon is the chair of the Right to Work coalition, who have called this meeting jointly with Birmingham Against the Cuts. Right to Work were instrumental in calling a demonstration at the Liberal Democrat conference, which was quickly backed by all the local anti-cuts groups working in the West Midlands and by the Regional TUC, before being adopted by national TUC.

Chaired by Caroline Johnson, Chair of Birmingham Against the Cuts and joint branch-secretary of Birmingham Unison, whose council workers were on strike on the 30th June and are likely to take more strike action in defence of pay and conditions during the Autumn.

We would like to welcome everyone to come and listen to these speakers, and will ensure that there is no confusion over timings and that there is plenty of time for us to take contributions from the floor as we build towards the Liberal Democrat conference demonstration in Birmingham, and other national demonstrations around the UK – at the Tory Party conference in Manchester, on October 2nd; in Coventry on October 22nd for the regional demonstration of the YFJ Jarrow March recreation, and in London on November 5th for their national demonstration and the 9th for NCAFC demonstration against the privatisation of education.

The watchword for us over the next month is leafletting – to build this meeting and the Liberal Democrat conference demonstration. If you are available to help, or know of an event, high street or workplace that should be leafletted, especially if you’d be willing to co-ordinate it, please email us. BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com
We are looking at leafletting on weekday evenings and mornings as well as weekends, all around the city at train stations, football grounds, local high streets or other areas, as well as the city centre so let us know when you would be available and what area(s) you could get to.
We will have printed leaflets for this event available from Friday, and should be leafletting in the city centre on Saturday.
Please keep an eye on this website for details later this week.

Around all of this there will be more local and regional events happening, with the vote on the health reform bill the day before this meeting, keep up to date with events with Save our NHS West Midlands.

You can download an A4 double sided version of the flyer here to email to other people. A5 flyers will be available from the weekend so let us know if you want some to deliver.

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What Caused the Riots? Public Meeting

See also Birmingham Against the Cuts statement on the riots

The meeting will now take place on Tuesday 23rd August at 7pm in the Carrs lane Church centre, Carrs Lane/ Moor Street, B4 7SX.  Facebook EventRight To Work, Black Activists Against the Cuts, Unite Against Fascism, The Indian workers Association and other community activists and campaigners have called a public meeting to discuss the riots and the causes behind them.

WHAT CAUSED THE RIOTS?

Speakers include:
Right to Work, BARAC, Unite Against Fascism
and others.

Time:7pm
Date: Tuesday 23rd August
Venue:Carrs lane Church centre, Carrs Lane/ Moor Street, B4 7SX

.
Birmingham Against the Cuts statement on the Riots
West Midlands Right to Work statement on the Riots:
– Time to understand not to condemn

Martin Luther King Jr said: ”A riot is the language of the unheard’’ – wise words at a time when we need to understand rather than condemn.

Clearly these are shocking scenes which we have witnessed. The destruction of our communities takes many forms. Like all councils Birmingham council had their budget slashed by this Tory led government to pay for a financial crisis the people didn’t create. We have had cuts to Connexions and other youth services, cuts to Further Education places and Education Maintenance Allowance, we have 20% youth unemployment and over 200 charities in Birmingham have or are facing closure. There is clearly a pattern emerging comparable to the riots in Thatcher’s 1980′s when communities were deprived of investment and resources.

Cameron’s cure for the ‘sick society’ is more oppressive powers for the police and more cuts. The riots that have spread across the country need to be understood against the backdrop of racism, increasing poverty, inequality and restricted access to education.
Cameron says ‘It is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society’ but has no understanding that his cuts agenda has created the tinderbox igniting in cities across Britain.

As John McDonnell MP and Honorary Chair, Right to Work said, we are now “Reaping what has been sown over three decades of creating a grotesquely unequal society, with alienated young copying the ethos of looting bankers.”
When young people have their hopes and futures ripped apart by government policies it should come as no surprise that frustration explodes into riots. We were not alone in predicting this kind of social explosion – during the election campaign Nick Clegg predicted riots if the Tories were elected. Government and bankers’ greed created both the economic crisis and the frustrations that have led to the riots. We call on everyone to support the TUC-backed protests at the Lib Dem and Tory conferences in the autumn and to step up the fight against the cuts, racism, poverty and inequality.

 

See also Birmingham Against the Cuts statement on the riots

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Parents’ Outrage over “Outstanding” Nursery Facing Closure

Campaigners demonstrate against the nursery closure, 30th July

On Friday 26th August, Merrishaw Community Day Nursery is set to close. This is despite it providing an essential service for this locality. It provides specialist support for children and parents with special needs as well as general nursery provision. This enables mothers to go to work and try and better themselves.

Over a year ago, local Councillors gave assurances that this valuable resource would remain open. But this
year, that promise has been reversed. Provision for specialist support is to be relocated elsewhere, and child minding is to replace the local, experienced centre. This was despite a recent assurance from local Councillor Les Lawrence that rumours about the closure were scaremongering.

Parents have actively opposed this closure since early 2010. The most recent event was a demonstration through West Heath and a big lobby of a Northfield Councillor’s surgery on Saturday 30th July.

Since then, Councillors Randal Brew and Reg Corns (who was instrumental in establishing the nursery), have asked the council to postpone the closure, pending meaningful consultation. They have been joined in this by Richard Burden MP.

There needs to be further consultation and postponement of the closure as there are still big questions to answer;

When the Department withdrew its proposed reorganisation of Community Day Nurseries in 2010 one of the most powerful arguments that had been put forward was that it took resources away from the South of the City even though South Birmingham has the highest number of referrals in the City (395 between April 2008 and March 2010) and the highest number of referrals to the new 2 year scheme (539). Indeed, the Department’s own report at the time identified that “Children’s centres in the south of the City have less childcare provided as part of their onsite provision which goes some way to explaining the above pattern. It is also the case that there are more under 5s subject to a child protection plan in the south than elsewhere”
(Para 3.1.4).

On Wednesday 24th August there is to be an open day at the nursery. We are urgently appealing for the local Councillors, the MP, and prospective Councillors for 2012 to attend at 12pm and declare a reversal of the closure decision and to change the nature of the event from a wake to a celebration.

Merrishaw Parents and Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts

If you want to get involved, contact Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts: StirchleyAntiCuts@Gmail.com

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Statement on the Riots

The outbreak of riots in Birmingham, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton came as no surprise. Birmingham against the Cuts has been aware for months that the most deprived areas in the West Midlands were close to an explosion of rage.

The £212 M cuts imposed with glee by the Con-Dems on Birmingham City Council have seen youth services slashed, Connexions offices closed, Neighbourhood Offices shut or run down, as well as children’s and family support services cut to ribbons. Central government cuts to housing benefit and tax credits have reduced the income to the poorest families while prices have continued to rise most for essential goods like food, heating, and transport.

Youth unemployment now stands at 20%
in the UK, and far more than that in many areas. Abolition of the EMA has left many young people with no prospect of further education.

Charities that fill the gaps in public provision have fared no better. The list of charities facing funding cuts in the Midlands includes: 100 children’s and young people-related charities,47 elderly-related charities, 40 arts charities, 37 disability charities, and 33 adult care charities.

Recent protests at deaths in police custody also showed that relations between the police and local communities were at an all time low. The timing of the riot may have been triggered by events in London, but it already was inevitable.

No one should support or tolerate mugging of individual citizens, looting of family owned shops, or attacks on fire crews, but the scene for this has been set by the mugging and looting practised by our MPs, banks, and multinational firms.

The riots coincided with a new world financial meltdown, which showed up vividly the futility of the austerity policies being followed in Europe and the USA. It is time for our leaders to admit that their policies are destroying the fabric of our society while doing nothing to improve the short or long term prospects for recovery.

The killing of three innocent young men defending their livelihood underlines the tragedies which social breakdown can bring. The united response of all the communities involved is an indication of the strengths which multi-cultural Birmingham still has to address its problems.

Birmingham against the Cuts believes the solution is in our hands. We have to give alienated and disenfranchised youth hope of a better future, and a real stake in society. This can only be achieved by a policy of economic and social reconstruction. Stop the Cuts. Start public investment in housing, green energy, improved leisure services, and further education.

We call on everyone who agrees with this from every community in the city, including young people who took part in the riots, to join with us in resisting and defeating the cuts programme, and helping to establish a council and government committed to social cohesion and equality.

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Update on Merrishaw Nursery and new campaign for Park Road Sure Start

Walk to Save Merrishaw, 30th July

Following the walk to save Merrishaw Day Nursery, and a lively meeting with Cllr Randal Brew, on Saturday 30th July, the parents campaigning to keep their nursery open have had a reply from Cllr Brew:

I repeat what I said some 15 months ago when we first met on the subject that I felt the nursery provided an excellent service (backed up by an outstanding Ofstead report), and that the children were playing in a happy environment and that it provided an excellent service for working mothers.

As promised, although I did share with you on Saturday some of the restrictions & pressures we are facing, I have passed on your substantial petition together with the pages of comments to Chrissie Garrett, Director of Integrated Services for the City

In an email to Chrissie Garrett, forwarded to the campaign along with his reply, Cllr Brew said that:

I am extremely concerned about the affect that this will have on the neighbourhood and hopes and aspirations of young mothers trying to improve themselves, and children having meaningful play.

And detailed cases where the parents alternative provision is not suitable, and specific examples of how the closure of Merrishaw will negaitvely affect their lives.  Cllr Brew has said that he hopes that the closure will be suspended pending further consultation.  We hope that he is able to work within the council to ensure that does happen, and that his worse are not empty platitudes.

Merrishaw is widely acknowledged as a succesful nursery, rated Outstanding by Ofsted, it makes little sense to close such a good provider of services, forcing parents to take their children to (often it seems private) nurseries, some up to 2 miles from home, which will not neccessarily provide such a good service (I do not want to disparage any other nursersies, I am sure that some children will go to nurseries also rated Outstanding, but I’d also be willing to bet that some won’t – and in any case, all the children currently do go to one rated Outstanding – that is close to home, with friends, social networks and support networks all nearby – networks that will be weakened by having children scattered across nurseries in south east Birmingham).

Park Road Childrens Centre, Sparkhill

Meanwhile, in Sparkhill, Park Road Day Nursery (rated Good by Ofsted) is facing 5.9% cuts due to cuts to sure start centre funding.  Parents of children at Park Road have started a campaign to protect their nursery, supported by Sparkhill & Sparkbrook Against the Cuts, and have started a petition opposing all cuts to nurseries across Birmingham.  If you want to help this campaign, especially if you have children who used to attend the nursery, please get in contact with them at SparkhillAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com

You can download the petition here. Download and print it, and get your neighbours or colleagues to sign, then send it back to us.  If you are a parent with a child at a nursery, take it to the nursery and get other parents and nursery workers to sign it – perhaps make a special sheet for the children to sign as well.

They are also calling for a lobby at the council meeting in October – of course that is likely to be too late for the nurseries facing closure, but we can work to ensure that cuts are reversed, and that if Labour win control of the council in 2012 (as is likely to happen), that they do so with a platform to re-open the nurseries and to restore funding – and know that the communities around Birmingham will keep them to their promise.

If you are a parent at a nursery facing cuts or closure, please get in contact with us.  As you can see, pressure can be brought to bear, and we hope that the council will recognise that these cuts and closures should not happen.  We will keep you informed of the campaign to save Merrishaw and other nurseries around the city.

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