Category Archives: News

Act now to keep your Children’s Centre open!

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The redesign of Birmingham’s Early Years services is likely to take the best part of 5-6 years from conception to execution. Birmingham’s Early Years Services currently provide support to around 100,000 parents and 80,000 children at any one time. Early years services consist of Children’s centres, Health Visitors, Parenting support and Pregnancy and breastfeeding support services which support parents from the time a child is conceived up until the age of 5.

There has been a major service review over a nearly 3 three year period, and the current procurement process up to the award of the new contract is likely to take a further 10-11 months, there will be a further period where the contract is implemented. This extended period of time and the convoluted nature of the processes involved have provided useful political cover to the Council’s Labour leadership who have still not had to name and own the actual cuts and closures in Early Years services to come.

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Osborne’s Spending Review – PCS Midlands Shows Government The Red Card

DWP Ravenhurst

DWP Ravenhurst

In his spending review last week, the chancellor announced further massive cuts to the public sector and the civil service on top of the £81bn which will be cut from public spending by 2014. We have already seen a two-year pay freeze and pay cap of 1% and increased pension contributions. More than 70,000 civil service jobs have been cut, the value of pensions reduced and terms and conditions threatened.

The government has refused to talk to us, and we are demanding real negotiations.

The new spending round will cut a further £11.5 billion in 2015/16 and include:

  • Saving a further £5bn from central government
  • Ending progression pay in civil service by 2016
  • 1% cap on public sector pay continued until April 2016
  • Budget cuts of 10% for justice, Defra, Treasury and Cabinet Office and Communities; 9.5% in DWP; 9% for transport; 8% in Foreign Office and department for energy and climate change; 7% in culture; 6% for Home Office and department for business innovation and skills; 5% in Revenue and Customs
  • 2% further cuts for devolved administrations
  • Cuts in defence civilians and allowances
  • 144,000 further job cuts in the public sector.
  • A cap on benefit payments, more cuts and restrictions

27 June protest day – stop the cuts

DWP Five Ways

DWP Five Ways

Highways Agency

Highways Agency

These cuts will have a devastating effect on you, your family and the services we provide. We organised a day of protest against these cuts – to pay, jobs and terms and conditions as part of our national campaign.

On 27 June, at every workplace and in our city centres, members protested to stop the cuts, and keep the pressure on ministers for real negotiations.

Gambling Commission

Gambling Commission

Courts

Courts

The cuts don’t work – there is an alternative

Despite the huge cuts to the public sector both the debt and the deficit are increasing. The economy has flatlined, leading to lower tax revenues and high benefit bills. Read about PCS’ alternative

PCS Midlands shows the government the red card

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Being Sent On The Work Programme Reduces Your Chance Of Finding Work

Statistics released today from Ian Duncan-Smith’s flagship Work Programme, which is intended to help unemployed people into work at a cost of £1bn per year, show that being sent on the scheme reduces your chances of finding a job.

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Clinical Commissioning Groups: the Motors of Health Service Privatisation

Driving the Government’s plans to privatise the NHS will be local Clinical Commissioning Groups comprised of groups of GP’s. There are currently three proposed CCG’s in Birmingham, Cross City, Birmingham South and Central, and Sandwell and West Birmingham. It is understood that the Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG is in the first wave of CCG’s awaiting authorisation from the NHS Commissioning Board.

The CCG’s will play a key role in commissioning health services and will have a nationwide budget of £64bn at their disposal. They are charged with developing Commissioning Plans and replace the role of Primary Care Trusts. The CCG’s will have responsibility for commissioning or buying health and care services including non-specialist acute services, community services, Mental health, and continuing healthcare among others.

The big move to privatisation is the requirement upon CCG’s to contract with ‘Any qualified provider’. Once registered as a qualified provider with Monitor private sector companies will be free to seek contracts with CCG’s anywhere in the country.

CCG’s in London have already signed contracts worth £7m with consultancies including KPMG McKinsey, and Price Waterhouse for ‘intensive organisational support’. Some of these consultancies were active in influencing Government health policy from the outside, actively lobbying for Health and Social Care Act, and will they will now profit from and influence the development of CCG’s from the inside.

Influence over the CCG’s is a potentially important battle ground and 38 degrees, an online campaigning community, has launched a petition demanding that CCG’s amend their constitutions to protect NHS services and to ensure proper consultation with patients.

Through 38 Degrees, meetings are being convened to involve local people in campaigning to pressure their CCG’s to make changes to their constitutions. In Birmingham a campaign group has started to meet and has plans to make contact with the three local CCG’s and will be seeking copies of their draft constitutions. An important priority for the campaign is to explain to the public what is happening to their NHS and to get them involved in lobbying their CCG.

If you would like to get involved

1. Sign the 38 Degrees petition

2. Join in with the street petitioning activity in Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre on Saturday 10th November from 11am.

3. Updates on the campaign can be found on the West Midlands Save our NHS webpage

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Government Manages To Manufacture Falling Unemployment Stats, But Not In Birmingham…

Today’s unemployment figures show that the government has failed to manufacture falling unemployment figures in Birmingham and the West Midlands, though they have managed it nationally, with the coup d’etat being the reduction in youth unemployment to under 1million. In Birmingham though, youth unemployment claimant count rose to 14,450 – a rate of 23.4%.

The government uses workfare and other training schemes to reduce the headline unemployment figure (the Labour Force Survey) and increasing numbers of people who are sanctioned are not included in the lower claimant count number. The move to a 4 week minimum, 3 year maximum sanction regime from the 22nd October will further act to reduce the claimant count, by reducing people to destitution.

With unemployment rising in the West Midlands, can we expect to see an increased push to force people into unpaid workfare schemes to claim unemployment is falling? Will we see more pressure put on job centre advisors to sanction claimants? Is this the reality of falling unemployment in Tory Britain today?

Self employment is also rising, but how many of these people are creating sustainable jobs? Have they been advised to sign off Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and fraudulently register as self employed claiming Working Tax Credits? Are they moving to self employment in desperation of not being able to find a job, and being so fed up with living on benefits, and wanting to work, they decide to have a go at it on their own. Around 2/3rds of business fail in their first year.

The fall in figures today has been comprehensively taken apart by Johnny Void, showing that it can be wholly accounted for by these and other statistical games.

Part time work is soaring, and the average numbers of hours worked are down. 69% of the jobs created in the past year have been part time, and this combines with wages rising slower than inflation to leave people with far less spending power than previously. Combined with benefit cuts for those out of work and those on low pay, this effect is multiplied.

Poster available – email BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com to arrange collection/delivery

For the economy as a whole, falling unemployment should be a good thing, but even if the statistics actually represented a fall in employment around the UK, if the amount people earn overall is falling (and with so much part time work it must be), then the amount they can spend – the demand they generate is lower.
This means that when combined with government spending cuts, we will continue to see recession because there will not be the increased demand in the economy you would expect to see from increased employment.

The money that is lost in wages doesn’t just disappear of course. It ends up as profit for a company like Starbucks, who move it offshore in order to avoid paying any tax on it. It will join the £13 trillion stashed away in tax havens by the richest individuals and multinationals on the planet.

So if you think it’s an outrage that the government is so bad at it’s job that it can’t even manage to find a way to claim unemployment is falling in Birmingham, why not go to London on Saturday and join the TUC demonstration for A Future that Works .. and Boycott Workfare for a Future Without Workfare. Free coach spaces for unwaged and low paid people are available from Birmingham.

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Growing Numbers of People in the West Midlands Needed Food Banks in Past 6 Months

The Trussell Trust, which runs 172 food banks around the UK, has reported a doubling in the number of people seeking its support to feed themselves and their families as benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, the recession, rising food prices and frozen wages hit poor people in the UK. Between April and September this year, nearly 14,000 people in the West Midlands visited a Trussell Trust food bank, and many more will have been to others, like the Gateway Family Services food bank in Edgbaston.
Such is the increase in demand that Birmingham Central Foodbank have launched a Harvest Campaign to encourage donations.

This comes alongside news from a survey by the Guardian Teacher Network that large numbers of pupils are coming into school hungry, with nearly a sixth of teachers saying they spend up to £25/month of their own money on basic foodstuffs for the students to eat. Schools themselves are facing budget cuts and many have reduced provision of breakfast clubs.

Delays in processing benefits and sanctions placed on claimants are amongst the most common reasons for people to look for food banks to help them, and from October 22nd sanctions will be increased to a maximum of 3 years for unemployed people, whilst disabled people will find sanctions increased to 70% of their benefits for an indefinite period of time.

The rise in need for food banks is one of the most telling outcomes of this government’s failing austerity agenda, and the welfare cuts regime. As Universal Credit is introduced next year, the situation can only be expected to worsen, as advice services become overwhelmed. Cuts to council tax benefit will take an average £5/week out of many people’s pockets, whilst cuts to housing benefit will bring increased homelessness to our city.

The Tories will not step in to correct the situation as they do not believe in the social security of the welfare state, and would like to see everything handled by charities, uncertain of their income or ability to provide services, with poor people made to beg for handouts if they find that they haven’t been able to compete with 20,000 other people for one of the jobs at Jaguar Land Rover.

If you think this state of affairs is wrong, and want to see alternative economic policies to ensure the recession ends as soon as possible and that noone is driven to destitution, then come down to London on Saturday to join the TUC national demonstration for a future that works. Free coach spaces are available for unwaged and low paid people in Birmingham.

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Underemployment Soars in The West Midlands

Underemployment – where someone is working part time but looking for full time work – is soaring in the West Midlands, according to a TUC analysis of unemployment in August 2012. There are now 246,000 people in the West Midlands doing part time jobs only because they cannot find full time work or get more hours from their employers.
Nationally, 1.42 million people are in part time work whilst looking for a new full time job, adding a huge amount of competition for jobs for the 2.59 million people who are unemployed. In addition to that, there are almost 2 million people who are trying to get more hours from their employer, reducing the number of jobs that will come onto the market, since employers are more likely to give existing employees more hours rather than create a new post.

Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Rob Johnston said that

Unemployment is a major problem across the west midlands. But this only tells half the story. Nearly a quarter of a million people are trapped in jobs that don’t have enough hours to provide the income they need to get by. Fewer hours mean less pay, and an even bigger struggle to pay the bills.

Young people, women and low skilled workers are bearing the brunt of our under-employment crisis. It is alarming just how few young people today are able to find a job working enough hours. This is a criminal waste of the talent and skills they have – all because of a crisis they didn’t cause.

Solving our under-employment crisis is not easy, and it won’t be tackled through endless unpaid work initiatives.

Underemployment is also a big issue in retail, where zero-hour contracts have become the norm, allowing employers to reduce people’s hours at will. Such jobs are particularly threatened by unpaid labour supplied by government workfare schemes, with many shop workers reporting a loss in hours or overtime as companies take advantage of the free, forced labour produced by workfare.

This growing group of workers will find themselves being punished for the economic conditions that have lead to them being underemployed when Universal Credit comes in to replace existing benefits including working and child tax credits. Under the new scheme – which has been called “unworkable” by government advisors – those who are working part time will need to fulfill similar conditionality regimes to current Job Seekers Allowance claimants, showing that they are doing everything they can to find a full time job or increase their hours. If they cannot show this, then they will face sanctions – potentially for as long as 3 years.
This change comes on top of the loss of up to £4,000/year in tax credits for parents who have been unable to increase their hours from 16 to 24 in order to be able to claim these benefits.

Whilst unemployment figures have been decreasing slightly in the past quarter, this has been matched by a rise in part time work and self-employment. Along with increased training and workfare schemes removing people from the unemployment numbers and sanctions taking people off the claimant count, these falls in unemployment must be viewed with skepticism at best. With austerity failing to reduce the deficit, and producing a double dip recession, now is the time to demand the government changes course and implements alternatives to austerity – useful investments into our economy to create jobs and improve people’s lives. Join us on the streets for the Tory Conference demonstration in Birmingham on Sunday 7th October and in London for the national TUC demonstration on Saturday 20th October.

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