Thursday, 25 November 2010

Staff Cuts at Volunteering England

Owen Tudor in the cuts watch section of the TUC Touchstone blog highlights proposed cuts to Volunteering England (which researches and provides information on best practice in volunteering) which could see 31 of its 55 staff made redundant. The government has announced that the Office for Civil Society will cut its “strategic partners” from 42 to 15 and make sure that no partner gets more than a quarter of its funding from OCS. Volunteering England’s Chief Executive, Justin Davis Smith, says the organisation faces cuts of 60 per cent of its funding. He points out that:

“It is extraordinary we have to plan on cutting back our organisation at a time when across our society there is more interest in volunteering than ever before. The coalition government’s Big Society is built upon volunteering, and Volunteering England has a crucial part to play in helping public and community services become more effective through involving volunteers.”

STUC hopes, in the next few days, to sign a joint agreement with Volunteer Development Scotland which supports the vital role of volunteers whilst making it clear that volunteering is an addition to, rather than a replacement for, important public service work.

We will be watching closely to ensure that funding for Volunteer Development Scotland is maintained at adequate levels in Scotland.

Dave Moxham STUC

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Preparing for the Scottish Budget

The STUC is holding a budget lobby outside the Parliament at 12 noon tomorrow (Wed 17 November), to remind MSPs of the devastating effects that cuts can have, and to ask them to support the principles of the There is a Better Way Campaign and to prioritise jobs and services and introduce fair taxation and a living wage.
Scotland has just come out of the longest and deepest recession since World War II and the recovery from this has been weak and prolonged. Long-term unemployment is at its highest level for a decade and the number of job seekers outstrips the number of jobs available in every local authority in Scotland.
This crisis is first and foremost a crisis in unemployment and growth. The coalition Government should be prioritising creating jobs not destroying them. By prioritising paying down the deficit over all things, the coalition Government is putting at risk our communities and our economy.
Making swinging cuts to the public sector, at the expense of 1 million jobs across the UK, with 100,00 of them here is Scotland, will not create growth. The private sector cannot hope to fill this space. It is too big a task when the economy has been week for so long both in Britain and internationally.  
Scotland knows only too well, the social and economic costs of recession and long-term unemployment, particularly long-term youth unemployment. We are still coping with the effects of the last recession in the 1980s. We know that these spending decisions have a massive and enduring legacy.
But there is a difference between now and the 1980s.  Now we have a Scottish Parliament who can set its own budget. So we are looking to them to be the first line of defence for Scotland and to stand up for our jobs and our communities.
By prioritising jobs and services, by introducing fair taxation and a living wage, this Government can shift the burden away from the poorest in society, they can help stimulate growth and they can support our recovery.  
Our lobby tomorrow is to ask MSPs to support our campaign and to remind them that we do have choices and there is a better way.

Helen Martin- STUC

Monday, 15 November 2010

What the UK Border Agency did

A rally was held in Glasgow today to protest against the UK border agency’s removal of housing contracts from Glasgow City Council. This decision affects more than 1300 refugee families who are currently receiving housing and support services from Glasgow City Council.  As a result of this decision, families will be forced to move out of their communities on as little as three days notice.  There is no guarantee that children will be able to stay in their schools or that adults will be able to continue with any medical treatment, university or college education or other activities they may be engaged in.
For the past ten years in Glasgow, people seeking asylum have been put into the hard to let houses no one else wanted to live in. Houses were kept warm and occupied. Refugees have brought a sense of community and vibrancy to neighbourhoods where previously there was none. There is no merit in houses being left empty, damp and vandalised when there are people who need and want them.
The termination of this contract will also increase pressure on Glasgow City Council homeless services which will need to respond to a growing demand for temporary accommodation. This decision will put more pressure on and raise the costs of the City’s homelessness services, social work and the National Health Service. With or without a contract from the UK Border Agency, the City Council will be paying up for asylum seekers and refugees but it will lose the contribution to this cost that the UK Border Agency currently provides.
Removing the housing contract from Glasgow City Council will devastate local communities and cause heartache for refugees and people seeking asylum who have painstakingly put down roots rebuilding their lives after they were destroyed in their countries of origin.
Ultimately these changes will make asylum seeking and refugee families worse off, it will put more pressure on Glasgow City Council services and it hurts the communities where these asylum seekers and refuges have been living and making a valuable contribution.
The UK Border Agency should rethink this decision.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Tax Payers Alliance Vs Church of England

Just back from BBC Radio Scotland following a short sharp exchange of views with the Tax Payers Alliance over the Coalition’s latest proposals to force the unemployed to do unpaid work or lose their benefits.

From memory, I don’t think I or the interviewer managed to get the TPA spokesperson to once mention the word ‘tax’ or ’tax payer’ in between her diatribe against the work-shy, but it was interesting to note that an organisation which claims to be non-political and ‘of the people’ was prepared to publicly accuse the Archbishop of Canterbury of “sticking his oar in” (I think I quote correctly, if not apologies to the scrupulously accurate Tax Dodgers Alliance for paraphrasing). The TPA obviously feels quite relaxed about appearing on national radio to pass moral and social judgment on the ‘work ethic’ but seems to thinks that the Church of England should butt out.

It may not be clear for some time whether the latest “bash the work shy” initiative is for the Daily Mail or whether it is for real.

If it is just another nasty headline grabbing initiative its direct impact on individuals will be limited and it will largely play a role in further cheapening the debate and further entrenching the deep divisions in society over the so-called deserving and non-deserving poor.

But, if the proposal is for real it will amount to the creation of a low paid army of elementary workers, undertaking work which will all too easily replace that which is currently being offered as part of mainstream employment.

How long before the first Tory council in England contracts out its street cleaning services to a private company with the labour provided by the long term unemployed?

In this context, and given that the previous Labour Government had a far from impressive record on welfare reform, it is good to see Scottish Labour looking to introduce one of Labour’s better policies from last year - a Future Jobs Fund initiative for Scotland.  I suspect some of the details will still need to be ironed out, but I understand that the programme will include the following features.
  • It will be paid at at least the minimum wage
  • It will be focussed on socially useful additional work rather than replacing existing employment
  • It will include a mandatory training element to improve future jobs prospects.

The scheme will be focussed on the longer term youth unemployed but should, in my view, like the previous UK Future Jobs Fund, be extended to the long-term unemployed in so-called ‘hot spot’ areas.

Creating real jobs, with real structure, a training element and therefore real hope. Now that’s what I call a good use of tax payers money.

Dave Moxham STUC

Timing 1:04:30 into the programme