Labour Party

Labour – working in communities

The Labour Party in Hall Green is committed to ensuring that concerns raised by all residents are addressed quickly and effectively and this collective community spirit was seen today when a team of Labour Party activists undertook an environmental clean up in a gated alleyway running between Acheson Road and Gracemere Cresent.

Campaign Organiser Kerry Jenkins said “It is a real shame that a small minority of residents have not chosen to be a little more considerate when disposing of unwanted items. We have cleared two settees and an array of bulky waste which has caused real concern and inconvenience to other residents. Luckily, we have a large number of activists within the Labour Party Branch who take this issue as seriously as I do, and we have managed to clear up the area concerned.”

Cllr Barry Bowles was also involved in the clean up operation and has organised disposal of the unwanted items. He said “Any resident needing to dispose of bulky waste can get up to 6 items collected free of charge up to three times a year if they contact Birmingham City Council. There really is no need for this behaviour which not only has a detrimental effect on the area but can cause real problems relating to pest control.”

While the Tories obsess over Europe, ordinary people struggle

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Since the county council elections nearly two weeks ago and the supposed inexorable rise of UKIP, the Conservative Party has been occupied with an old enemy: Europe. The Queen’s Speech, much to the dismay of Tory backbenchers, contained nothing concerning a referendum on British membership of the European Union. Worried about the UKIP ‘threat’ to their seats, Tory MPs, including, unbelievably, cabinet ministers, have been falling over themselves to condemn the EU, call for a referendum and let David Cameron know just how strongly they feel about an issue that is, truthfully, way down the list of priorities for the vast majority of voters. Instead of showing leadership of his party, Cameron is performing his own tribute act to John Major and following it. Except whereas John Major tried to face down the ‘b*stards’ in his own party that sought to undermine him over Europe, Cameron acquiesces to their every demand and indulges their every whim.

A strong leader would not only attempt to assert some kind of control over his party, but also remind them that there are rather more important things at stake. The Queen’s Speech did nothing to help ordinary people who are struggling and nothing to improve our economic situation. U-turns on welfare reforms or tax cuts for the richest would have been welcome as people across the country struggle to make ends meet as a result of these damaging policies that have been implemented over the last month, yet they remain in place. There is still no coherent plan from the government for jobs and growth, more vital than ever as the rate of unemployment increased again today for the second month running, and at the current rate the government will not have eliminated the deficit for another 422 years. This is what the Tories should be agitating over – instead they are only concerned with going back to the 90s and fighting among themselves over Europe. Ed Miliband has rightly said that we should concentrate on the big issues facing people rather than argue over a referendum; Labour, once again, is fighting the corner of ordinary people while the Tories show just how out of touch they really are.

There are few places where the effects of the government’s harmful policies are being felt as much as they are in Birmingham. As the Birmingham Mail reported this week, nearly 2,000 Birmingham residents have requested access to emergency housing funds, an increase of 50% on the previous year, as the effects of the dreadful bedroom tax start to be felt across the city. While the City Council is able to provide some help, thanks to the government, there will still be a massive shortfall and many people suffering from the bedroom tax will not get the help they need. The Council has also secured extra Council Tax Support funding, reducing the burden on the unemployed and people on low incomes, yet this only mitigates the misery imposed by the Tory-led government. In difficult times, Labour is doing whatever it can locally to help those in need and try to build a better city and a better country, while the Tories play games with each other over Europe, ignoring the everyday issues that people face.

There is a debate to be had over Europe, and the EU has much to offer us as a city and as a country. When there are so many other important issues at hand, however, this is not the time for the Tories to be indulging in their favourite past-time of Euroscepticism. Ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. Birmingham residents will see a government that is not standing up  for them, not acting to improve their lives and not taking into account their fears and concerns, but a government that is distracted by UKIP and its own Eurosceptic backbenchers and is incapable of showing leadership. Labour is doing all it can to ensure a fair deal for Birmingham residents; the Tories appear as though they could not care less.

Time to stand up and be counted

In the midst of a media frenzy that focused on the Leveson-inspired Royal Charter for press regulation you could be excused for not being aware that MPs on Tuesday were debating a piece of emergency legislation that could set a dangerous precedent and threaten civil liberties.

For Labour MPs, the vote should have been very clear, very straightforward, very simple as the Tory led government had been defeated in the courts because quite simply, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been found to have broken the law.

Workfare and the spurious ideology that underpins it has been exposed by the ongoing activism of community campaigning groups such as Boycott Workfare, and came to the fore as a result of action taken by a young woman from Birmingham, Cait Reilly, who refused to work for free in Poundland as this prevented her from undertaking voluntary work at the Pen Museum in Hockley.

This brave action, standing up against the Tory rhetoric of ‘scrounger v striver’, and against an aggressive right wing press who have determinedly portrayed our growing army of young unemployed people as workshy scroungers lacking any real aspiration or initiative, Cait took the Tory Government to the courts, and the courts found in her favour.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the DWP had illegally sanctioned unemployed people who had been forced to work for free. The Court noted that the ‘Workfare’ scheme itself was not breaking the rules; but ruled that the DWP had not given sufficient legal information to those on workfare about what they were required to do, and their rights. As a result of violating the law, the Court of Appeal awarded damages of between £530 and £570 to jobseekers who had been illegally forced to work for organisations such as Poundland for no pay.

The response of the DWP was to immediately table the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill.  This bill, effectively reversing the Court of Appeal’s decision in order to “protect the national economy” from the claims of the other 225,000 participants in Workfare and similar schemes whose cases might result in compensation claims for the government of over £130 million.

This response was not surprising; with the Tory led government seemingly declaring themselves as being above the law and pushed through legislation rushed through Parliament on the quiet, to initiate proposals to change the law retrospectively.

Tuesday’s vote should not have been clearer for our Labour leadership, in the knowledge that a Tory Government had been defeated in the courts because it broke the law.

The vote should have been clear for our Party, being the one organisation that avowedly supports ordinary people, and at this juncture in Britain’s history, is needed more than ever to rescue working people and hard working families from the savage austerity foolishness that this Tory led Coalition is espousing.

Our Party surely would not bolster the Tories, assisting them with their onslaught against some of the poorest in society and allowing them to ride roughshod over British law?

43 Labour MPs (including Hall Green’s Roger Godsiff) stood by the true tenets of the Party, standing up for core Labour values of decency and justice, breaking the whip of abstention and voted against the proposal.

Our Party, formed in unity to provide a collective voice, and to improve the living and working conditions of the working classes have seemingly let us down.

Have those who we put our trust in, to represent our interests and our Party values lost touch with their founding roots and have the ‘ordinary’ working classes been abandoned?

Like many party members out there I am struggling to understand what went so very wrong and believe that those involved in the decision to abstain on the bill, and those who espoused the party line should not only face up to the ire of us all but be held accountable for their actions.

Labour is in a strong position to win the next election but only if it continues to confront the coalition on basic issues of social justice. Our Party must not make this mistake again.

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