Labour and Tory uniting to attack vulnerable
THE FERNCLIFF Family Centre in Hackney, east London, has become the latest victim of budget cuts by a council which is jointly run by Labour and Conservatives.
The centre is a nursery for special needs children and is a well established Barnado's-run project which has been operating for 20 years. Hackney council provides 70 percent of the centre's funding, which the council's social services committee has decided to cut. This will mean extreme staff cuts and may lead to closure.
The centre provides a programme called "Sharing Care", where children are offered specialised care.
My daughter is 11 months old and has been in the programme for six weeks. She has a physical disability which means she needs extensive physiotherapy every day.
I am horrified to think that the local authority has made this decision without thinking of the long term implications for the families it will affect-no nursery places for disabled children within the borough. To deprive some of the most vulnerable people in society of what should be their right is scandalous.
We have set up a parents' action group to challenge these cuts and will be mounting a protest at a council meeting on 4 July.
- JULIA TOMS, on behalf of Ferncliff Centre Parents' Action Group
Fight to channel feeling
WE HELD a 40-strong public meeting in Pill in Newport recently in response to the Nazi BNP leafleting the area. The meeting happened in the wake of the murder of Jan Pasalbessi.
Among those attending was a local residents' group, Pride of Pill. Many were former Labour supporters or even members. They were bitterly disillusioned with Labour over jobs, housing, and the arrogance of the government and council.
But their reaction was to retreat into focusing narrowly on local issues. This can lead in a worrying direction. So the group focused on opposition to asylum seekers coming to Pill. They insist they are not racist, and at one of their recent meetings the chair said that if there were any racists in the room could they please leave.
Despite this they argue that there are too many asylum seekers in Pill, a poor area, and that they should be spread out around Newport instead. Whatever their starting point, the result is they end up taking a right wing, racist position in practice over asylum seekers. This shows the disillusionment with Labour can go in bad as well as good directions.
When we challenged the arguments put forward by the group and talked about the real parasites in society we got a hearing. We argued that they should unite with asylum seekers to fight for better facilities for all in Pill. This shows how important it is that socialists are there to put such an alternative if the disillusionment with Labour is to develop in a positive direction.
- GARY LEWIS, Newport
MS drug rationed for cost
THE LIMITING of the availability of the drug beta-interferon for sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS) will come as no surprise to a lot of people who are increasingly victims of an NHS dominated by the insane logic of the market. The evidence is there regarding its effectiveness for some people with MS. But it is all too obvious that the cost (�10,000 a year) is the reason for the recommendation to severely curtail its use.
The MS Society has been forced to reflect the very real anger people now feel. Their latest ad appeared in the national press in March and said, "We're not asking for a miracle Mr Blair, we just want people with MS to have the right to fair and equitable treatment.
"There is a proven medication, beta-interferon. But many people who would benefit from it are refused on cost grounds. And the lucky few (the lucky 35) who receive this treatment are more likely to get the drug because of their postcode than because of their needs."
This ad appeared on the same day as the MS Society organised a lobby of parliament where over 1,000 people gathered. This issue goes to the very heart of healthcare provision and it is an issue for everyone, not just people with MS. (By the way, how much did the Dome cost?)
- GEORGIA SUMNER, North London
WORKERS IN the power industry have drawn a line in the sand. The victory over job cuts and attacks on conditions in Scottish Power and ManWeb should give the green light to everybody that you don't have to accept the job cuts and attacks the employers want. Scottish Power and ManWeb are major players in the power industry.
If they can be stopped in their tracks then others can follow suit. The danger is that the victory can be snatched away under the guise of the "partnership" with employers that our union leaders sell. Nobody should accept collaboration in business unions under this new guise. We should recognise it for what it is and reject it.
Good old fashioned trade unionism won this victory-being prepared to fight, prepared to strike and prepared to take the bosses on.
- WILLIE BLACK, senior shop steward Scottish Power (personal capacity)
Souter's bus goes pink
ON MONDAY 12 June seven women appeared in court for offences related to a protest against Section 28 in February. The women, calling themselves the Lesbian Avengers, painted a double decker bus pink in the middle of London's Piccadilly Circus. The bus belonged to Stagecoach boss Brian Souter, who has funded the homophobic Keep the Clause campaign in Scotland.
Two women were found guilty of an offence under the Road Traffic Act, two more eventually had charges dropped, and three others are awaiting sentencing for criminal damage charges.
The magistrate, Mr Pratt, dealt with the matter unsympathetically, insisting that the five convicted women pay substantial compensation to Stagecoach plus costs amounting to just over �2,000.
It is vital that we all challenge hatred. Section 28 has created a climate of fear which stifles discussion of sexuality amongst young people. We wanted to counter Brian Souter's hate campaign by taking direct action in a humorous way. Help us show Souter and his cronies that we are not alone and will not be bullied into submission.
People wishing to make donations can contact us through e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
- LESBIAN AVENGERS
AT A recent protest outside a Tesco store in Bristol 350 customers signed a letter urging the management to refuse to cooperate with Jack Straw in the new voucher system for asylum seekers.
We received a reply from Tesco's chief executive saying that the company is still undecided on the matter but is considering a trial. The scheme means giving no change to ref ugees who have to survive on �36.50 worth of vouchers and �10 cash a week.
I am confident that similar protests across the country would convince Tesco not to embark on the project. The scheme would be unworkable if supermarkets refused to cooperate. The Labour government would have to give asylum seekers cash. In Bristol we are now turning to the Co-op, Asda, Somerfields and Sainsburys, which are already involved in the scheme.
- JO BENEFIELD, Bristol
AS A delegate at the AEEU union conference in Blackpool recently, I witnessed how shocking the union leadership is. We were shown a video of Tony Blair saying how pleased he was with the union's involvement in "partnership" and thanking the general secretary, Sir Ken Jackson.
At Rolls Royce, where I work, we made �300 million profit only for them to announce 2,500 job losses. Partnership my arse! At the end of conference there was Question Time. Question: "Should not our union campaign for the reinstitution of student grants and the scrapping of fees?" Sir Ken, in reply: "No. Our country couldn't possibly afford that." He is the only union leader to be knighted while still in office.
- JERRY HICKS, Bristol
RECENT EVENTS in Northern Ireland suggest that the sectarian Unionists have no intention of giving up their status as "superior beings" who lord it over the "inferior" Catholics.
A concert featuring flautist James Galway and Maire Brennan, attended by pupils from both religious communities, was disrupted by drum-banging Orangemen. The reception held later resulted in pandemonium courtesy of foul mouthed, abusive, missile-throwing Loyalists.
- WILLIAM GARTLAND, Wisconsin, US
MAY I comment on your recent article "Why Not Make The Rich Pay" (Socialist Worker, 17 June). I would never suggest that upping income tax on the rich is anything but desirable, but it is not the most important tax. The huge gulf between employers' contributions to National Insurance in Britain compared to other EU countries should be the focus.
French employers have to pay 40 percent of wages to national insurance compared to only about 10 percent in Britain. This accounts for a difference in public funds of about �50 billion annually. Employers' contributions transfer income from the capitalists to the working class, and they have to be fought for.
- HUGH LOWE, West London