‘HOW CAN they ignore us any longer? All we want is the truth, justice and change.’ So said Geoff and Diane Gray, speaking at a Socialist Alliance meeting in Hackney, east London, on Monday of this week. Geoff and Diane are campaigning for justice following the death of their 17 year old son, Private Geoff Gray, in suspicious circumstances at the notorious Deepcut barracks.
They were speaking just days after a Surrey police investigation into the deaths of four soldiers at the barracks found ‘significant gaps in the care’ of young men and women in the army. Despite this the investigation declared there was no evidence of foul play and there will be no prosecutions. The soldiers’ families denounced the investigation as a ‘cover-up’ and are demanding a full inquest.
‘This is not a Geoff Gray problem. It’s a British army problem,’ said Geoff ‘s father. ‘This must never happen again.’
NEW LABOUR is failing to meet its own anti-poverty targets. The government’s own report Opportunity for All shows that it is still not on target to cut the number of children living in poverty by 2004. Since 1996-7 there has also been no change in the proportion of working age adults living in relative poverty.
Neither has the proportion of children, pensioners or other adults living in persistent poverty dropped.
THE GOVERNMENT’S new system of legal aid is in crisis and is hitting many of the poorest people. So warned the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) this week. It said that many lawyers have abandoned legal aid work in favour of private work, leaving many with no access to legal aid.
David Harker, the CAB’s chief executive, says that ‘advice deserts’ have developed in parts of England and Wales. For example, in Kent there is no legally aided housing advice and in Leatherhead in Surrey there are no legal aid lawyers.
PEOPLE WITH mental health problems face deteriorating services and huge hospital bed cuts. NHS trusts are slashing bed numbers because they have huge deficits, mental health charities have warned.
Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust in north London, for example, is planning to cut beds because it is facing a £2 million deficit. Management says this creates an ‘opportunity to reduce nursing establishments and so generate savings’.
Paul Corry of the charity Rethink says the government promised an extra £1 billion, ‘but that got reduced to a mere pittance for the frontline staff.’
And another thing…
THE GOVERNMENT has launched a desperate campaign to rescue its plans for top-up fees. Its plans to allow some universities to charge up to £3,000 a year extra in tuition fees have created fury. The government and the heads of elite universities argue that more money is needed to fund higher education.
Years of underfunding have left many universities in a dilapidated state, and staff underpaid. But the idea that the only way to raise the funds is to impose fees on students is nonsense. Education secretary Charles Clarke says top-up fees will raise £700 million from students. Just last week chancellor Gordon Brown announced that he was pumping another £1.25 billion into the occupation of Iraq.
If you took the money wasted on a brutal occupation of a foreign country and put it instead into higher education how much would you still have left? Answers on a postcard to G Brown, 11 Downing Street, London W1.
‘THERE HAS not yet been a riot in Trafalgar Square of the sort that led to the abolition of the poll tax and Margaret Thatcher’s departure from 10 Downing Street. But police authorities are warning of civil disorder as anger grows over another year of council tax rises.’
That was the lead editorial in the Financial Times business paper on Tuesday. In Devon pensioners are organising to refuse to pay this year’s increase. There are reports of other protests being planned. No wonder. The tax has risen massively this year and bills have nearly doubled in the ten years since it was introduced. The blame lies with central government which has restricted local council funding.
What’s the answer? One is to demand the government puts funding services above paying for war. The other is to demand the council tax is scrapped and replaced with a local income tax.
In Scotland the Scottish Socialist Party has worked out that this could leave over three-quarters of people better off, save the poorest up to £25 a week, and raise millions for services.
THE LATEST revelations from the Hutton inquiry show once more how those at the heart of government have lied and bullied. Blair’s (now ex) henchman Alastair Campbell was waging a vendetta on the BBC and its reporter Andrew Gilligan, despite his earlier denials. He and Blair were determined to ‘fuck Gilligan’, as Campbell’s diary entry about the BBC reporter revealed this week.
However, the Hutton inquiry is missing the key questions. The real issue is that the government said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when there were none. This is what sparked the whole row which led to the Hutton inquiry.
A racist Tory bill
Many people are already missing bill payments
Solidarity boosts NEU union members