Sound the alarm: racism and Reform UK on the rise

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Arthur T
Nigel Farage has seen a rapid rise in the polls (Photo: flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Reform UK, lead by Nigel Farage, has seen a rapid rise in the polls (Photo: flickr/Gage Skidmore)

It’s time to sound the alarm louder—the growth of the far right and Nigel Farage’s Reform UK threatens to become a seismic shift.

And in response, sections of the trade union and “left” movement are making compromises with the devil. Anti-racists need to react urgently.

Several opinion polls have now shown Farage’s party level with or ahead of the Tories nationally. And they confidently predict Farage will win in Clacton, Essex, where he’s running to be MP. We can’t know if the polls are reflecting reality or whether at least some of them are simply expressing the wishes of those who want to boost Reform UK.

Because of Britain’s electoral system, that doesn’t mean Reform UK will necessarily surpass the Tories’ number of MPs. But it does mean the poison that Farage pumps out will be injected even deeper into political debate.

The far right, and the fascists who cluster around them, could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Years of state racism and Islamophobia from the Tories, unchallenged by Labour, is the crucial background to Farage’s growth. And the Tories, in an ever more desperate situation, have reached even deeper into the racist cesspit.

On Thursday they unveiled an advert purporting to believe that Labour would roll out the red carpet to “illegal immigrants” and write “welcome” in the sand on British beaches to attract them. And Labour began its election campaign with Keir Starmer’s declaration, “Read my lips—I will bring immigration numbers down. I will control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first.”

Farage is taking that further with calls for “freezing non-essential immigration”, and parts of what passes for the left are following his politics eagerly.

After his manifesto launch this week, George Galloway of the Workers Party of Britain was asked about migrants and refugees coming across the Channel. Instead of kicking back against racism and pointing out that many were fleeing the devastation caused by Western imperialism, Galloway demanded more vicious measures that the Tories have dared to propose.

“Where were the ships?” he said. “The ships were in the Red Sea, in the Black Sea, in the South China Sea. The Royal Navy’s principal purpose and duty is to defend the shores of His Majesty’s realm, but they’re not doing so.

“They’re in every sea except our own sea. They are not involved in turning back illegal departures from France,” he said.

“Illegal arrivals in England, which then cost £80 a night per person, and potentially forever to the British taxpayer. We’ve got all these Royal Navy assets—the problem is they’re deployed everywhere except defending our own shores.”

Galloway claimed the French authorities are “watching migrants leave their shores”. He added, “We certainly wouldn’t allow them to leave unmolested from the beaches of France.”

He is disgustingly echoing Farage’s filth—and the language of the fascists in France.

RMT union leader Mick Lynch told an election event, “There’s a problem on the left. If working class people say there’s a problem in my town, we haven’t got enough resources to deal with an influx of people, you’ve got to deal with that. You can’t say that’s not true.”

He argued that there must be “a left response” to “the migration issue”. “If that upsets some people or is anti-woke, I don’t care.”

Organised workers and trade unions have been and must again be central to the anti-racist response we need. We need clear class politics.

How about an answer that doesn’t pander to the idea that migrants are the problem and instead targets the class enemy—the rich and the corporations. Let’s rage against the chief executives who live in obscene luxury and the billionaire class that is looting society.

A working class divided by racism will never fight effectively against the bosses and the ruling class. That means we must confront racism.

Our sisters and brothers are workers from anywhere in the world, however they come to Britain. And our enemies are those who sit at the top of society, living off the work of the rest of us.

There’s plenty of money for housing, the NHS and everything else we need if we tear down the system of profit.

These are urgent times. We need mass resistance to racism and revolutionary socialist politics at the heart of that fightback.

Join Stand Up To Racism’s campaigns, and make sure there is a mass turnout on Saturday 27 July when the fascist Tommy Robinson seeks to profit from the growth of racism during the election. And build a principled socialist opposition for now and after the election. As racism rises, no section of Labour—left or right—will be enough to deal with it.

Blame the rich, not migrants

The richest 52 families in Britain have more wealth than the poorest half of the British population—33 million people. The 52’s combined wealth is £795 billion—roughly the equivalent of giving every family in Britain £41,000.

It’s more than all the goods and services produced each year in Poland, a country with a population of almost 37 million people. Over the last 35 years, the wealth of the 200 richest families has grown from £42 billion to £711 billion, a 15 percent annual increase in real terms.

There are now 165 billionaires in the UK—there were 11 in 1989.

  • For Stand Up To Racism campaign materials and details of the days of action on 22 and 29 June and the demonstration on 27 July go to standuptoracism.org.uk

Strike—new film shows heroic miners’ struggle

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Sarah

Strike—An Uncivil War

Forty years ago the British state declared war on a group of workers fighting for their future.

On one side stood 160,000 miners, their families and supporters, striking back to defend their jobs and communities. On the other stood Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the whole of the ruling class, determined to crush the most powerful group of workers in the country.

Yet the miners, as this film triumphantly shows, defied police brutality, media lies and all kinds of injustice for 12 months—one of the longest mass strikes in trade union history. If you want irrefutable evidence of the force the state is prepared and willing, to use to try and crush resistance, go see this new film. 

It graphically exposes the truth that strikers and those engaged in building solidarity already knew. Mostly told in their own words by striking miners, including Ian Mitchell and Jim Tierney. 

It is a vivid, scary, moving account of the bravery of ordinary working people standing up for a better world. Clearly still traumatised, the hurt and injustice still burn in the accounts from strikers from Yorkshire, Kent, Scotland, North East and Wales. 

None more so than in Nottingham, where only a minority came out. Thatcher wanted revenge for humiliating defeats for then-Tory prime minister Ted Heath at the hands of the miners in 1972 and 1974. 

The Ridley plan to take on the National Union of Mineworkers was the result. However, as the film depicts, more was to be exposed, while other documents have yet to be released.

At the centre of director and producer Daniel Gordon’s film is the Orgreave coking plant in Rotherham a few miles from Sheffield. As the miners focus shifted from trying, and failing, to picket out Nottinghamshire pits, steel was the key. 

And Orgreave was key to supplying coke to the Scunthorpe steel mills. Steelworkers had revealed that production was near normal levels despite an agreement merely to keep furnaces ticking over. 

Saltley Gates, a coke works in Birmingham, had been where the Tories were defeated in 1972 as tens of thousands of engineering workers walked out and engulfed the plant.

In the film new archive evidence reveals the police were by this time run by Thatcher in Downing Street. A secret manual, tested in Northern Ireland and British colonies, unleashed new vicious tactics. 

Journalist Morag Livingstone describes how her faith in policing was shaken forever when she saw the previously hidden archive documents. It was the first time the use of illegal short batons and shields in “snatch squads” was sanctioned at the highest level. 

Orgreave on 18 June 1984, three months into the strike, was when a battle came to a head. Thatcher and her “boot boys” saw an opportunity and planned to, literally and figuratively, beat the miners. 

It resulted in cracked skulls and bloodied bodies of innocent pickets. Riot-clad police and cavalry were given a free hand to do whatever they liked to attack pickets. 

Miners in T-shirts and plimsolls on a scorching hot day were baton-charged. Pickets fought back and a few stones were thrown. But the BBC news that night claimed the opposite. Miners’ “violence” was condemned by Tories and Labour. Strikers knew the truth.

Gordon—a Bafta award winner for a documentary on the Hillsborough disaster— shows without a doubt the violence at Orgreave on 18 June was started by the police. This is despite media accounts and BBC clips being reversed for news bulletins. 

A trial of 95 miners charged with rioting carrying life imprisonment collapsed in a heap of lies and cover-ups.

Gordon, from Sheffield, whose mum grew up in the mining village of Thurcroft in Rotherham, wanted to make the film for more than a decade. He was determined to go beyond the lazy headlines and revisit the period.

“There were so many similarities between Hillsborough and Orgreave —-the cover-up, the shifting of blame by the government and other instruments of the state,” he explained.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign still demands a full inquiry into Orgreave. No police officers have ever been brought to trial.

This is a powerful, important film. It illuminates how the strike demonstrated that ordinary people can fight those who rule our world – and how they change in the process.

The biggest cheer in the Q and A that followed the premiere came when Ian drew a comparison between the miners in 1984 and the Palestine protesters today. 

The film’s focus is on exposing the brutality and corruption of an undemocratic state. It does not address how the strike could have won, the failings of the TUC union federation, or Labour’s treachery. For that film (Still), The Enemy Within is still the best account, but Strike is a fine companion piece of work.

Mining families made a magnificent stand and, at crucial moments, came close to winning. Nine years after the strike, Thatcher herself admitted, “We were in danger of losing everything,” and that the strike “could indeed have brought down the government”. 

‘The two party system is broken’—Birmingham independent candidate speaks out

Posted on: June 20th, 2024 by Sarah
Kamal Hawwash at a Palestine protest

Kamel Hawwash (centre in scarf), marching for Palestine

“The two-party system is broken. In parliament, I want to be a real voice for ordinary people,” says Kamel Hawwash, who is running to be an independent MP for Birmingham Selly Oak. 

He’s standing for Palestine and opposes Labour’s and the Tories “business as usual” politics.

Kamel spoke about how he broke from Labour. “I was a member of Labour until October last year. When Keir Starmer agreed that Israel had the right to cut off water and electricity from the Palestinians—I resigned,” he said.

“I’m of Palestinian heritage—my parents were born in Jerusalem. I couldn’t stay in a party whose leader supported war crimes.” The current Labour MP, Steve McCabe—who chairs Labour Friends of Israel—announced he wasn’t standing for re-election in May.

Instead, Labour has “parachuted in an army colonel with absolutely no connection with the area”. “His CV is winning an award for bravery in Afghanistan. Depending on your starting point, people will interpret that differently.”

Speaking about the impact of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, Kamel said, “Gaza triggered in people’s mind the detachment of the political class from the people.

“People think what Israel is doing is atrocious but at the same time they look at their politicians and find that they’re standing with Israel, which is the occupier,” he said.

People are recognising that “politicians aren’t listening, even on issues to do with the cost of living crisis and the NHS”.

Kamel argued the Palestine protests were leading to a wider shift in perspective, saying, “It will be remembered that what triggered people to think about a change in political system was Gaza.

“People then look at how the government is dealing with refugees. There’s no celebration of the contributions that migrants have made.

“If migrants weren’t here, the NHS would be poorer, and we would be worse off.” And Kamel slammed the failures of both Labour and the Tories over many decades. “What happens is you have ten years or so of the Tories, then ten years of Labour, then ten years of Tories, then ten years of Labour. Neither party has delivered.”

And he pointed out that “the 20 point lead that Labour has over the Tories isn’t because of Labour’s policies, but because of how poor the Tories are—they are disintegrating as we watch”.

He reported that many people on the doorsteps say, “We’re not voting Tory, we can’t vote Labour so we’re not going to vote. No—go and vote for an alternative. And if there’s a good independent candidate, question them and quiz them.

“If I win, I will hold the Labour government accountable on behalf of my constituents”.

“The most needy in our society are being denied basic services,” he said.Whether it’s the closure of libraries or day centres, or the mistreating of children with special educational needs.”

Kamel argued that this must stop. A first step is to “nationalise water and railway companies, introduce a wealth tax and end tuition fees that are burdening students with debt”.

“The two-party system is broken. People used to go into the booth and just put an ‘X’ against the logo of the party, sometimes not even knowing anything about the potential MP.

“It’s time for a change—electing an independent MP is a start.” Left alternatives that fight for Palestine and stand up for all oppressed people are popping up across Britain—activists should get stuck in.

SNP manifesto reflects a timid and exhausted party

Posted on: June 19th, 2024 by Charlie
Man in suit (John Swinney) uses a sewing machine.

SNP leader John Swinney campaigning in Oban. He won’t be able to sew together an independence deal with Westminster.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) launched its general election manifesto on Wednesday with what was seen as a firmer emphasis on independence.

But the first-page declaration “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country” is a complete illusion. SNP leader and Scottish first minister John Swinney said the election gave voters a chance to “intensify the pressure” to secure independence.

“If the SNP wins a majority of seats in this election in Scotland, the Scottish government will embark on negotiations with the UK government to turn the democratic wishes of people in Scotland into a reality.”

But he made clear this means begging for a second independence referendum from the Westminster government. The Tories always refused that, and so would Labour unless prime minister Keir Starmer faced massive social revolt.

Previous SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had suggested that this election itself would be treated as a vote on independence—although she never said how that would overcome Westminster’s obstinacy. But even that talk has now gone.

The crisis-ridden SNP is an even more timid, more institutional party.

The SNP is facing a big loss of seats at the election—and a major source of its funds. So it is talking about independence to cement its core supporters to the party.

Swinney’s speech sounded a bit more adventurous than Starmer’s Labour—which is the SNP’s major competitor.

He said, “Lift the two-child benefit cap not the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Bairns not bombs. And, investment not cuts.”

The SNP touches on some more radical policies, although it always has a “balancing” element to calm the rich and the corporations.  

“For Scotland’s workers we will support the end of exploitative zero hours contracts, the unacceptable practice of fire and rehire, and we will fight to scrap the so-called Minimum Services Level Act which is an attack on the right to strike.”

Note the limits—“exploitative” zero hours contracts only must go.

The manifesto says the SNP will “Scrap Trident and invest the money into conventional defence and public services” That’s already one pro-military lean—no nukes but more machine guns, missiles and flesh-shredding bombs. 

And then just to add another layer of cover, on the second mention the money saved from Trident is switched from “conventional defence and public services” to the other way round—public services and conventional defence.

In any case, although the manifesto doesn’t mention it, the SNP wants to support the Nato nuclear-military alliance. And it does say “We will continue to back military support from the United Kingdom to Ukraine and will press the UK Government to ensure the sanctions regime against Russia is effective.”

Some imperialist-backed wars are fine

The party will however “demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, release of hostages and ending arms sales to Israel. We call on the UK Government to immediately recognise Palestine as an independent state.”

The SNP hopes it can fend off Labour, but its tiny elements of radicalism won’t be enough to make it seem like an insurgent threat to the British state.

We need a much more militant challenge.

Unison union conference: members put Palestine on agenda

Posted on: June 19th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Unison conference applauds President Libby Nolan's speech

Unison conference applauds President Libby Nolan’s speech (Picture: Unison)

The Unison union’s conference—it’s annual national meeting—began on Tuesday. Delegates made sure Palestine was at the centre of debate—despite it not officially being on the agenda until later in the week.

Many contributions ended with, “Free Palestine, support trans rights” and delegates sported Palestine badges and keffiyehs. And there was a Palestine flag hanging from the platform at the front of the conference room.

Delegates were also angry at the Tories’ vicious attacks on trans people. They raged at Keir Starmer, Wes Streeting—Labour minister for health—and other Labour frontbenchers for reneging on their support for trans people. They vowed to kick out the Tories—and get ready to confront a Labour government.

President Libby Nolan opened the conference saying, “We’ve been fighting against the Tories, and we’ve got to renew that fight against a Labour government that may not deliver.” This received a big applause from the conference. “We will not stop marching for Palestine. We also continue to show solidarity with the students protesting and facing violence.

“We will always say asylum seekers are welcome here. And we will not stop saying trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid. There is a battle with political leaders over supporting our trans comrades. If you are on the side of trans comrades you do not have photos with those people,” she said.

This was a reference to Unison general secretary Christina McAnea posing with Streeting. Unison had the pictures on its website despite Streeting backing the bigoted Cass Review that essentially bans healthcare for trans youth. And he said he was “wrong” to say trans women are women.

Delegates also discussed fighting the climate emergency. Tony from Yorkshire and Humberside said, “As we speak people are dying from extreme heat, floods, pollution and devastation. This is our issue. The scale of change needed to reach net zero targets won’t happen without transmitting to a low carbon environment that is fair and sufficiently funded.”

Lucinda from Sheffield Hallam university argued, “The time for words and pledges has passed. The existential crisis is here. Labour has already reneged on its plan to spend £28 billion. Labour’s priority is big business, rather than the crisis of the world being on fire. Labour is not our future—the youth of today who were involved in school students’ action and now encampments on the ground are.”

Delegates spoke about making the union more LGBT+ inclusive—and fighting the bigots. Claire from Southend slammed the Tories’ record, saying, “There’s a rolling back of LGBT+ rights under a vicious right wing government.

“We need to build Pride demonstrations locally and nationally to give confidence to trans, non-binary and gender diverse comrades—and to say the politics of hate is not welcome. And we need to build resistance because on 27 July it’s London trans pride and the vicious racist Tommy Robinson is organising to march the same day.”

Another delegate said, “We can’t let this slide just because we’ve got a Labour government coming. Trans lives matter—my life matters. As a trans woman I’m not a predator as gender critical bigots like to label us. I just want to exist.”

The exploitation of migrant workers was also discussed by delegates. Neil from the Eastern Region said, “Migrant workers in the care sector work too many hours, are taken advantage of and face harassment and bullying.

“Unscrupulous employers think they can get away with this. The government demonises migrant workers and fails to protect them when abused by their employers.”

A delegate from the Women’s Committee added, “The majority of these workers are women. The impact is worse because they are often the primary carer at home and are forced to bring younger or older relatives with them. But new Tory restrictive visas on families mean they’re at more of a chance of being exploited.”         

Delegate Jon from Portsmouth City branch spoke about how “fourteen years of Tory rule created conditions where rogue employers can flourish”.

“They have passed laws deliberately to make life for migrant workers difficult and to stoke up racism,” he added. “Rishi Sunak bangs on about boats in the most racist general election we’ve seen. The real problem is the record number of billionaires dodging tax that could be used for public services.”

Jon slammed Labour’s attacks on migrants, saying, “Keir Starmer is pandering to the Tories and Nigel Farage. Labour should repeal the restrictions and provide legal routes for people fleeing persecution. If we are serious about standing up for migrant workers we need to be ready to take on the Labour government from day one.”

Any confrontation of a Labour government has to be grounded in action—it can’t be left for the union’s leadership to weaken and water down resistance.

Calls to the streets are a good start. Most motions mention “working with, “influencing”, “seeking commitment” and “demanding” from Labour. Unison members have to be ready to launch campaigns over racism, the NHS, council funding housing and workers’ rights. And trade unionists have to launch pay struggles to properly drive the message home to Starmer—and the union leaders who back him.

Socialist Michael Lavalette lights up election in Preston

Posted on: June 19th, 2024 by Arthur T
Michael Lavalette (bottom right) is campaigning on a socialist platform in Preston

Independent socialist Michael Lavalette (bottom right) campaigning in Preston

“Election candidate refuses to condemn 7 October attack on Israel” was the headline in the Lancashire Post website this week targeting Michael Lavalette, independent socialist candidate in Preston, Lancashire.

At the paper’s hustings Michael was asked if he condemned Hamas. He replied “No”, going on to explain that the violence didn’t start on 7 October, the context of 76 years of oppression and the right of people to resist occupiers.

It was the latest example of how Michael is putting forward a powerful alternative to all the main parties. Michael spoke to Socialist Worker about his campaign.

“There are ten candidates in the constituency, including both Reform and Ukip, plus the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour. The Greens have put up a paper candidate despite the fact that we asked them not to.

“To try to secure a single independent candidate we consulted widely in advance and had a hustings that backed me almost unanimously. But then at the last minute a very wealthy businessman put himself forward as an independent. His whole campaign has been trying to put people off voting for me over LGBT+ education.

“My campaign is ‘Palestine plus’. The first thing is Palestine and Labour’s support for the genocide in Gaza, then we raise the NHS, education, combating climate change, the cost of living crisis, pensions, social care and so on,” he added.

“It cuts through when we say the political establishment don’t speak to us or support us. They ignore us, impose things on us, whether that is the rundown of the NHS or Gaza.

“I have very wide and deep support from all levels of the Muslim community for that programme. But there’s also backing from other parts of the working class.”

Michael spoke about the Labour’s campaign in Preston, saying, “There’s no enthusiasm for the Labour campaign. I’ve seen one Labour window poster across the whole of Preston. We have 20 to 25 people out campaigning every day. Labour can’t match that.

 “The overall feeling I get is huge levels of apathy. We meet a lot of traditional Labour voters, including some Labour members who are saying they don’t know who they will vote for.

“There are a few Labour councillors who have come to me and said that not only will they vote for me, but that they’re telling other people to vote for me.

“Some even thought about voting Reform, just because they seem “different”. When we talk to them, we’re able to put a case to vote for an independent socialist and not Nigel Farage. I’m not saying that they will come to us, but there’s no sense of inspiration around Labour,” he added.

Michael talked about the size of his campaign, saying, “We have 45,000 houses to get round. We’re the only campaign that has leafleted every house—and people notice that.

“Labour has a 12,000 majority in the constituency. At one time it was twice that but its ebbed away and the local MP is unpopular.”

Speaking about how the campaign has escalated, Michael said that, “Our first target was to save our deposit—5 percent of the vote. Can we beat the Lib Dems? That would be a good. Can we beat the Tories? That would be even better. Can we be a really good second that would give all the main parties a bloody nose?

“And if it’s the great shock of all time, we would win. I do know this campaign has raised the issue of solidarity with Palestine, put the heat on Labour, and laid the basis for more action and political connections after the election.”

Abuse of children at special needs school is part of a wider pattern

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Life Wirral School provides provision to children with special educational needs

Life Wirral is a private specialist school (Picture: BBC News)

Abuse, bullying and insults. That’s how staff treated children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) at Life Wirral school in Merseyside. It’s a story of outsourcing by the council and the level of crisis for Send provision.

It will be condemned widely as an appalling one-off, to be investigated but with no general implications. In fact it is part of a systemic failure. 

Life Wirral is a private school that is supposed to provide education to children with Send. A BBC investigation released on Monday showed staff calling students—directly to their faces—terrible terms such as “fucking idiot”, “retard”, “flid”, “ponce” and “batty boy”.

A staff member described how he dealt with a student. “(The student’s) been beaten into being a bit of a bitch now, which is why I think he’s going to stay behaving well.”

The school’s head of operations, Paul Hamill, talks of fantasising about drowning a pupil in a bath “like a kitten”. Hamill tells the BBC’s undercover reporter of an instance where he threw a student “all over the place” and of “fucking ragging” him.

“I put it on the paperwork that I guided him effectively,” he said..

The school’s mental wellbeing coach disgustingly described the school as “full of retards”. A staff member grabbed a student’s face and drew on it—the head teacher walked in, saw what was happening and said nothing.

The school’s chief executive officer (CEO), who had been sacked as a special police constable for gross misconduct, said he used police-style restraint on a student to “fucking nail him”.

Staff taunted children for their neurodiversity or learning disabilities and mocked them for shouting or having tics.

There’s a student at the school who stays at home and doesn’t come in. The staff teaching the student describe the student as “a little serial killer” who deserves to sit in a “padded cell on his own for the rest of his life”.

The student gets two hours of lessons, four days a week—for which the school charges £150,000 to the council a year.

The school’s CEO was eager to take the student because of the money. “I need to grow this business. And to do that I need money,” a staff member reported the CEO saying.

It’s an environment of utter cruelty. The school staff treated vulnerable children as completely inferior. They used intimidation and bullying in place of genuine support.

An independent Send advocate warned Wirral council about the problems at the school in February 2023. But the council didn’t find any problems. The Department for Education was alerted and called Ofsted to inspect the school.

Inspectors maintained its “good” rating.

The Department for Education has stated that all students have been removed from the school and is contacting the council “to make sure alternative education is provided”.

That’s trying to hive it off as an isolated instance when it is a particularly awful example of a system failure.

  • Watch the Panorama programme on BBC iPlayer here 
A failure of outsourcing

In response to Tories cutting their budgets, councils often decide to outsource and pay for children with Send to be sent to private “specialist schools” instead.

That’s exactly what happened at Life Wirral, where every child had an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)—a legal document that sets out a child’s needs and how they should be met, with the local council obligated to meet them.

And so Wirral council funded every student at Life Wirral, which had fees ranging from a minimum of £50,000 a year per child and up to £150,000.

The excuse that councils use is that with the number of children needing additional support rapidly increasing, there aren’t enough state school places for children with Send.

It’s true that there is a huge funding crisis for Send provision. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that since 2015, meeting Send needs has absorbed around half of the cash increase in school spending in England—which adds up to around £3.5 billion.

And yet local councils are still forecasting massive budget deficits of nearly £1 billion by the end of the current financial year.

Children suffer from the Tory cuts, and the willingness of councils led by all parties to implement them. Schools that are set up to be engines of profit then cash in.

As the CEO of Life Wirral school said, “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a businessman. I’m not a special educational needs specialist. I’m not a teacher.”

And when asked about future plans for the schools, the CEO didn’t respond with anything about improving provision. He instead said, ““My plan is to be the first billion pound educational division in the country.”

The way children are treated is not just about economic gain. It’s because society oppresses, discriminates against and belittles certain groups making them easier to treat as unimportant. 

Government solutions are failing

In response to soaring Send budget deficits, the government has created the Safety Valve programme, which 38 local authorities that have the highest deficits have signed up to.

Councils enter into bailout agreements with central government, where they receive yearly cash injections in return for creating a plan to cut Send budget deficits. To receive more money they have to ram through cuts.

A third of the councils with bailout deals have reported that they face bankruptcy. Of those that responded to a Schools Week magazine freedom of information request, 38 percent said they were at risk of issuing a section 114 notice—meaning they could not balance their budgets—in the next three years.

The section 114 notice restricts council spending to a legal minimum and would force more curbs to Send services.

And around a third of the councils with safety-valve agreements said the risk of them not being able to deliver their legal duties for Send children has risen in the last year.

Councils have deliberately tried to cut back the number of care plans they offer, denying children with Send the support they need.

Often parents are forced to take councils to a tribunal just to receive an EHCP—and in the meantime children have gone up to two years without education, waiting for support.

On top of this, the Tories have given approval to council requests to cut from their core school budgets to deal with Send budget deficits.

Moving money from one underfunded budget is no solution.

There desperately needs to be more funding for Send provision. Labour’s vague promise of “increasing inclusivity and expertise in mainstream school” isn’t enough. The first step is simple—tax the rich, fund our schools.

Industrial round-up: Victory for Waltham Forest school teachers

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
NEU strikes were strong last year when organised nationally (Picture: Guy Smallman)

NEU strikes were strongest last year when organised nationally (Picture: Guy Smallman)

NEU union members at Belmont Park School in Waltham Forest, east London have won a “complete victory” after they struck last week over working conditions.

After going on strike for one day, management conceded to all of their demands.

Management has been employing and paying teachers on a casual basis, meaning staff don’t know if they will be paid for permanent responsibilities.

But after striking, the teachers have won improvements in workload, a formal negotiation process and permanent teacher learning responsibility payments.

Pablo, a teacher in Waltham Forest, said that permanent teacher learning responsibility payments were “unprecedented” and it was a “complete victory”.


South London schools battle after closure threat

Three schools in Lambeth, south London, are balloting to strike after threats of mergers and closure.

In the indicative ballots, St Saviour’s school had a 100 percent yes vote and a 90 percent turnout.

Holy Trinity School had a 100 percent yes vote with a 100 percent turnout and St John’s Angell Town had a 100 percent yes vote on 83 percent turnout.

Workers want to stop closures and compulsory redundancies. The indicative ballots showed an overwhelming mood for hard-hitting action.

Merger and closure is hitting schools in many parts of Britain.

Schools receive funding based on the number of students they have, not their capacity, so empty places create a financial strain.

And eight of the ten council areas with the largest proportions of spare places are London boroughs.

It’s a process happening in Hackney, east London, as the local council forces six primary schools in Hackney to close or merge.

Tory cuts imposed by local councils mean that when schools don’t have a sufficient number of students they are forced to close. Instead they could shift to smaller classes.


Action over decade of cuts

School workers at Ballard School in New Milton, near Bournemouth were set to strike this week over pay.

They were set to strike for five days in a row from Thursday of this week.

Following a ballot of its members, 84 percent voted for strike with a turnout of 81 percent.

Pay has fallen behind inflation significantly over the past ten years while the school has around £8 million in reserves.

In March, the school implemented a 4 percent pay uplift for staff. But this does not tackle the historic real term pay cuts staff have faced.


Bus walkout in Liverpool

Nearly 500 bus drivers across Merseyside are set to strike on Monday and Tuesday next week after they rejected a pay offer from their employer, Stagecoach.

Workers have rejected an offer despite their Unite union describing it as one “that recognises their hard work and current low pay”.

Throwing out this deal shows an appetite among rank and file activists for hard-hitting action to win a clear victory.

The drivers are unhappy that their pay rates are substantially below those of drivers at other bus companies in the region.

Unite called off the strike at the start of June as a “goodwill gesture”.

But this rejection of the bosses’ offer shows that such a move was a mistake. There is no goodwill from Stagecoach.


Redbridge council bin workers in a fightback

Refuse workers in Redbridge, east London, are balloting to strike after the council has overseen a worsening of work conditions.

The workers, in the Unite union, are employed by Redbridge Civic Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the council.

Yet they have much worse work conditions than other council-employed workers.

Workers consistently start and finish late due to vehicles breaking down and not being repaired.

Because of this, they are forced to do an extra hour of work daily.

This is despite contracts saying this would happen only in “exceptional circumstances”. And they are pressured to work overtime every weekend.

Also, sick pay is much lower than for Redbridge council workers—just ten days, compared to six months.

If the ballot is successful, the first round of strikes will take place in the polling week of the general election.

The current leader of the council, Jas Athwal, is currently standing to be the next Labour MP in Ilford South.

Athwal was also responsible for setting up Redbridge Civic Services in 2019 and, until last month, sat on its board before resigning to concentrate on his election campaign.

The ballot closes on Monday of this week. Taking action around and if necessary beyond the election date would rightly put the workers’ case in the forefront of the politicians’ minds.


Time for a steel strike

Steel workers in Port Talbot, south Wales, rallied on Monday on the eve of their industrial action over mass job losses.

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern began working to rule as well as starting a continuous overtime ban from Tuesday.

The Unite union says, “Strikes will be scheduled if the company does not row back on its plans.”

But it has drawn back from calling a walkout. A sustained strike would have put the issue of the 2,800 job cuts at the centre of the election debate.

Tata bosses say they won’t listen to whoever forms the next government.

The company has vowed to press ahead with plans to “return to profitability” no matter what happens on 4 July. Strikes can make them think again.


A united fight is the best way to win on guards’ pay

Some 200 PCS union members working as security guards in jobcentres across Britain began a seven-day strike over pay on Monday this week.

Employer G4S, which turns over billions of pounds every year, pays only the minimum wage.

PCS union officials demand that G4S gets back round the table and starts to meaningfully address the low pay experienced by this group of workers.

To see the list of picket lines to visit across England go to tinyurl.com/PCSJobCentre

Secruity workers in the GMB union also went back to the picket lines on Monday.

G4S bosses have offered free parking to all workers who scab and go to work to try to break the strike.

The GMB members plan to strike until Sunday of this week and then head back to work next Monday.

Then they plan to strike again from 1 July for a week followed by a week back and then out again from 15 July for a week.

They will continue this week-on and week-off strike pattern until August.