The things I didn’t get a chance to say in today’s debate on austerity

Lord Mayor,  following the dire result of the General election for the Conservative Party, isn’t  it time that the government listens to the electorate and accepts that our citizens have had their fill of austerity?

Overstretched public sector employees feel increasingly taken for granted as they do far more with far less.

Our public services are delivered by teams and workers in crucial roles across central and local government, health and social care, emergency services, criminal justice and education and have equally earned their right to a pay rise that keeps up with the cost of living.

And on a day where the government are pushing their dubious pro-worker credentials, they also tell teachers that the 1% pay cap will remain firmly in place – another real terms pay cut for the eighth consecutive year. An insult to those whose salaries have fallen 15% behind inflation since 2010.

Quite simply Lord Mayor, the Conservative government has wedded itself to a programme of spending cuts and is oblivious to the damage being done to cities like Birmingham, to the services we deliver and to those citizens who depend on those services.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said in public that the government recognises that its poor performance in the election was partly due to the public being weary of public spending cuts but still austerity continues..

During the decade between 2010/11 and 2019/20, total public sector spending will have fallen by 13%, or almost a sixth, in real terms . And these cuts to local authority budgets, our budgets, are having a profound effect on the services people receive.

As you know Lord Mayor, here in Birmingham, our budget has lost over £600m since 2010 – a figure so immense it is difficult to comprehend.

And make no mistake, we are hurting – our communities are hurting, despite our very best efforts to shelter our poorest people and places from the worst effects. Our poorest communities and our most vulnerable residents – hardest hit and least able to cope without the services we can no longer provide.

Across the UK, youth services and Connexions services have been slashed, with councils closing youth clubs up and down the country. Here in Birmingham we have done our best to protect these services, but make no mistake, our staff are having to do far more with far less.

And our young people Lord Mayor – facing incredibly tough challenges, a generation taken for granted and abandoned by this government.

It is our young people who find themselves on the wrong side of a profound unfairness which has left them worse of than their parents, with worse job security and poorer housing prospects. The 20th century promise that each generation would be better of than the preceding one has been broken and the dissatisfaction of our younger citizens clearly seen with record numbers of young people turning out to vote in the general election. No more will they be taken for granted, no longer will their voices be unheard.

And today, the Prime Minister is relaunching herself, appealing to the Labour party for ideas to improve the country and pledging to tackle inequality and injustice… yes really.

I believe that Jeremy has sent her something to help her out.

Lord Mayor. it would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious!

Surely the British public left her under no illusion in terms of what they wanted and clearly the electorate in Birmingham spoke loudly and clearly at the ballot boxes.

You see, politics is about choices, and there is always a choice and always an alternative.

The choice for the government is clear – a fairer and more just society will only be achieved when it is accepted that austerity has failed the many.

Birmingham needs a fair funding settlement that allows local government services to be adequately resourced, that allows all our residents, and particularly our poorest and most vulnerable, access to the vital services they need, and that allows our workers to be fairly rewarded for the contribution they all make.

If you believe in equality, fairness and justice then vote for an end to austerity and fair funding for Birmingham.

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Baverstock Academy shoes fracas!

This is not the first time young people have been sent home from schools because they do not meet the required uniform policy in some way and I am sure it will not be the last but is it the right course of action to take?

Although a school uniform policy can be beneficial to schools pupils and parents this is only when it is correctly implemented. If it is not, and where changes are made part way through a year then there is the risk of marginalising and disadvantaging both young people and their parents.

The cost of school uniform, particularly for senior school years, is already high with the majority of items having to be purchased from specialist shops. Bringing in a change to the current policy, even with a six week notice period, can cause financial hardship to parents, especially where they have more than one child in that school. If you are going to change uniform policy then this needs to be done sensibly and with due regard to parents and young people.

[1]DSCF guidance stated:

Consideration surely should be given to the timeframe for introducing a new uniform policy or amending an existing one. Factors should include the length of time before the pupil leaves the school and a transitional period for phasing out the old uniform and introducing the new one should be considered.

Where a pupil is not adhering to school uniform policy, a school should be considerate and discreetly try to establish why not. There may be good reasons why a pupil is not attending school in the correct uniform. For example, their uniform may have been lost, stolen or damaged. Sending the pupil home or excluding them may not be appropriate in every case. If a pupil is not wearing the correct uniform because their parents are in financial difficulties, a school should be sensitive to the needs of the pupil. A school should give parents time to purchase the required items and/or consider whether a school or local authority clothing grant can be supplied. A pupil should not be made to feel uncomfortable, nor discriminated against, because their parents are unable to provide them with the required items of school uniform.

In 2010 Michael Gove, the then Secretary for Education for the Tories renamed the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to the Department of Education and with this change he sanctioned [2]new guidelines:

Pupil non –compliance

Teachers can discipline pupils for breaching the school’s rules on appearance or uniform. This should be carried out in accordance with the school’s Published behaviour policy.

A head teacher, or a person authorised by the head teacher, may ask a pupil to go home briefly to remedy a breach of the school’s rules on appearance or uniform. When making this decision schools need to consider the child’s age and vulnerability, the ease and time it will take, and the availability of the child’s parents.

This is not an exclusion but an authorised absence. However, if the pupil continues to breach uniform rules in such a way as to be sent home to avoid school, or takes longer than is strictly necessary to effect the change, the pupil’s absence may be counted as an unauthorised absence. In either case the pupil’s parents must be notified and the absence should be recorded. If a school is considering excluding a pupil in response to breaches of uniform policy then this must be in line with the legal requirements for exclusion.

Sending young people home, or rather barring young people from the classroom and putting them in ‘holding pens’ (as reportedly happened at Baverstock) until they are collected by their parents is a ridiculous over reaction that undermines any level of rapport and respect between head teacher and pupil and potentially damages the relationship between home and school.

I really do hope that school governors examine this action and revisit their school policy to question if the prescribed treatment of young people is really conducive to ensuring the very best education that they can possibly provide for our young people in Birmingham and perhaps energies should rather be put into the development of a policy and practice around school uniform that removes stigmatisation and contributes to the wider target of the eradication of child poverty and disadvantage.

[1] DCSF – bit.ly/1OuRdvw

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/269113/school_uniform_guidance_2013.pdf

PSPO’s – an extra weapon in police armoury or another way of stigmatising young people?

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Birmingham City Council is the first council in the region to use a public space protection order (PSPO) in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour in Sheldon, Shard End, Gospel Farm in Acocks Green, and Bankside near Springfield.

The order bans:

  • the riding a motorcycle or quad bike “antisocially”
  • Groups of three or more people from ‘engaging in activities which are likely to cause nuisance, annoyance, harassment, alarm or distress’ including vandalism, littering and threats of violence.
  • Alcohol, graffiti and the taking of intoxicating substances
  • The wearing of face coverings in an attempt to conceal identity including scarves, balaclavas and masks

Whilst I agree with some of the banned activities that do create real problems for the residents in our communities like the inconsiderate riding of motorcycles and quads, alcohol, graffiti and drug taking which are real problems across many of our Wards, I have real concerns with some of the other activities banned, and that could have serious consequences for some young people.

Each PSPO creates new criminal offence, which can be punished by an on-the-spot fine of up to £100, or a fine upon conviction of up to £1000 and these offences can be determined by a police officer, a PCSO or by an officer of the Council.

How you ‘determine’ anti social activity is subjective and these PSPO’S could result in young people being criminalised merely for standing in a group or wearing a scarf that covers their face. I wear a scarf that covers my mouth and nose in this cold weather; will I be the subject of a PSPO?

The creation of these unnecessary new offences such as ‘causing an annoyance’ is unlikely to increase young people’s respect for the criminal law or public authority. Such behaviour might merit a telling off, not a fine and potential criminal record. Young people will be stigmatised, stereotyped and labelled.

Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe and whilst on the one hand we are working hard to champion the rights of young people it seems that on the other we are creating more and more rules and laws to control and even criminalise our young people. Drawing young people into the criminal justice system will have long lasting and negative affects and as a council, we must look at other options and other ways of tackling ‘problem’ behaviour.

My vote for #brumleader

  I’ve only been a councillor for little over 18 months, but already this is my third chance to cast a vote for who I want to be leader of my group and of the council. I didn’t expect to be picking a leader next week, and like many others I’m sure had this task tucked firmly away, ready for next May. But with this election, we have a lot to lose, and a lot to play for.
  I know many of my fellow councillors made their minds up quickly, without it seems encountering the trouble I have found in separating the candidates and identifying the chosen one! Not that surprising as we are all colleagues from the same party, with common principles and values. Above all, we all hold Birmingham’s future very dear and we all care deeply about the City and its citizens. That said, this was always going to be a difficult decision to make.
  I have held back from coming out to publicly support one candidate over another. I’ve sat back and listened, I’ve spoken to candidates and colleagues, and I’ve asked questions… lot’s of them.
  I deeply believe that the choice we make on Monday evening is not something to be rushed. It shouldn’t be an easy decision, it shouldn’t be one made for personal gain and it should not be one that we make under duress. But I’m ready to make that choice.
  Penny Holbrook is a great Cabinet member who has proved herself as being a smart cookie, and has boxed clever in her dealings around the Library of Birmingham. She has worked hard to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people, found ways to mitigate against frontline youth service cuts this year and has fully supported me in my role as Youth Champion. But, and it’s a big but, I don’t think she’s ready for the enormity of the task ahead and I think that deep down she knows this too.
  John Clancy, another colleague who has plenty of drive and passion and who is overflowing with ideas and policy suggestions. Having been that singular opponent over the past years he has shown strength and audacity in the face of ridicule and I respect him greatly for that. But my worry is that this is not a time to wipe the slate clean and start again. We need stability and focus to progress the priority areas that we as a council must address. I think John could be a good leader, one day – but not this day.
  We have unpalatable decisions to make about cuts to services because of the relentless drive for austerity by the government resulting in the disproportionate reductions to our funding. We have to demonstrate that we can take forward and make real progress on the multitude of recommendations placed upon us by Kerslake and we must prove to the Improvement Panel that collectively we can make the changes necessary.
  As a council, we face many challenges ahead of us. This will be no easy task, with no time for on the job learning, and no room for mistakes. If we are going to get through these critical times, then I firmly believe we need someone with the skills and experience to get on with the task. I believe Ian Ward is the only one who can offer us this.
PM2151859  Ian has promised “change, but not too much change“. But it is change in the areas that need it and this is crucial to what the Improvement Panel has highlighted many times – the need for a change in the culture and that as a council the need to be open and transparent and working in genuine partnership.
  As backbenchers, many of us have felt frustrated over the past year and have felt left out of the decision making processes that are so important in the democracy of local government. Ian has promised a style of leadership that draws on the talents of all, that consults and involves and recognises that there is the need for the Council to have a genuine relationship with all. This recognition extends to include partners and stakeholders, working together to form a collective solution to the immense challenges that we face.
  Our young population is a huge an asset to Birmingham, yet too many young people do not have the opportunities they need to grow, thrive and achieve the great things of which they are capable. In the hustings on Friday night, Ian gave us a brief glimpse of his vision for the young people of Birmingham and I found this inspiring and refreshing. Ian recognises and values the services supporting young people across the City and offers something that had been lacking –  genuine opportunities for all of our young people and not just a few.
  Ian understands the need for a city wide approach, a shared vision for what a Birmingham that is great for all our young people can and should look like. A vision that continues to empower young people, that works with them to ensure that they become the very best that they can be. And a vision that draws in all partners, stakeholders and business to make a meaningful and long lasting contribution to supporting the dreams and aspirations of our young citizens.
  The timing of this election could not be at a more critical juncture for us as a Council and for the City. I will be voting for Ian Ward. I believe he is the only candidate who can lead us safely along the treacherous path we must now take whilst championing the needs and interests of our great city and of all its citizens. I know that many of my fellow colleagues will be voting for Ian for many of the same reasons that I have outlined and will have reasons not touched upon here.
  This leadership is so vitally important for the Labour  group and for the Council to ensure that together we can work on and identify the solutions needed to tackle the huge issues that we face. I truly believe that we all wish to play our part in collectively taking forward Birmingham’s vision for all of its citizens and this can only be achieved if the leadership election on Monday results in Ian Ward becoming #brumleader.

We can be the comeback kids of British politics…

’The Liberal Democrats can be ‘back in power’ in five years, leader Tim Farron said yesterday, as he positioned the party for another coalition with the Tories at their conference in Bournemouth.

Seriously… have they learnt nothing from their five year relationship after getting into bed with the Tories?

Perhaps Tim is still ‘living the dream’ of being elected leader and has not really begun to face the reality of the situation he now oversees.

But then the ex leader is also seemingly sharing the same dream… or perhaps he was flying high on the back of his standing ovation to the Lib Dem conference when he told delegates that “We can be the comeback kids of British politics.”

On the one hand Farron espouses that the Libs have all the answers, that they can reach those others cannot – the centre ground, and that a cosy coalition deal with the Tories in 2020 would be great… and on the other hand he attacks the Tories on big issues?

Farron has been notably critical of the coalition, giving the leadership a score of two out of 10 for its handling of the politics. He had hoped to carve out distinctive ground for the party by being pro-immigration and civil liberties, but he seems to have reversed his thinking now he, as leader, saying  the party should not be embarrassed about seeking power and refusing to distance himself from the party under Nick Clegg, saying ” there is nothing grubby about wanting to win”. Well sorry Tim, but there really is if it means reneging on your promises, turning your back on your values and principles and selling your soul to the devil.

Tim’s narrative is not just farcical at the very best, it’s delivered in an air of complete and utter arrogance.

The electorate are a canny bunch and can be very unforgiving. I spoke to large numbers of voters on the doorstep who felt hugely let down by the Libs in the 5 years of coalition. And … for what Clegg did (or actually didn’t do) to the thousands and thousands of young people that were ‘conned’ into voting for him… just unforgivable.

And Farron must know this…surely? Wasn’t it evident enough in the disastrous results and the fall to just 8 MPs and a drop in the polls since then to just 6%?

Nearly non existent in Birmingham, with a smattering of councillors and no MPs. The Sunday Politics show has to now resort to having an ex MP on just so that they can have some cross party balance…

I think Farron and his party need to pull themselves back to the ‘real world’ and accept that their are currently of little significance, they are again a small acorn that may grow into an oak tree, but its going to be a long long process, and may only be one suitable for bonsai competitions…

Maybe a visit here would help – oh … looks like they’ve missed that pony too!

Source: Tim Farron: Lib Dems would go back into coalition with Tories | Politics | The Guardian

George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

They walk on air, for now. This government can say and do whatever it damn well pleases, with Labour awol until it has a leader. And George Osborne has just pulled off an outrageous betrayal of the cohorts of over-65s who gave the Tories their victory, yet nothing has happened.

Barely 10 weeks since a manifesto pledge to cap the care costs of elderly homeowners, Osborne has abandoned it. This perfidious U-turn is every bit as shocking as was the Liberal Democrats reneging on tuition fees. That’s just one example of the Conservatives’ current air-walking untouchability. But their majority is only 12, they make bad errors, and no one can fool everyone all the time with factoids and fictions.

George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Almost half all Birmingham children live in England’s poorest areas, commission report shows

Families are being urged to join the fight against child poverty in Birmingham as a report today revealed that nearly haChild Poverty After Housing Costslf of all under-18s in the city live in the country’s poorest areas.

A Child Poverty Needs Assessment published by the new Birmingham Child Poverty Commission shows that 49 per cent of children in the city – nearly 137,000 – live in England’s top 10 per cent most deprived areas.

Read more here.

What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

I was going to write about the devastating impact that Osborne’s budget will have on young people but instead urge you to read Polly’s take on it all as she expresses far better exactly what I wanted to say.

Why are the young caught in the cross-hairs of this government? That will mystify future social historians. Most societies talk of them as “our future”, to be nurtured and encouraged, but in yesterday’s budget, yet again they were pursued in a special vendetta of dislike, bordering on disgust.

via What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian

If Labour MPs deny the party and the country a genuine debate, it will reflect disastrously on them. It will do whoever emerges victorious no good, either. Labour has just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history. If the party doesn’t have the good sense to have a meaningful debate now, you might wonder why it doesn’t just pack up. So come on, Labour MPs. Put your future careers aside for party and national interest. Lend Corbyn a nomination, and let a real debate begin.

via Jeremy Corbyn is in the Labour leadership race. The real debate starts here | Owen Jones | Comment is free | The Guardian.

 

Forget Labour’s leadership contest, it’s supporters who can save the party | John McDonnell | Comment is free | The Guardian

There’s been a lot of self-serving nonsense talked about why Labour lost the election and what it has to do to win in the future. We’ve just witnessed a well-planned media blitz of failed New Labour ex-ministers and their new-wave proteges blaming Ed Miliband with all the old Blairite mantras that Labour has failed to be a party of aspiration, to occupy the middle ground and appeal to middle England.

Forget Labour’s leadership contest, it’s supporters who can save the party | John McDonnell | Comment is free | The Guardian.