Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Diminishing Value of the TaxiCard in Lambeth

The TaxiCard scheme has always operated on an ad hoc basis; the criteria for entry differed from borough to borough; some boroughs gave people the choice of TaxiCard or Freedom Pass; indeed, as I recall at least one borough wouldn’t award the card to Blue Badge holders. The number of journeys varied from borough to borough as did the disabled persons contribution; and, while a lot of boroughs allowed stagecoaching some didn’t, or at least resisted it for years.

After taking a look through the London Boroughs site (see link below) at what the different boroughs are doing I notice that most are increasing the passenger contribution by £1 to £2.50. Now, while this in of itself doesn’t appear a massive rise; so much so the London Council site tries to play down the rise as being the first in 15 years.

But, the site while playing up this detail overlooks the fact that the subsidy has never kept pace with either inflation or the cost of living; thus, the TaxiCard user has seen a real term rise in the cost of their journeys as taxi fares have gone up over the years.

When I first started using TaxiCard I could get from home to Kings Cross Station, around 4.5 miles on one journey. Today, I can barely travel 3 miles, more like 2.5, before having to swipe my card again or suffer the excess fare. With the £2 per journey cut in subsidy it is barely worth holding a card.

That’s the down side from a user’s point of view. These changes in TaxiCard subsidy and the closing down of stagecoaching are also going to impact on the provider, the London cabbie.

The past couple of years have, in my opinion, seen quite an improvement in the reliability of TaxiCard. Where I live, in Lambeth, 2.5 miles from parliament or 3 from Covent Garden, is fairly central; yet, back in 2008 I still experienced problems getting a ComCab from my home – due to their unavailability.

A combination of the recession (you can trust a shortage of work in the centre of town to force a cabbie to widen his horizons in the quest of earning a pound note) and operational changes has improved the system no end – for instance on Saturday evening last, despite a heavy snowfall in Inner and Central London, my taxi turned up in good time and ferried me over to a party in Aldersgate Street, in the City.

The reductions in subsidy, but more especially the scrapping, in most boroughs, of the practice of stagecoaching will, I feel, deter a lot of cab drivers from the system. At the moment when I get into a cab I’ve ordered by phone I tend not to take too much notice of the run in charge on the meter – unless it’s an excessive amount. Because I tend to make journeys that involve a swipe, the run in charge becomes immaterial – that is, my journey is over 3 miles therefore whether the meter reads £3.40 or £4.50 my trip will necessitate two TaxiCard journeys.

Talking to cabbies, as I do, there is a sense that they can earn out of the double swipe trip as most of the second fare doesn’t usually reach the subsidy limit.

Changes to Lambeth's TaxiCard Scheme

TaxiCard Information in Lambeth

LB Lambeth Accessible Transport Unit
Adults and Community Services
Ground Floor, Hopton House
243a Streatham High Road
London, SW16 6EY

020 7926 0746
Fax: 020 7926 5143

Taxicard details to 3 January 2011
Trips: 12 a month (rollover)

£10.30/£11.30/£12.80 maximum subsidies per trip

Maximum run in: £3.40

Minimum Fare: £1.50

Taxicard details from 4 January 2011
Trips: 12 a month (rollover). However, please note that from 1 April 2011, this will change to 104 trips a year.

£8.30/£9.30/£10.80 maximum subsidies per trip

Maximum run in: £3.40

Minimum fare: £2.50

No double swiping

If you would like advice about using London’s transport, you may like to contact Transport for All’s Advocacy and Advice Line on 020 7737 2339. Transport for All is an organisation of disabled and older people. It provides advice, information and advocacy about travelling in London, and campaigns for a fully accessible, reliable and affordable transport network for disabled and older Londoners.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tory Propaganda Finds Success

" I presume the finanical chaos left by the former government precludes the current government and councils/local authorities being in a position to relax the imposed charges." Qoth some colonel out in the shires.

The financial chaos we find ourselves in today is that created by high flying gung-ho bankers and their cohorts in the financial markets. The conditions they operated in were laid down by an over-permissive neo-liberal economic system which has blighted poorer people in this country, and abroad for well over a quarter of a century.

Blaming the former government for the deficit is simply swallowing the right-wing propaganda spread by a Tory owned press and acquiescent BBC and visual media. If the UK crisis was created by Labour, how do you then account for Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia and Germany etc...?

Even Brown couldn’t manage that! No, all those countries fell foul of recession and varying degrees of collapse of their financial institutions due to their adherence and over-dependence on the false economy of neo-liberalism.

There are other ways in which this Tory junta could alleviate and deal with the deficit. Incidentally, today’s deficit is a mere 30% of that which the UK had to contend with back in 1945. At that time a Labour government introduced a welfare state – one fit for the heroes returning from war and the heroes who had suffered great deprivation at home – and built 1,000,000 new homes.

Unfortunately, this mob we’ve in now will steal our public services from under our noses, selling them off to their friends in the private sector; this will be the biggest giveaway since Thatcher’s ‘selling off’ of the family silver in the 80s and 90s.

So readers, I beg of you not to be sucked into the great lie that says the only way to pay off the Tory bankers’ deficit is by punishing people who carry out vital public services and taking life enhancing services away from us users. There are a number of ways the Tories could reduce the deficit:

• Introduce a progressive taxation system.
• Go after those who cheat and don’t pay their share – the £6 billion in tax owed by Vodaphone, and then with a stroke of a pen expunged, could have meant councils needn’t make cuts this year. The Vodaphone non-payment is but one amongst scores and hundreds amounting to many scores of billions each year.
• A Robin Hood Tax – a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions like stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives. Could raise £250 billion a year globally, or £20 billion in the UK alone. Well-tested, cheap to implement and hard to avoid.

But, why would this Tory regime even bother to consider anything that breaks with their political ideology. An ideology that would rather endure a few years of recession, thus breaking trade union influence, selling off whatever else is left in the public sector, eroding terms and conditions of the majority of workers; thus, ending up with a workforce fit for purpose; one which is badly paid, overworked, poorly valued, but compliant.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

More to accessibility than ramps and designated areas

London buses may have wheelchair spaces allocated; they may have ramps to assist wheelchair users off and on. Sadly, what London buses do not have are very tolerant or understanding passengers.

You can put in place all the infrastructural access elements in the world. However, if certain elements within society then choose to ignore the infrastructural enhancements, then the thing becomes useless to those it was intended to benefit.

If other public transport users refuse to accommodate wheelchair users and other disabled travellers; if they refuse to move out of designated areas or even give us room to get on a vehicle, then access aids are pointless. On trains, if people block us in with luggage; or if they pile luggage in doorways, thus obstructing our freedom of movement; then, they are effectively pushing us off trains; they’re contributing to our sense of isolation.


This is acceptable because one can understand from it that we are disabled by society.

Some people prefer this because it emphasis’s that, first and foremost, we are human beings and should be treated as such.

This is used to refer to a condition, rather than the above which are about the social context.

A phrase that can be used for any disabled person.

A phrase that can be used for any disabled person who uses a voluntary or statutory service, rather than ‘client’.

These are accurate descriptions, not value judgments.

A more factual term.

A small proportion of wheelchair-users cannot transfer onto other seating.

This is an accurate description, not a value judgment.

These are accurate descriptions, not value judgments.

This is a more factual description.

This is the phrase now used instead of ‘Spastic’.

This is preferred to ‘Hunchback’.

People with a high degree of deafness usually like to be called deaf. They feel there is no stigma attached to it and they are proud to be who they are.

Some people, particularly those who are not completely deaf, prefer this phrase.

This is acceptable, particularly to older people with hearing loss.

These are acceptable terms. Don’t forget that many blind people, though registered blind, do have some limited sight.

This is the proper description for a toilet specifically built / adapted for use by disabled people.

Keith Faulkner RIP

Keith Faulkner – TUC Conference Organiser

First met Keith at the Congress House many years ago; Keith was a big guy, 6’ 3”, or there abouts; rangy with long greyish hair, often worn in a ponytail, Keith could be seen in and around the building, usually when events were occurring.

Keith was responsible for the TUC Conference set-up and a whole load of other events that were held at the TUC or by the TUC. Though a big guy, Keith went about his business in a quiet manner, always ready to give assistance or lend a hand if and where needed.

Before I began bringing my own seating to conferences set up by Keith, he’d spot me coming into the conference hall or arena and be at hand to show me where my ‘special’ chair was; if it needed to be changed or moved, he was the man who’d sort it out, no fuss or bother.

Many is the time that I’ve eyed up a ramp in readiness to assault the thing, only for Keith to say “Ok Seán, I’ve got you mate,” and the ramp was taken care of in a flash, saving my poor old arms and shoulders.

Some years ago, when new to the conference scene, I needed to speak to someone about access issues at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. After a few phone calls I ended up speaking to the person who set up the TUC conference, Keith, and we spent almost an hour discussing the different access issues thrown up by various venues across the country. Alas, on that occasion were unable to marry-up the perfect venue with the best accommodation; while one conference venue was great, the town was short of decent and plentiful reasonably priced accommodation.

On that occasion we agreed to keep in touch with one and other; and, if I had any concerns with venues booked by the TUC I had only to give Keith a bell and we’d discuss things.

Keith was a gentle man always willing to lend a hand and smile; and, he’ll be sorely missed by all those who knew him, both professionally and personally.

Keith Faulkner RIP

By Seán McGovern


Jody McIntyre posed the following questions on his excellent Blog ‘Life on Wheels'.

“How can we claim to be living in a developed country, a “free democracy”, when such a large section of society are denied the right to use our public transport. Can you imagine this being accepted for any other group of people… no women on buses? No black people on trains?
Then WHY is it OK for disabled people?"

My response:

Because, the voiceless are not heard.

But, things are changing; and, as the actions and words of activists such as Jody McIntyre are beamed across the world via the Internet, TV and press so the level of our voice begins to rise above the hubbub of our oppressors.

Back in 1995 we got the DDA; and with it came promises of accessible transport sometime in the future – full compliance of buses and trains by 2019 and 2020 respectively. Most disabled people with a finger anywhere near the pulse of what’s-going-on-out-there-in-our-name knows that all buses and trains will not be compliant by those dates – after all they’ve only had a generation to prepare for this – and, they’ll be lodging requests for concessions from compliance to whichever compliant government is in place.

Thousands of disabled people, who were given a soupcon of hope in 1995, have since tootled off to pastures new; and, sadly thousands more will pass on through without benefitting from a fully accessible transport system by the time ‘full compliance’ is in place.

However, by full compliance read a fully compliant public transport system minus a few concessions – the London Underground system for example. Anyway, why all the fuss? Didn’t Simon Hoggart clear this issue up a few years ago when he wondered why the wheelchair users were complaining about the tube system, since he rarely saw a wheelie using the tube!

You couldn’t make it up; could you? Out of the mouths of babes and the sophisticated literati...


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How to withhold 'personal contributions' elements of DPs?

On Ouch today someone complained about an amount they'd been asked to contribute towards their personal care package. The LA in question was imposing a levy from the persons DLA towards their DPs. Another Oucher suggested withholding payment altogether; citing the councils very often capitulated to this form of passive resistence.

However, if you’re in receipt of Direct Payments refusal to pay your ‘share’ of the care costs presents problems. My package comes from the council and ILF. Both these parties have assessed my income and as a result I make a contribution to both pots of money.

The point is that I have to physically pay that money into my DP’s account; as my DP’s are paid to me minus the amount I’m expected to pay. Therefore, if I refuse to pay I’m the one penalised as I’ll not receive care to the value of my contribution.

It’s quite ingenious really; you’re stuffed if you do and stuffed if you don’t. Coughing-up the ackers leaves you in Penury Place, but at least you’re clean and dressed; by reneging you’re in Easy Street, but you smell a bit and are naked from the waist down.

Rebelling against the system is fine when you hold some half-decent cards. However, when the establishment is the banker and dealer holding all the cards; well, it’s very difficult to rebel.

Should I decide to cease my personal contributions tomorrow it would only be a matter of time before my LA sent in the social workers to reassess my care needs. By withholding my contribution I’d be denying myself around 7-hours care per week; and, I’m quite sure they’d reassess me as not needing these hours as I’m managing without them.

In the days before DPs many disabled people did refuse to pay for personal care. This care was directly provided by the council (or through a third party in the form of an agency); and, the client was invoiced by the provider, thus giving the client the opportunity to withhold payment.

Under those circumstances quite a few councils ‘caved-in’ under pressure from disabled who refused to pay. Of course, these were one-offs. While the LA might have buckled under pressure from one tenacious client they still imposed charges on the rest – the majority.

It is very sad that we can’t take some form of class action with such issues. Collectively we’d stand a great chance of having some of these financially punitive measures lifted. As individuals all we can do is fight our corner; sometimes win; and, when we win sign gagging orders in order to protect our oppressors.

Hat's Off to Those Who 'Do'!

He is an Anarchist who openly admits to confrontation wherever he goes.
He should be treated the same as the other rioters, prosecuted jailed & the key thrown away.
I'm not saying i don't agree with Demonstrations but they nust be peaceful, unfortunately people travelled from all over the World to take part in this rioting.
I welcome the use of water cannon as the latest idea to stop the havoc caused by these lowlife.
It's you & me who are going to have to pay for all the damage & repairs.

So qoth yet another disaffected law-abiding citizen; doubtlessly fulminating at the temerity of those who get and ‘do’ whilst he sits in proud impotence pondering on the plight his own powerlessness.

The damage caused by students on demos is of nothing compared to the damage and mayhem being caused by this Tory government; ‘tis merely a drop in an ocean of troubles.

The student protests of the past few weeks are a just a prelude; if you like, the hors d’œuvre to the main courses, the first of which will be served up in January when VAT is increased to 20%; and, when fares on public transport rise disproportionately to inflation just after Christmas.

During March scores of thousands of local authority and public services workers will lose their jobs. Similarly, thousands upon thousands of us disabled people will be stripped of our care packages as LA’s begin to dole out care on a statutory basis – that is those of us assessed to have critical care needs.

Between the vicious tactics of the police and the cavalier abandonment of the welfare state by a government hell-bent on hoovering-up the last vestiges of anything publically owned, they’ll manage to politicise hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens – and, it won’t be the polite politics of parliamentary prudence they’ll learn!

As for Message 5, how exactly does one demonstrate peacefully when those charged with policing the event turn out to be the aggressors? Are you advocating the right for police to imprison people illegally as the tactic of kettling does? Collective punishments are illegal in this country; are the police in your opinion above the law? Do you accept police brutality as has been used during these student demos and more regrettably against Ian Tomlinson in April 2009?

We’re in for a protracted period of civil unrest. Sadly, it’s the only language this gang in government understand.

We can afford to look after disabled and elderly people

There is not enough money to meet the legitimate care needs of severly disabled people, nor to pay for a human rights standard for people in geriatric hospitals and care home.” Complains another dupe.

Yes there is enough money to meet the needs of disabled and elderly people. The problem is, you and others like you, have been duped into believing that our economy can only be saved by the dismantling of our welfare state. Ten-out-of-ten for this Tory junta’s ability to disseminate the great lie that disabled people and public sector workers are somehow responsible for the current deficit.

It was the bankers, not roads sweepers or disability care assistants that caused our present plight; and, it should be there that the government begins its squeeze. But of course such a proposal is preposterous; why would a Tory government turn on its own kind; it’d be akin to the LibDems voting for a massive hike in tuition fees - tantamount to political suicide (tee hee hee; wave goodbye to the LibDems as they pass us by in the tumbrel of political expediency heading [no pun intended] towards the guillotine of political oblivion).

Suppress Hoi Poloi

Water canon is too slow, but a plentiful supply of cheap hosepipes could be connected to taps and placed at the ready near upper windows. It would not take many police to spray the heads and feet of an approaching mob, who could avoid getting wet by going away peacefully.” The words of a reactionary who believes the state has the right to suppress all forms of protest.

Yes, why waste water on this rabble when bullets would be more effective. Kettle hoi poloi into the lumpen mass they profess to be and frog-march, or goose-step, whichever fascistic mode suits, them into the football stadia that proliferate our fair country.

Have a chat to Margaret Thatcher, I’m sure she and the butcher Pinochet enjoyed many a fireside chat about the good old days about Chile in the 1970s; when the Santiago football grounds resounded to the screams of tortured prisoners; while the political disappeared vanished from all but the hearts and memories of their families and loved ones. Maggie’ll pass on some tips on dealing with political unrest to her heirs.

Ian Tomlinson tried to walk away peacefully in April last year, as I recall; didn’t stop a policeman attacking him with quite serious results. Jean Charles de Menzes I’m informed was so busy acting peacefully it needed seven bullets just to make sure.

How many policemen does it take to kill an innocent man? None...As there are no innocent men!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Come on in WUG - no, not you Davison!

Whether or not it’s true that Bayliss is now wearing a ginger wig and taking lessons in Scouse we shouldn’t be too hard on all those misguided souls who split with the UL and followed Steve Davison into that pathetic lash-up the Workers Uniting Group – WUG.

WUG, such an onomatopoeic word; indeed, a group thrown-up, spewed forth, by that unholy triumvirate of Simpson, Bayliss and Davison. WUG would appear now to be disbanded and looking for a new home. Let’s by all means talk to the rank-and-filers. But, under no circumstances should we have any dealings with the rat Davison. Just as the old T&G BL would have no truck with Aitkin; so, the new UL shouldn’t touch, the damaged goods, Davison with a barge pole.

Yes, Lennie is the unity candidate; the extent of his vote and collapse of the Bayliss vote proves this. However, the UL cannot allow its ranks to be sullied with the likes of Davison who throughout the whole building of Unite has acted as Simpson’s hatchet man promoting and supporting every reactionary and backward action to slow down the progress of our great union.

It was a sorry day for Unite when the Left broke discipline and allowed Davison to take the position of Vice Chair. The past is the past; so, let’s remember the mistakes of yesterday and move on. However, in remembering we must ensure that Davison, if returned to the Executive, isn’t in a position to make any demands. This means we must isolate him and his kind from positions of power. Never again should the forces of reaction and self-interest be given any platform within the highest lay offices of Unite the Union.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

My Heart and Soul Still March Against Injustice

Alas, my days of actively demonstrating are coming to an end. But, don’t take this as me surrendering to the vagaries of age; nor an admission that being disabled in some way means I need wrapping-up and protecting; as this isn’t the case.

While it should be the inalienable right for all of us to get out and demonstrate it isn’t always practicable for some disabled people to always take part in such events. An example that comes to mind is the Wapping Dispute back in 1986-87. Though back then I wasn’t affiliated to any political party or group, another floating Leftie in a sea of Thatcher’s misery, trade union and movement campaigns excited my interest.

After visiting the picket line several times I quickly realised that this dispute, like the Miners Strike a couple of years before, was a defining moment in the history of my class. Though only at the periphery of the action I believed, as I still do, that solidarity and support for such action is the fuel that keeps the engine ticking over.

Back then, in my late 20s, my disabilities were nowhere near as incapacitating as they became; and, though I had weakness down my left side and walked with a pronounced limp, I got around relatively easily. A major inconvenience was that I couldn’t run – oh, and I still felt conscious and in some ways vulnerable about the plate in my head.

On my way to a march one day back in ’86 I met up with some NGA and Sogat mates; one of them pulled me to one side and warned me something ‘heavy’ could go down and because of my situation it could be dangerous for me to be take part in that day’s action.

He conveyed this to me in such a way that I agreed; took part in the beginning of the march and then split away and went for a drink. Back in Stockwell later that night I was having a drink in a pub watching TV news coverage of vicious mounted police attacks on trade unionists at Wapping – my mate was correct.

Had I been present there is a strong likelihood I’d have been attacked by the police as my safety mechanism is broken (I can’t run); and, with a weakened skull blows from a baton or truncheon could have proved fatal.

Coming back to today’s demonstrations; I’m still at a disadvantage. Again I still can’t run; and, though now in a wheelchair I can’t even push that at any appreciable speed. Given that I need to use a toilet with great frequency, every 40-60 minutes; I’d be really disadvantaged in a kettling situation – I’m sure Lily Law wouldn’t take my particular needs into consideration.

So, what do I do? How can I exercise my right to demonstrate against the tyrannies that are being heaped upon us today? That is, how can I peacefully participate without fear of being confined in one area by the police for maybe 8-hours without access to basic facilities such as toilets? Within a couple of hours I’d pee myself without proper amenities.

Much as I want to personally engage in actions against this vicious crew of a coalition, these wreckers of our Welfare State; am I selfish in also wish to preserve my dignity and health.

Therefore, students, trade unionists, public service workers, HNS employees, teachers, fire fighters et al; though, I may not be visible on these marches; please, rest assured that my heart and soul march to the beat of your revolutionary drums.

In the struggle

Seán McGovern

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Behave Ken - 2

This a quote from the BBC website from Ken Livingstone’s Radio 4 Today Programme interview on 9th November, 2010.

"It doesn't do poor and unemployed people any favours to leave them out of work,"
"If you get people into the habit of getting out of bed, doing something, having a sense of worth and if that involves getting people who are currently unemployed helping out with the elderly or clearing up an area or things like that, I think it's worth doing."

Our members currently carry out jobs such as care assistants of disabled and elderly people; these are real jobs, not community work or charity. Council estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors will be found on the books of Unite as members; they all carry out the vital work that affords us a healthier way of life – basically, all jobs are necessary and should be valued thus.

The present climate is one of high unemployment with, if government policy goes ahead, the real threat of a double-dip recession occurring. Such a situation would plunge the country into far greater difficulties; unemployment would ratchet-up, most likely, to levels unseen since Thatcher’s massive industry culls of the 80s and early 90s.

Given this scenario it isn’t helpful when we hear progressive politicians such as Ken Livingstone attacking unemployed people as though they’re in some way feckless drones.

Did the scores of thousands of finance workers now out of work design their own downfall? Are the line workers in the car plants responsible for their redundancies? And, what about the hundreds of thousands of public sector workers losing and about to lose their jobs; are they to blame for a Tory political ideology that aims to sell of the welfare state.

If we take Ken’s suggestion to its logical (or should that be illogical) conclusion we would end up with the following scenario:

Up and down the country local authorities are, and will be, making massive cuts in their adult care programmes. As a result scores of thousands of disabled and elderly people will lose vital, in many cases life depending, care packages; throwing tens of thousands of care assistants out of work. Many of these will become the ‘feckless’ jobless.

But, there’s a solution this; why not compel them to carry out ‘community work’; you know, like looking after elderly people who because of an ideologically based policy, not one based on their care needs, can no longer dress or bathe themselves, or shop or cook, or even clean themselves after using the toilet.

Yes, they can become voluntary care assistants. Problem solved. Except, how will care assistants in employment be able to compete with these battalions of ‘free’ labour? The answer is, they won’t be able to compete; and, the result will be an acceleration in the race for the bottom with T&Cs being further eroded.

As our council estates (how much longer will they be around?) become dirtier; our streets and roads cluttered with rubbish; and, the rats multiply getting fatter and fatter on a fare of uncollected rubbish, what to do?

Again, there will be a plethora of semi-skilled labour to choose from as the unemployed ranks swell with jobless estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors. Why not redeploy them on unpaid community projects; far cheaper than paying wages.

If our progressive politicians are speaking in this kind of language it’s small wonder that the ConDem coalition is riding roughshod over our public services and its workers. Come on Ken, you’re better than that. Lumping the unemployed together as some lumpen mass of feckless scroungers is the language of the morally dispossessed, the Sun and Daily Heil; of the craven capitalist who’d have the jobless starving rather than surrender a penny-piece of their taxes (actually, our taxes, as the capitalist class tend not to involve themselves in such tawdry duties as paying their share) in welfare benefits.

We must fight to save the jobs of care assistants, estate cleaners, road sweepers, refuse collectors; these are vital services carried out in order that we may live in a better society. Not devise ways of forcing unemployed people to work for their benefits; thus helping to drive down the wages and working conditions of those in employment.

Behave Ken!

“If you get people into the habit of getting out of bed, doing something, having a sense of worth and if that involves getting people who are currently unemployed helping out with the elderly or clearing up an area or things like that, I think it’s worth doing.” Ken Livingstone said.

How timely. All those disabled and elderly people who are at any time now going to lose their local authority care packages will be able to call upon an army of unwilling, possibly even disgruntled, unemployed people to take over from the personal assistants they get rid of. Hurrah!

Similarly, we can sack our estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors and replace them with the legions of feckless unemployed.

Here’s another idea. All those unemployed personal assistants and cleaners and refuse collectors could then help the elderly or clear up areas or things like that.

It’s great when you can see an idea taking shape...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Banning Bayliss

Calling for Bayliss to be struck off the ballot papers is a simplistic reaction. Does anyone suppose for a minute if Bayliss was disqualified he’d just shrug his shoulders and say ‘it’s a fair cop, guv’?

Nobody on this site, I’d imagine and hope, has any time for Bayliss. However, just because we dislike his politics and method of operating shouldn’t cloud our sense of doing the right thing.

Like anyone else Bayliss would have the right to appeal any decision Simon Hearn, the Returning Officer, made against him; after all if one of my members is sacked I would demand an appeal. Unlike my member Bayliss would be straight onto a top barrister; and, the whole process would be tied-up in litigation for months, if not years.

Does anyone here believe for a minute Derek Simpson would then retire in December?

Of course, if you go to Bayliss’ site you’ll find his supporters making counter claims against McCluskey. I’ve had inappropriate e/mailings from Bayliss’ camp; but then, I’ve also received unsolicited material Jerry’s side.

If Bayliss wins it won’t be because he’s managed to slide his propaganda under the wire and get away with it. No, it will be because Jerry Hicks failed to accept that he couldn’t win the support of the United Left within Unite; and so, he walked away and split the vote.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Unite's GS Election

Jerry Hicks will not win this election; but, he may prove to be kingmaker if his votes deny the United Left's democratically elected candidate, McCluskey a win and Bayliss becomes GS.

The fact that Hicks decided to break with the discipline of the United Left and walk out on the hustings twice demonstrates his unworthiness to lead our great Union in several ways.

1. It proves he does not have the bottle to stand on a platform with his ‘opponents’ and command respect through force of argument – is this how he’d behave in top-level industrial negotiations?
2. It showed contempt for the people who turned up to Manchester from all over the UK and Ireland.
3. It also gave us the picture of a man unwilling to work as part of a group; a man who will be General Secretary because that’s what he wants to do.

Hick’s attitude and actions do not fill me with confidence. No, I see him as an individual fighting for his own advancement – the very antithesis of trade unionism.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Wheels for Wellbeing

Quite recently I learned about Wheels for Wellbeing. Wheels for Wellbeing is an organisation that operates in Croydon and Lambeth hiring out a variety of cycles to people of differing abilities to ride. The activities take place at Croydon Sports Track and on an old cinder/ash playing field in Brockwell Park.

The scheme has been going for some time and is a really good way for, especially disabled, people to try out a variety of different types of cycle. My personal choice – though with my disabilities not much of a choice really – is one of their upright handcycles.

This piece of equipment is, essentially, a wheelchair hooked up to a front wheel (the handcycle) which incorporates gears, a chain and hand ‘pedals’. The particular cycle used by WfW is this hybrid kind; however, all-in-one handcycles also produced which are typically recumbent or upright; and, an upright one can be bought for under £1,000.

WfW provides a wide range of bikes that can be hired out for £3 per session – usually around 2-2½ hours. There are various designs of tricycle available; there are an amazing variety of tandems for use; and, even cycles that will hold and propel a wheelchair.

For my part Wheels for Wellbeing gets a big thumbs-up. The staff, Dominic, and volunteers are extremely helpful; as they help people with varying disabilities to enjoy and participate in the ‘mysteries’ of cycling.

Well done Dom and Co!

May I suggest if you’re able to pop down to Croydon on a Tuesday or over to Brockwell Park on a Friday do so; and, enjoy the delights of two, three or four wheels.

Here is their link:


Parking Problems

Parking’s a nightmare in Lambeth; and, a Blue Badge is no guarantee of a parking place, either – so much for disability perks!

Last Friday I went along to Brockwell Park for a session on a handcycle. Arriving at the carpark in the park we were disappointed to find no parking places available; the place was as full as a City banker’s wallet after bail-out.

Having to park a fair distance away we made our way back, with a great deal of difficulty on poor pavements, back to the park. Just for curiosity’s sake, and because I’m an awkward so-and-so, I asked my PA to check the cars parked in the half-a-dozen disabled bays for Blue Badges.

One car displayed a Blue Badge. One! Well, that didn’t do too much to improve my mood; but, when I tried to get out of the carpark and into the lido I found another inconsiderate motorist had parked blocking the dropped kerb.

Great; not content in nicking our bays they’re also blocking our way into the park’s facilities – a more cynical person might think these people are uncaring; that they have little or no regard for the plight of disabled people – not me; no, I just put it down to good old-fashioned ‘I-couldn’t-care-less-ness’.

Eventually, I got into the lido. No luck there. Apparently, they’re bombarded with complaints of disability parking bay abuse; and, they point out, politely I must say, that the carpark is not their responsibility, but rather a matter to be taken up with the Park Rangers – I was expecting, at this point, a bunch of YEE HAWING men on steeds to come to my rescue...they didn’t.

I must offer my thanks to the lido receptionist who was very helpful and friendly as she took the time to search out the relevant contact details for me.

Rather than let the incident go I wrote to Lambeth on my return. After taking a somewhat circuitous route my complaint is now being looked into by Councillor Lorna Campbell; and, I’m hoping that this abuse of disabled facilities can be brought to an end.

Lambeth CIL

In the next few weeks Disabled Peoples’ Organisations in conjunction with Lambeth Council will begin a consultation process with Disabled residents of Lambeth on the establishment of a Centre for Independent Living (CIL) within the borough.

The purpose of a CIL would be to support disabled people across a wide range of economic, social and cultural activities; it would strive to give disabled people more independence through greater choice, control, rights and participation in all areas of living.

CIL’s are voluntary organisations developed, run and controlled by disabled people for disabled people; they are open to all disabled people regardless of gender, age (including disabled children and young people and their families), race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious conviction, or otherwise and anyone who describes themselves as a disabled person and/or anyone who has rights under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The CIL will adhere to a Social Model of Disability and will include people with a physical or sensory impairment, mental health issues, learning difficulty, neurodiversity or long-term health condition (such as HIV / AIDS, sickle cell, MS, or cancer to name just a few).

The Lambeth CIL will look to provide the following services (this is by no means exhaustive):

• Information and advice
• Direct Payments and independent living support services
• Consultation and involvement
• Disability equality training
• Advocacy and self-advocacy
• Peer support and counselling
• Support with access to housing, education and employment
• Access audits
• Campaigning for disabled people’s rights

Now for the inclusive bit! Lambeth would like to hear from disabled residents of the borough as to their thoughts and inputs into what they want from a centre for independent living.

Questions like:

• What services should be provided?
• What form of involvement do you wish for in a CIL?
• What form of accountability do you expect from a CIL?
• What information should be made available?
• How this information should be made available (newsletters, websites, local press etc)?
• What status the CIL should be striving for (non-charitable or charitable, a social enterprise etc)?

Finally, do you agree with these as the 12 Pillars of Independent Living?

• Appropriate and accessible information
• An adequate income
• Appropriate and accessible health and social care provision
• A fully accessible transport system
• Full access to the environment
• Adequate provision of technical aids and equipment
• Availability of accessible and adapted housing
• Adequate provision of personal assistance
• Availability of inclusive education and training
• Equal opportunities for employment
• Availability of independent advocacy and self-advocacy
• Availability of peer counselling

Consultation will be made up of small focus groups, a public meeting, questionnaires and an on-line survey. For more information about the development of a Lambeth CIL and about the focus groups contact

Disability Advice Service Lambeth - 020 7738 5656


To apply for a questionnaire contact Elaine Aherne, Lambeth Adults’ and Community Services – 020 7926 4704

For the on-line survey go to:

Friday, 17 September 2010

Unite Nominations

“But it is believed that McCluskey is way out in front with around 700, while Jerry and Bayliss are on a similar number of over 100.

“Considering the way that the machines of Bayliss and McCluskey moved against us, the amount of nominations for my campaign is remarkable,” said Jerry.”

Well done Jerry in getting over 100 nominations.

However, considering Jerry Hicks was out campaigning a year before McCluskey; and, that Jerry was able to devote all his time to the campaign, it isn’t that remarkable.

As for the ‘machine’ McCluskey moved against Hicks; considering this is predominantly made up of lay activists I’m unsure of the point that Jerry is trying to make. Hicks’ supporters tell us constantly that he has the support of the rank-and-file; if this is the case, there is no bigger machine in Unite.

Once again, well done, Jerry; and, if you can do as well in the election as the nominations you’ll have done well.

I received a couple of unsolicited mailings from Bayliss; but, I’ve thrown them away, as I understood we weren’t going to bother with reporting this candidate for that or the other one for the other.

Personally, I believe McCluskey can win without us having to report Bayliss for breaking the rules. McCluskey can win the election in the same way he won the most nominations; and, that is with his machine of lay activists getting out in the mornings and evenings outside factories, bus depots, car plants, offices, banks, building sites, docks and wherever Unite has members to push the vote.

It won’t be easy, it wasn’t easy when we got Woodley elected, both for the DGS and GS positions; however, determined lay activists did the business on those occasions; and, I’m sure with a lot of hard work we can do it again, for Len, without bothering the return officer.

As Tom has stated, taking such actions could prove counterproductive. Let’s win this election on the arguments and the credibility of our candidate. Bayliss may not be down and out; but, he’s certainly doing himself no favours with the company he’s decided to run with and his views certainly don’t chime with great swathes of our members who are looking for leaders willing to fight, not bureaucrats who throw their lot in with the enemy’s press.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Migration from IB and IS to What, Exactly?

It’s fast approaching October 2010 the time the DWP has appointed for migrating claimants from Incapacity Benefit and Income Support to ESA, for the few, JSA for the many and oblivion for the rest.

Has the DWP completed the pilot schemes I heard they had put in place? Does anyone know of the outcome of these schemes; or, was that just yet another exercise in lip service?

Any ideas as to how they’re going to tackle the migrations? Are they going to use demographic age bands such as 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 54 and 55 to 64? Will they begin with the younger groups, with an expectation of finding it a) easier to find them ‘fit’ for work and b) younger people have better opportunities of finding employment?

As I understand things they are expecting to have migrated all existing claimants from Incapacity Benefit and Income support by March 2014. This is a massive logistical task; and, will mean the movement of some 10,000 people per week.

According to the government there are 20 centres looking after this work; which means around 500 people a week passing through their gates. I wonder, have they considered the impact the cuts will have on these services. After all, by Tories own admission there will be no sacred cows; all departments are up for between 25% and 40% cuts.

Hopefully, Clegg will get his comeuppance in a few weeks time at his party’s conference in Liverpool. With a bit of luck that will herald the beginning of the unravelling of this coalition of the desperate to get back to power after 65-years in the wilderness and the desperate to get the their hands on the Welfare State to sell it off to their chums.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Why Public Transport isn’t the Solution for Some Disabled Londoners

Recently, on a discussion about taking the private car off London’s streets I put forward the argument for allowing certain categories of disabled people dispensation from such a blanket ban.

One poster disagreed contending that my arguments were more centred on self-interest and convenience; and, that the picture I drew was too bleak, that indeed things weren’t that bad for most disabled people.

My response was as follows:

Of course disabled could be taken out of my original message and replaced. However, some disabled people, of whom some elderly and infirm people may be included, do have a special case for exemption when if it came to banning private cars in London.

If I lost the use of my private car and had to depend on, most forms of, public transport my ability to move around would be severely limited. Sure, I’d have TaxiCard (well, at least until Johnson scraps it as part of the ‘cuts’ programme). TaxiCard will afford me 12 subsidised short journeys per month (by short I mean around 3 miles maximum); which in reality is 6 round trips – less than two round trips a month.

Should I wish to visit family or friends who live say 5 miles away TaxiCard will swipe my card twice, thus taking two subsidised journeys. At this rate I will receive only 3 round trip journeys a month – a journey every 10 days.

Then there’s Dial-a-Ride. Ask most disabled people who have ever had to rely on Dial-a-Ride to take them anywhere within a reasonable distance and time frame and you’ll most likely get a negative response. I gave up on them long ago. Any journey that smacks of the exotic, which means more than a couple of miles from your own home, becomes an impossibility.

It got to the point that I’d phone them and ask ‘where can you take me today?’

Let’s look at ‘mainstream’ public transport. To begin with, where I live in London, the tube system is not a goer for, many, wheelchair users and people with mobilising impairments; and, the same for most overhead train stations (main termini the exception).

So, buses; here, some, disabled people have seen the greatest improvements – especially under Livingstone. While buses are easier to access than most other ‘mainstream’ forms of public transport; for some of us difficulties arise.

  1. Getting to and from bus stops. London’s pavements are, all too often, unusable for someone like me. As a left hemi-plegic I have to hope that pavement crossfalls are not over graded – that the falls across the pavement to the kerb are not too steep.

When crossfalls are too steep, greater than 1:40, the act of independently propelling my wheelchair becomes impossible. This leaves me with two choices 1) surrender my independence by allowing someone to push me, or 2) Stay at home.

Similarly, at crossing points on roads dropped kerbs are very often far too steep for me to negotiate by myself – we’re talking about gradients of 20° plus!

So, unless I live next to a bus stop (which could be ok for one leg of the journey) I’m dependent on others when I wish to go out.

  1. As a result of one disability it isn’t unusual for someone to pick up a few more along the way. Me, I’m hemi-plegic, have chronic pain syndrome, and a urinary complaint, all of which arise from the original accident.

Buses, due to their size have greater gravitational pull than smaller vehicles such as cars. When travelling on buses I’m at the mercy of the vehicle’s breaking, accelerating and general lurching.

As such I cannot control my upper body being pushed and pulled backwards and forwards as well as laterally as the buses momentum introduces external forces. This means I end bus journeys in a greater pain than I’d experience if I’d used a car.

  1. Sadly, I need to pee at a really frequent rate; a 60 minute frequency isn’t unusual; and, often it’s every 40 minutes – the same at night; so, when the pain doesn’t keep me awake; my sleeping patterns are fractured by having to get out of bed every 40-60 minutes. This causes major problems when planning any journey; but, in a car I’ve more freedom to plan a route that’ll take in loo stops.

On buses, and to a lesser extent trains, I’m not in control of the situation. If it’s taken me 10 minutes to get to the bus stop and I’ve been waiting 10 minutes for a bus and the journey is 20 minutes the chances are I’ll be ok.

However, a 10-15 minute hold-up in the journey could well mean me having to get off the bus find a loo...You get the picture. Consequently, a journey that should have taken 30-40 minutes on one bus now takes double that.

On trains I’m at a disadvantage if the toilet is ‘out of order’. The one that’s working in the next carriage, or three carriages down, is of no use to me whatsoever. So, I’ve got to get off the train go for a pee in the station, if they’ve got facilities, and wait for the next train – oh, and the next train may not be able to take me because they’ve their full quota of wheelchairs on board.

  1. Buses now come equipped with ramps. Indeed, Ken Livingstone, through TfL, forced the bus companies to ensure that no bus leaves a garage with a faulty ramp; bus companies are contractually bound, alas not statutorily, to ensure all their bus ramps are in working order – I know they breach this agreement all the time; but, it’s getting better.

On numerous occasions I’ve been let down by buses with faulty ramps; several times two buses in succession have pulled up with broken ramps; on one occasion two buses failed to take me because of dodgy ramps and the third simply ignored me and drove past.

Even when ramps are in working order problems arise because of kerb levels. The kerb is too high or low and the ramp sensor won’t allow it to contact and remain in place.

Then, there are the times that the ramp is working the pavement is at the optimum level to satisfy even the most sensitive of sensors but people with buggies refuse to move out of the area designated for wheelchair use. Some drivers are forceful enough to take control of the situation; if they’re not, then I have to wait for the next available bus.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Buggy users are not the only ‘villains’. A small minority of passengers believe that buying a bus ticket is their legal entitlement to a seat on the bus; even when that seat is situated in the wheelchair designate area; and, they refuse to move on these grounds. The poor old bus driver must decide whether to tackle the noncompliant passenger or apologise to me – an embarrassed ‘sorry’ and shrug of the shoulders is usually easier.

Rush hour travelling in London is, as you all know, frenetic at the best of times and living hell at the worst. The coming home, as far as I can recall, being the worse. People are knackered; they’re brain weary; and, their souls that bit more spent than yesterday. Feeling like this it’s hardly surprising that most passengers just want to get home, or to whatever place of refuge that’ll salve their savaged soul, and get there as speedily as they can.

Stop, start; doors opening people spilling off while others pour in. Oh Christ, it’s 5:55 pm and we’re crawling along Kennington Park Road; will I ever reach Brixton Station?

Another stop; a man in a wheelchair has an expectant look of boarding. The bus is heaving with tired and jaded people. The driver gave up ages ago counting passengers on; people are crammed so intimately as to be legally engaged to one-and-other. There is no room on the bus.

Frustrated, I mimic the drivers shoulder shrug and wonder if I’ll ever get home and if I do will it be before or after a yellow leakage.

Thus, taking the car away from disabled people like me would be a breach of our freedom to move around more easily, more conveniently and with less pain and stress. Such a measure could, and would, impact on our health; expose us to greater indignity; and, make someone like me more dependent on others to get around.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Travelling by Train to Birmingham a Few Years Ago

I’ve once had a situation where a member of the station staff was less than helpful. I’d booked a place on the train and made my own way to the platform (informing the relevant person in passenger services). There I was sitting by Coach D (the designated coach) waiting for assistance. Next to me there’s a column to which a portable ramp is attached and the carriage door has a wheelchair symbol emblazoned upon it – so, I knew I was in the right place.

A geezer in railway livery strolls past; I politely point out I need to get on the train; he tells me it will be leaving in a few minutes, blah, blah, blah...shrug, sorry.

I wheel perilously close to the gap between platform and train and through the open door grab onto a fixed part of the train. Getting the attention of other passengers I inform the guard in no uncertain terms that I’m not moving; and, if he wants to wave the train on, then to go ahead.

He threatens me with Old Bill. Go ahead; get the Old Bill, I defiantly challenge. He bottled out; unlocked the ramp – by now a passenger standing in the door had assured me the door wouldn’t be closed until I was on the train – and pushed me onto the train.

The guard was in the wrong; he knew he was in the wrong; I knew he was in the wrong; and, several passengers knew he was in the wrong.

Sadly, the guy at Manchester Piccadilly didn’t win the support of the other train users.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


When Remploy closed down 30 of its factories 18 months ago it justified their actions on the grounds of the cost of employing disabled people within a factory setting. At the time they produced highly inflated costs per capita for factory workers while making wild claims that they could get 20,000 people a year into ‘mainstream’ employment at a fraction of the cost of factory employees.

Remploy has not achieved anything remotely close to their over-inflated projections. Indeed, they, like the other players in the employment services for disabled people, have fallen woefully – Remploy boast 10,500 jobs found this year up from 7,200 for the previous 12 months. Remploy and the other ‘providers’ blame the recession; yet, in 2007/8 they only managed 6,500 jobs.

Many people connected with Remploy are also aware of the double counting that goes on with these figures. For instance they may find me a job in June which I hold down for seven months – this kind of revolving door employment being typical for lots of disabled people; especially those with poor qualifications – then find me another, say three months later.

If this happens with a small amount, say 20% of 6,500; this then skews the figures quite significantly. Rather than finding jobs for 6,500 individual disabled people; they’ve in reality found work for 5,200. It may not surprise you that Remploy used similar inventive mathematical reckoning when calculating that each factory employee was subsidised by £23,000 per annum; and, that Remploy could place disabled workers into ‘mainstream’ employment for around £3,500 each.

On the issue of the over-inflated figure of £23,000 per person, the company calculated all the running costs and the overheads of the entire company into this figure, including their Interwork arm. Add to this the fact that the company has largely ignored favourable public procurement regulations that if properly fought for would fill the factories order books – Remploy currently receives about 20% from public contracts.

I had a discussion with an ex-Remploy worker yesterday; the man (call him J) is disabled and worked in a Remploy factory for quite a few years (having a disability being a prerequisite to employment at Remploy when he joined) before taking voluntary redundancy in March 2008; and, he’s been unemployed since.

J told me he’d attended his local Remploy Branch (he does this in conjunction with his JSA agreement) and was told that as from 20 October he’d no longer qualify for the services Remploy offers. Apparently, despite years of service in one of their factories, the principle criteria being he had a disability, Remploy is re-categorising him as able-bodied. Miraculously, Remploy has laid hands upon him and deemed him ‘fit’ to go out in the wide world and compete with other ‘fit’ people!

Remploy is undoubtedly looking ahead at the oncoming cuts; no bad thing for any organisation funded by central government. However, instead of standing up for and defending disabled people it would appear that they’re going through their books trying to redefine the disability status of their ex-employees, and maybe even those remained employed by them after their factories closed.

This kind of behaviour from one of Britain’s largest employers and provider of employment services of disabled people is shocking. Not satisfied with taking peoples’ livelihoods away and throwing them on benefits they are now attempting to rid themselves of the very people they were set up to help back in the late 1940s.

This kind of behaviour is symptomatic of the direction our society is heading. We, in the trade union movement, were always mistrustful of Remploy. We were aware that, ultimately, Remploy only served one purpose; and, that was to look after a few people at the top while paying lip service to its workers or work seekers.

Well, the Remploy Board has had a good run for its money. When the cuts come they will follow any government decision without putting up a fight. Their employees and others who look to them for support will end up with nothing while they’ll get paid-off handsomely with money, titles and honours.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Trade Union Activism

Evan, sorry for exposing my trade union activist credentials; you know, the reservoir of knowledge I’ve gained as a rep. That is, working as a rep in the real world not acting like a virtual working class hero on the Internet!

I know about redundancies because I’ve been at the sharp end; both negotiating for members as a shop steward and becoming redundant myself.

When we conducted redundancies a few years ago at Remploy members with over 30 years service received around the £30,000 mark. Good in that they, mainly, escaped taxation; bad in that they were so poorly valued for such loyal service.

Evan, don’t you dare insult me when I pull you up on, for me and thousands like me, a very important issue of redundancy and taxation. If you wish to float in the deep end of the pool of ignorance, do so; but, don’t be surprised when others pull you up

Incidentally, the overwhelming majority of my Remploy Comrades are still after 18 months are still without work; and, likely to be so, many forever. Despite the fact the jobs they seek are those that only pay out low wages; they find themselves, nonetheless, discriminated against.

When Jerry speaks of taking a working wage; what is he talking about? Is it £150,000 per annum a Unite IT consultant might be paid; or, is it the £10,000 per annum that an ex-Remploy member is earning as a part-time cleaner; because, his idea of a working wage and my members’ reality will likely differ.

So, forgive me when I pull up another Comrade for trying to pass off misinformation as fact; who also feels justified in making a derogatory comment to another Comrade who for the sake of objectivity puts him straight.

Evan, may I suggest you look to your own postings and conduct on this site before attempting to claim the high ground.

Nadia, you accuse another of being anti-union whilst singing the praises of someone who has, and still is, running his campaign on an anti-Unite basis. Listening to his speeches and reading his words people are struck by his total grasp of propriety when attacking Unite victories and disputes currently running.

If people were to believe Hicks and his coterie of nay sayers Unite has never accomplished a thing for its members; that their leadership is betraying them at every turn; and, that anyone employed by the union is a class traitor.

Even when Comrades are in the middle of disputes he criticises the running or the progress of the action. It’s bad enough Simpson putting in his unwanted views - but, at least he’s rewarded with a healthy condemnation from the Left. But Jerry, continues to denounce and condemn an action that is essentially run by BASSA, lay members, while it’s in progress – wonder what the BA hierarchy think of that.

If during the Remploy Campaign, an event very much lay-member led, we’d had to put up with inappropriate condemnation from somebody running their own private agenda; we’d have told them where to go.

“How about divulging the campaign expenses and the access to union information, including membership databases and email addresses that these full times union offciers and their supporters have?”

Nadia, mind explaining to me how Jerry Hicks got access to my home address and email address? Now ask yourself this question: what course of action would Brother Hicks have taken if he knew of blatant rule breaking. I think you know the answer, don’t you – no, you’re a hypocrite.

He’d go to the Certification Officer and report the wrongdoing. Maybe I should be thinking along the same lines as Brother Hicks, and report him for breaking the rules of the GS nomination process – except, I won’t because the tradition I come from you don’t go running to the authorities

Nadia, many on the UL within Unite can also see an unaccountable egoist who refuses to recognise or work within any form of discipline; whose actions last September were the antithesis of trade unionism, rather the actions of a man who believes himself born to a position.

Clown or hypocrite? I’ll go with the clowns; at least there is rich vein of dignity and pride in that profession.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Wheelchair Bound

I knew I was kinky when I found,
It sexually exciting to be bound,
Trussed and tied to my wheelchair,
With no clothes on; completely bare,
Wondering what would happen next,
To this poor virgin so undersexed.

My temptress slim and in leather clad,
Taunted me saying ‘You’re a bad lad’;
And so, teasing me with her sexy ways,
Left me panting for more and in a daze.
There’s a moral to this tale of sleaze,
If it’s being offered say, ‘Yes please!’

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Wheels for Wellbeing

Cycling would be very expensive for me. The minimum price I’ve seen handcycles selling for is just short of a grand. That’d be an upright all-in-one handcycle. Problem there is I wouldn’t be able to get it into my flat; and, would also have problems fitting it in my car.

I could opt for the type of handcycle that fits onto a wheelchair; but, that’d be even more expensive; £1200-£1500 for the front wheel and gears (the handcycle bit) and a further £1000-£1500 for a decent rigid wheelchair (I’m currently using a horizontal collapsible wheelchair) – so anywhere from £2200 to £3000.

As for using the thing in town; handcycles are not practicable for use on busy urban roads for some disabled people. As someone who is hemi-plegic most of my strength comes from one arm; which would make me slow moving; which would be a greater problem at traffic lights.

Of course this then only leaves the countryside at my disposal. Which is great. Once I can afford to buy a suitable machine. Until then I’ll try to use Wheels for Wellbeing; weather permitting.

Anti-Trade Union Laws

Arguing for a blanket repeal of the Anti-Trade Union Laws is the wrong strategy. We don’t even have the support of all trade union members here; many wouldn’t want a return to the closed shop or going back to the days of a show of hands to determine strike action. How exactly would that be achieved with today’s fractured and dispersed industrial composition.

Breaking the law in order to change it only works when sufficient numbers are involved – by the way Omar, it’s a Tory government we’re now dealing with. As for having the moral high ground on the BA dispute; the courts don’t make decisions on moral grounds they do so on points of law - or at least that’s the way the law is supposed to operate; I imagine the law makers believe that any law they pass is by definition morally fit for use.

BASSA and Unite did have massive support for its actions both against BA and the Anti-Trade Union laws. And, we won some important victories at the High Court. However, these judgements weren’t given on moral grounds; no, we won because we left little or no room for BA’s lawyers to introduce spurious and frivolous breaches of the law as cause for action; because there was no room for the judge to misinterpret our balloting procedures.

There is a sense out there, propagated by some of the more revolutionary minded amongst us, that the British working class is ready to rise against the injustices that have rained down on them for the past 20 or 30 years. I don’t feel a sense of this at all. ‘The Cut’s are spoken of in terms of the catalyst by which the revolution will take form.

In some ways I wish this was true; but, in reality I look around me and despair of the Left. The Left is as fragmented and full of ideological splits as ever it was. There is no cohesion in our ranks; we’re disparate groups fighting for control of an ever shrinking Left base. Until we can get our act together we’re destined to scribble away in the margins of politics while the pages are written by others.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Handcycles are coming down in price. In the last couple of days I’ve found one for under a thousand pounds, £930! This particular machine is an integral three-wheel upright handcycle that doesn’t have the added complication of the handcycle that bolts onto a wheelchair; and, way way cheaper.

When I first looked at getting a handcycle, a couple of years ago, I was quoted around £1600-£1800 for the front wheel and gears and anything from £1000-£1500 for the accompanying wheelchair – a whopping £2700 to £3300! At that time all-in-one handcycles were being advertised in the USA for around £900.

Now I’ll take advantage of ‘Wheels4Wellbeing’, a cycling scheme that operates in Croydon and Lambeth. This organisation specialises in hiring out a range of cycles to people with disabilities. For £3, for up to a 3-hour session, I can hire out a handcycle and ride to my heart’s content.

Once I’ve used one of these machines for a while I may consider buying a machine for myself. It’d be great to be able to get out of London, or on to Hampstead Heath and have some freedom. Wheelchairs, while affording me more freedom than I had when I walked with a stick (I could only manage to walk about 10 meters before the pain became unbearable) are still quite restrictive – as a hemi-plegic I’ve a weakness in my left side; and, my right hand is quite painful these days.

Grass Always Seems Greener on the Other Side

Rhys has a point. We hear much spoken from different groups within the Left about the need for taking unofficial action. These same people constantly condemn the leadership of Unite as being weak and even as selling out their class. In the same breath of condemnation they then call for our leaders to be more like, the estimable, Bob Crow; they put forward Mark Serwotka and Matt Wrack as shining examples of Left leaders who do the business.

Off hand, and no doubt I’ll be corrected, I can’t think of any significant unofficial action being called and officially supported by any of these three leaders – and, this isn’t a criticism of other Comrade trade unionists; no, it’s the real world.

Bob Crow has actually been criticised by his own members thus: “It was a cause for concern, he concluded, that Bob Crow and the RMT Executive complied with the laws and actually repudiated unofficial strike action.”,1390,0,0,1,0

So, let’s not run away with the idea that if Jerry Hicks became GS that he’d be supporting every action, official or unofficial, that landed on his desk. To begin with he’d need the support of the Executive, and hopefully, it’ll be a better one than we’re currently labouring under. Then, we would, I say ‘we’ because ultimately any decision reached could impact on the entire union, have the courts to contend with.

Most of us know the battles we’ve had with the High Courts when endeavouring to take legitimate industrial action. Imagine, under a Tory government - forget the charade of an alliance, the other mob’s insignificant as events will soon reveal - taking unofficial action with a judiciary primed to respond.

Are there any of us out there who don’t doubt that a cartel of bosses isn’t just waiting for such an eventuality to occur? We had a tough ride under New Labour. The Tories business backers are looking for a return for their money. The dissolution of trade unions through sequestration and likely bankruptcy – this a reality, if the likes of BA came after us for a sum of £40 million we’d be in trouble – would fit in well with the break-up and selling off of our Welfare State.

The grass may well appear greener on the other side; but, in amongst the green grass blades are still nasty weeds; and, anyway grass, even the greener kind on the other side, needs attending and looking after.

Now, I’m off to take a bit of official action against my dinner. Spag bol; and, a few glasses of Rioja, mmmmmmmm.

Bon appétit; merci, don’t mind if I do, guvnor.

No Time for Complacency

At this stage in the GSD elections I wouldn’t write off any of the candidates; and, if the Left fights with itself we could leave the door wide open for Bayliss to stroll through. What the Left cannot afford is a split in its vote.

The reason we conducted a hustings last September was because we wanted one candidate to stand for and represent the Left of the union. This didn’t happen; and, I won’t bother to bore people on this to death with another re-run of that day.

However, having a single Left candidate would have been preferable. But, since we now have two we must fight the harder to ensure the candidate with the mandate of the UL, Len McCluskey wins; and, dismissing Bayliss as ‘unelectable’ is a complacency we can’t afford.

On the Labour Party leadership I agree; we, trade union members, should have the right to expect any candidate we promote to give us assurances on scrap those parts of the anti-trade union laws we want repealed.

We need also to be specific what we mean by repealing the anti-trade union laws. Because, there are parts of those laws that we won’t get changed, such as the re-establishing of the closed shops and show of hands ballots in canteens and carparks; which allow Labour MPs a get-out when we call for repeal – David Milliband used these examples for not supporting repeal at the Labour Leadership Hustings held by Unite a few weeks ago.

So, let’s not use catch-all phrases that allow MPs a get-out. Let’s tell them what we want; the right to strike without fear of losing our jobs; the right to secondary picketing; simpler balloting procedures; to make it more difficult for employers to use, often spurious and frivolous, technicalities to stymie action decided on by legitimate ballots; to force employers to furnish unions with true and accurate employee records when legitimate ballots are called.

Because, these are reasonable and achievable targets; yet, no matter how reasonable they are we’re not going to succeed under a Tory regime. Yet there are those in our number who appear to be calling for these measures to implemented now. The BASSA dispute is ongoing; and, McCluskey is showing good leadership. However, even a BASSA victory will not bring about a change in Tory culture.

We are living with uncertainty over our economic future. That is, working people and those of us who depend on public services are looking at a perilous existence. Personally, I’m looking at losing a care package that has enhanced my quality of life over the past four or so years.

It could be that with no improvement in my physical wellbeing; nor any change in my care needs that I’ll nonetheless be deemed capable of doing things I couldn’t do a few seconds before someone in Social Services brings down the axe – I’m not actually blaming the Care Manager of my Local Authority; executing these cuts will not be easy for them.

Finally, I hope Omar and our Comrades in BASSA are reinstated in the near future; I hope BASSA prevails over the bully boy Willy Walsh; I pray, which for an atheist can pose problems, that this ConDem Junta implodes; and, that the whole venture is thrown into disarray in the very near future. But, if it’s not let’s get ready to fight the cuts.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Who Caused the Deficit?

The banks refusing to furnish businesses with loans, especially those banks that we refinanced, is an act bordering on the criminal. We bailed the banks out not so as they could re-stock their vaults with cash, I think re-liquidate was the term being used; we did so in order that they operate as banks, which is to give loans to companies for them to manage their cash flow situations.

The banks instead acted more like caricatures of the miser sitting in his heavily barred house counting his accumulated wealth by candlelight. Of course the government of the day must accept some of the blame; once they had the majority shareholdings of these organisations they should have put in place policy that ensured small businesses were not left high and dry; and, safeguards for homeowners whose mortgages we now had control over.

New Labour is not fully to blame for the world recession that we’re still enjoying. However, the neo-liberal economics it slavishly signed up to is to blame. The fact that when neo-liberalism finally came crashing down with the collapse of the banking, mortgage and insurance systems pretty much across the developed world opportunities, such as the nationalisation of banks etc, were not taken.

We all know that a period of restructuring will take place; and, government will use the recession and its attendant deficit to as an excuse for swingeing reform. The banks won’t be punished for their gross mishandling of affairs. Because, merging them and sacking half the staffs isn’t punishing the banks, no it is penalising the, for the most part, lower grade staffers who had the least involvement in the debacle.

No, we and people across all work sectors are paying the price of the speculators; you know the ones; the people paid ridiculous sums of money for gambling with other people’s money; who when they get it criminally wrong go crying to the us the tax-payers to bail them out; and, then expect to receive bonuses because their contracts demand this.

Ordinary working people and service users are the victims of these high rollers. The ConDem axis knows the situation full well. After all it was their kind that played hard and fast with our economy. They also know that the public deficit, though high, doesn’t have to be paid off quickly; excuses about a lack of confidence in the pound and City because of our debts is a smoke screen.

I’ve stated before our debt from World War 2 was over three times as large as the current one. Back in the 1970s we were in a worse situation than we are now; back then we had to go to the IMF for assistance. Periods of economic instability come and go. Yet, we as a country full of many natural resources manage to pull back to a position of relative stability; and, with our Welfare State, more or less, still intact.

The Tory government (because, let’s be honest, the other mob are a bolt-on of no real significance; there merely to give the Tories a majority therefore a ‘mandate’ to govern) is aware that it could ride out the recession and pay off the deficit, admittedly slower, by a series of income tax increases, a Robin Hood tax and National Insurance hikes.

It would still be hard on lots of people; but, it would spread the pain more evenly. While some jobs within the higher ranks of the public sector would inevitably be sacrificed; the mass redundancies this government proposes would be contained. People like paying taxes marginally less than death. But, if laid out properly with commonsense explanations the Tories could be on a winner by going down the less draconian route of taxation over mass unemployment and most likely a double-dip recession – which we’ll hardly be out of by the time of the next election.

Ideology, I’m afraid will stymie any thoughts of the Tories acting responsibly for the majority of the country. The need to capitalise on any given situation and in the process enrich their own narrow class is firmly embedded in their mindset. They look at Treasury figures; they see the high amounts of OUR taxes that go towards servicing OUR Welfare State; and, they don’t see a resource that benefits millions of people through direct employment, government contracts and services provided; instead they see exploitative opportunity.

They see, maybe the last, chance to smash the Welfare State; and, from the smashed fragments they can divert profits into the pockets of their class. Councils and the NHS will in the future be, a bit like the railway system but on a macro scale, fragmented into smaller organisations. Medical disciplines competing with one and other; what were council departments will be disparate sections fighting for the same funding streams whilst not operating holistically – which means the links between, say, health, housing, social care, the environment etc will be broken making life even more difficult for service users. Accountability will become the province of the anonymous.

Back to Benefit Fraud!

“I’m both curious and a little perplexed. Benefit fraud is running at around £1.1 per year (some of which is actually not fraud but error on the part of benefit’s agencies in areas such as Tax Credits) less than 1% of benefit paid out. Tax fraud accounts for anything from £40 billion to £100 billion+ (difficult to estimate because the fraudsters pay very clever people to hide the money); yet, this government targets those that steal the least.

This isn’t value for money. As a tax payer I’m incensed that the government spends scores of millions chasing peanuts; when, for the same money it could be bagging the big boys. A benefits inspector costs the tax payer money as their salaries are twice what they claw back; a tax inspector working in fraud can expect to claw back three times what she or he earns.

Do the sums. It isn’t too difficult, is it?”

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Hip Surgery

My sister, who is 51, was diagnosed 15 months or so with sciatica. Not being terribly medically minded; not much of a fan of self-diagnosis; nor, indeed the Internet as a source of information she accepted her GPs diagnosis.

Some months ago the company she works for offered, in conjunction with a health company, the opportunity to see a chiropractor. She attended a diagnostic at which the practitioner worked on her back and lower spine. Feeling good afterwards she decided to sign up for the package – x sessions for £xx.

On further investigation and with the assistance of x-rays it transpires that my sister has an arthritic hip; and, the ‘wear and tear’ is quite advanced. While Sis could afford a few hundred quid for the chiropractor activities there’s no way she can afford the roughly 10 grand to go privately.

She visited her GP a couple of weeks ago and explained that she’d seen a chiropractor; the diagnosis from the chiropractor was arthritis not sciatica as diagnosed by another practice GP; and, as she was in quite considerable pain what could be done. The GP read the notes from the chiropractor, and while not disagreeing didn’t agree either.

The GP wasn’t too happy about her using non-NHS services; and, told my Sis in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t have a hip replacement operation until she was 60! Ok, my Sis is probably jumping the gun. She needs to first to get the x-rays from the private company to her GP.

Here’s my question. Given that she does need a new hip is it written in stone somewhere that the NHS won’t carry out hip replacement operations until the patient reaches 60?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Politics of Greed

Thanks for the wake up call but i am wide a wake and have been since 6 this morning when i went to the gym for a 2 hr work out before work.

You have the luxury to spend two hours in the gym before work. For far too many that would be the height of self-indulgence. Those two hours would be more profitably spent in one of their two or three minimum wage jobs; and, that just to keep their heads above water.

As a disabled person who works I can’t 1) afford the subscriptions to a local gym, 2) access the equipment in the gym or 3) have the energy after maybe an hour or two’s sleep to complete a workout.

Most of what you have written is well i dont agree with it but then again that wont surprise you and i cant be bothered to get into a discussion about legal tax structuring, ineffecient non accountable govt depts, hyper fat civil service etc its been discussed before.

Of course you ‘...can’t be bothered...about legal tax structuring...’ that’d be tantamount to turkey’s voting for Christmas. Shhh, let’s leave well alone. After all, why draw attention to the scores of billions fraudulently withheld by businessmen and the wealthy each year? Why should the rich be expected to bear their share of the burden; they’ve never done so before.

What i do agree with you , shock horror, is that we are running a big risk with as you say the rich / poor divide getting wider and it will cause massive social problems. The solution probably a reality check all round on expected profits, on investment in plant and people, on wages and the cost of living needs to dramatically fall with that. Also, from my history i think the benefits system was supposed to be a safety net and not a lifestyle choice which for some it is.

Part of the solution to the poor/rich divide would be the rich paying their way instead of expecting the poor to prop up the Treasury while they, the rich, pass more laws that protect their wealth. Until the wealthy realise their responsibility to society in general they’ll remain the vampiric caricatures they’ve become.

It ridiculous that other european people flock to this country to work for wages that you say are third world, they cant be that bad if that is the case. I mean the Romanian president called us lazy. It ridiculous that the cost to manufacture goods in this country is so high (most of it due to wage inflation) that most of it has gone abroad.

Most other European people have stopped coming to this country because the work is drying up. Those that are coming in are not as you so Daily Heilishly put it flocking in; no, they’re being coerced by capitalist organisations to come to the UK in order to drive down wages and T&Cs.

Capatilism is actually about responsibilty. Being responsible for your own actions, deeds and efforts. Its about being responsible for your own future and your own destiny, getting out what you put into it, being rewarded for taking risks and working hard should they pay off, and being helped back on the ladder if they dont. Its about being responsible socially with the wealth that one hopefully generates whether that is to the people one employs or the lifestyle and excess money there work brings. Its not about being taxed to the enth degree by an ineffecient govt to pay for a bloated civil service and benefits system that isnt supporting those that need it and providing a lifestyle for the workshy.

Yes, capitalism is about responsibility. It’s about class responsibility. It’s about brokering wealth and keeping it within the parameters of those deemed responsible – the wealthy. Capitalism is about denying society and ensuring that you and yours are looked after.

Capitalism isn’t about taking risks. Where’s the risk in banks playing hard and fast with our economy; going bust; and, getting bailed out by the tax payer. Capitalism seems to me a situation where the risk is socialised while profits remain in private hands.

Capitalism being described in socially responsible terms is both risible and insulting. Even when making ‘charitable’ donations capitalists need to do so with a fanfare on primetime TV, corporate image a mile high; and, at the same time entering some kind of tax covenant to claw money back – that’s not charity, it’s cheap publicity.

Capitalists do not employ people on a benevolent basis; employees are a means to an end. In the first instance we’re the means to create the goods and subsequently the wealth that capitalists luxuriate in; and, second we act as the customers to buy back the goods and services we produce and carry out at inflated prices – that’s the profit.

Capitalists are not taxed to the Nth degree. Proportionately they pay less than their workers, the true wealth creators. Indeed, some pay no taxes whatsoever. Capitalists don’t pay for our Welfare State; they never have and never will. We, the ordinary workers pay for our NHS, education, social services, etc; we even pay for the wars that capitalists become bloated on.

As for workshy. I’d be looking in the direction of the progeny, the issue of the wealthy for sheer work shyness. The fatcats who after a few years in the City ripping off millions retire early on their ill-gained filthy lucre.

Most people in the third world would give their back teeth for the opportunities people are born into in this country the trouble is there are a number of people who forget that and think they can all be premiership footballers or glamour models and therefore dont need to work at school.

Have you seen the state of many of the sink schools that Gove has resigned to more years of misery. Are the issue of the Bullingdon Club sending their kids to rotting schools; to schools where lessons are conducted in huts? Are their kids trying to do homework in cramped conditions; having to wait for sisters and brothers to vacate a table; or, waiting their turn to get onto a computer that keeps breaking down.

It’s easy to make social commentary on a class of people you don’t know who you have nothing in common with. It’s easy, and extremely insulting, to pontificate on issues of social exclusion as you sit their purring and preening your sleek coat – insulation from poverty is a great gift; you should cherish it.