Fight the County Council cuts, but pick our battles; save our libraries

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Another round of cuts has been announced by the council, and another attack on our public services is being rolled out – well enough is enough, let us throw a spanner in their works and save our libraries.

We won’t be able to stop all the cuts at once, the only way to do that would be a change of administration in Parliament, and in local government – even then it would take weeks, months or even years for the budget and the policy to trickle down, arguably you wouldn’t start feeling the effects until the next financial year (by then it could be too late).

We need to be against all the cuts, but if we fight to stop all cuts we run the risk of stopping none. We have to pick and choose our battles, and we have to fight the battles we stand a chance of winning. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for failure and the more long term negative effect of demoralisation. If we win small battles, if we win some battles and reverse some cuts, it weakens the position of cuts, and it strengthens our own hand, it makes us feel empowered, and when we are empowered, we are strong.

Chip away at the cuts, slowly but surely undermine the position through a series of smaller victories. The cuts to libraries is a battle we could win, it has been won before, and it can be won again. Why? Because it effects so many different people, it brings together a community, and they can galvanise around it, it is tangible – it is in your face. It should be the focus, the vanguard in our war against the local cuts.

We have to put forward the position that we are opposed to the cuts in principal, but if we spread ourselves too thin, the message is more diluted, and it is harder to get a tangible victory. Focus all our energies and resources on a single campaign, like libraries, campaign around stopping the closure of the libraries, while having the general anti-cut message in the background and at least then we stand the chance of claiming a victory.  Even if the only victory we end up claiming is stopping the closure of the libraries, we will have made a difference to a community. There are other positives as this helps create the campaigning infrastructure for future battles, the community links that are needed in any campaign, provides valuable experience and helps empower people.

So how do we move that forward?

1. A county wide response
Unity is strength, if the library campaigns are isolated they are easier to defeat – their needs to be a county wide response, a coordinated effort. Local groups need to be linked up and supporting one another in the communities battle to save their library

2. Raise awareness
People can’t get angry about something they don’t know about, we need to use all the available methods to raise awareness, social media campaigns, stickers, posters and petitions. Every possible way to raise awareness has to be explored, and the more innovative the better.

3. Protests
We love us a good protest and as part of a wider anti-cuts strategy it can play a pivotal part of showing our strength, and the opposition towards the closure. These can be at council meetings, and outside our libraries, and of course a speaker or two would be great.

4. Direct action
If we are going to draw a line in the sand and so no closures, we have to do more than a two hour protest, and we have to do more than a petition. We have to make it politically impossible for them to close the libraries, these means getting wider community support, but it also means making it as difficult as possible for them. Direct action has to be the way forward, occupy our libraries, carry out read ins, make it colourful, make it fun, make it innovative but most of all make it engaging so that more people get involved in the campaign.

5. Local support, local led
These campaigns have to be led from within the community or they will fail, every community has unsung heroes, and leaders waiting in them. If these campaigns are not coming from within the community, they won’t succeed, identify local leaders, and have as many local people not just involved in the campaign, but running the campaign as possible.

Get angry, get involved, get organised – save our libraries!

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Should the homeless pay? Open letter to the Hope Centre.

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On the 24th of July the CEO of the Hope Centre wrote on his blog an article entitled: “Why Hope charges for items like food and clothes.” In this article the CEO seeks to justify charging for these items, as well as selling donations on eBay and furthermore attacks organisations that give away things for free. You can find the full blog here: http://www.northamptonhopecentre.org.uk/sites/default/files/717%20CEO%20Blog.pdf

To sum up their strategy and their justification, they seek to impoverish the homeless in order to stop them buying drugs. Their reasoning is if they are spending money in the Hope Centre, they are not spending it on alcohol or drugs. That is clearly a win for the Hope Centre, after all they get to keep their users dependant on them while also being provided with a steady stream of income.

Is that an effective strategy to tackle drug and alcohol dependency among the homeless? Anyone who understands the nature of addiction would know that it comes first, food comes second. Going hungry to feed your addiction is always an option and If you have used all your money that you would spend on drugs or alcohol, what then? Well you do whatever it takes to get more, beg, steal, borrow and if you’re a woman that likely means prostitution.

Thus it doesn’t make much sense when they say they don’t want to ‘collude’ with drug and alcohol users, because if anything you are making the situation more hopeless for these people. Forcing them to do unsavoury things to maintain these addictions, while putting the blame on to them. It implies homelessness and their addiction is of their own choosing. If only they were a little bit better at handling their money they wouldn’t be homeless or addicts – this is the wrong mindset any organisation should adopt that seeks to engage and help the homeless.

Money is not a cause of addiction, that being the case taking it away from them isn’t going to solve the problem. Yes you may make it a tiny bit harder for them to get drink or drugs, and of course you would make them suffer more, or force them to take more drastic measures in order to access drink and drugs. But at the end of the day, unless they get the support they need, they are still going to be addicts.

For your reference here is a list of common reasons for substance abuse

  • Peer pressure
  • Boredom
  • As a way to deal with stress
  • Growing up in a home where alcohol and drug abuse is considered normal
  • behaviour
  • Self-medication to deal with mental illness
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial worries
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Those with low self-esteem may abuse substances in order to boost confidence
  • Substance abuse as part of a personality disorder
  • Teenage rebellion
  • To promote relaxation
  • To forget a normal life

You will notice that financial worries is one, so that being the case how does increasing the financial burden on your users, solve drug and alcohol addiction? If you are interested in understanding the causes of addiction, then please check out: http://alcoholrehab.com/drug-addiction/reasons-for-substance-abuse/

They also believe that charging for their service gives their users a level of responsibility – but clearly they are not responsible enough to have money. This point is contradictory, you say you want to give responsibility to these people, while at the same time saying they are not responsible enough to be trusted.

This of course generalises the homeless, while it is true that there are drug and alcohol problems within these communities, it doesn’t apply to all. With one of the primary factors for the abuse being the environment they find themselves in, that being the case I would like to know what body of evidence you are using in order to support this strategy.

You round off your argument by presenting an economic case for charging for your service, yet out of your 90k profits last year, you only made 7k from the canteen. Clearly you are not treading water to the point that providing these services for free would have a major impact on your operation.

Let’s look at the way you use donations – you like to sell them on Ebay in order to maximise profit, that is a very sound business approach but there are a few ethical concerns here. Are the people donating these items in good faith doing so on the understanding they are going to your users, and not on eBay? If so, then you are taking these things under false pretences. You sell off all the best stock, so why can’t a homeless person wear Prada or Gucci? You imply that homeless people shouldn’t be allowed to wear nice things.

That is a strange approach when you talk about giving them responsibility, having respect for yourself, having the opportunity to wear nice clothes – these things can make peoples day. If you don’t think they’re good enough to wear nice clothes, why should they think they are worth anything?

Finally you suggest that they can be choosy with their food, that they’re throwing their food away because they can go around the food banks. It’s a very shocking accusation, hunger is a very real problem for those on the street, and having access to basic food stuffs is a struggle. Yet the way you frame it, they are living the high life on free food. I’ve never witnessed a homeless banquet, and if like you say they are just throwing away the food they don’t like, wouldn’t they trade it, or sell it on? It’s nonsensical, and I’m sceptical of the proof that you have, outside of anecdotal evidence.

Is the strategy for change a positive one?

Having dealt with the fact money is not a primary motivator for drug and alcohol abuse, let’s examine the wider strategy. Firstly, I think it is extremely crass of you to use the recent tragic death of one of your users in to this argument, it is impossible to know if it was a cause and you use it to get emotive support.

So putting that to one side, let’s look at the issue here – is it wrong to give free things to the homeless community? I can turn this on its head and say is it right to financially benefit off the homeless community, because that is what charging them is doing – exploiting them. They have no where else to turn, they have very little and they are dependant on these services for help. Is taking their benefits, or their begging money away from them then going to help them get into a home, get off the streets and get the help they need? Unlikely, but it will continue to perpetuate a cycle of homelessness by keeping these people operating below the breadline.

If you are about change like you say you are I suggest you do something radical and innovative, instead of taking us back decades if not centuries on how we view and tackle the problems of homelessness and addiction.

For example

  • For the homelessness to have elected representation on the Hope Centre Board
  • For the service users of the Hope Centre to have a greater say in how the organisation operates, and greater control over the running of the centre
  • Draw up an inclusive strategy with the aid of the people you are seeking to help
  • Use a multi-agency response, instead of seeking to attack other organisations seeking to help the homeless – work in partnership with them.

I urge you to change the course of your organisation, I urge you to think about the language you are using, and the attitude you are adopting. Wouldn’t a better way to tackle homelessness be providing a supportive environment that helps tackle the underlying problems of these addictions? One that doesn’t judge these people for their problems, but seeks to engage with them and support them. With homelessness increasing in the town there is clearly a flaw in your strategy, so next time think, because there is another way.

Signed
Stephen Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hail Simmonds!

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Simmonds thinks he’s Caesar
he reminds me of Caligula
Fiddle as Northampton burns!

He’s a school builder
not a crime fighter
Simmonds school
he played us for fools

Blood stained legacy
long after he’s history
the truth will be a mystery
Corruption in Northampton
is a state of normality

Police force on all fours
you tell me the cause
Who needs officers
we have an academy!
Money making offers
enriching Tory coffers

Crime is on the rise
so lets go roundabout
Its time for your goodbyes!
Enough with the sell off
the great pcc rip off
Its time now mr.pcc
why don’t you f off

Clean For The Queen – A Slap In The Face For The People Of Northampton

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Clean for the Queen – a slap in the face to the people of Northampton.

Clean for the Queen is a national initiative to get the downtrodden and desperate people of this country cleaning their own communities, after all our councils have been that drastically butchered by central government to the point that they’re no longer willing to.

In their own words director of the Clean for The Queen campaign Adrian Evans puts it; “We hope a million people will join us in a mass litter pick to give our beautiful country the facelift it deserves.” I don’t know about you, but surely its my governments job to make this country beautiful? Why not provide jobs to litter pickers? Instead of getting unpaid volunteers to do it? Why not give this country a facelift anyway? Why are we having to do it?

It gets worse as Adrian states; “Our ambition is to create a community inspired, grass-roots mass action event – one that will become a recurring annual clean up.” Not only is this not and never has been community inspired, but we should be looking at why we need an annual clean up? Is this to become the norm? The peasants turning out to clean for her maj?

I have no problem with people being empowered over their communities, I have no problem with communities coming together to achieve, I do however have a problem of normal people being forced to do something the council exist to do, and to carry out something that at one time in our not so distant past, people were employed to do.

People should take pride in their communities, and be encouraged to do so, for their neighbours sake, for their own sake, people should take pride in their surroundings because its part of their community. If there is any initiatives like this it should be for themselves, not some super rich woman that lives in multiple palaces, who lets face it has probably never held a brush, let alone used a litter bin.

Here in lies the insult not only to us but also to the many communities up and down this country feeling the harsh effects of corporate highwaymen, and political butchers, in the form of their enforced austerity measures.

What really adds salt to the wounds is the council cuts that are happening in this town, perhaps some of the biggest in the whole country, as our county council simply ceases to exist in any meaningful level.

Within a backdrop where many people in this country cannot afford to eat, it is beyond insulting. Far from what presents the Queen receives on her 90th birthday, my heart goes out to the many families up and down this country which are struggling to heat their homes, to feed their children. I’m more concerned with the homeless person you pass on the street, or the many children that won’t be getting any presents on their birthdays.

Living somewhere that is clean, is of course important but what about the many human casualties in this failed austerity gamble? Surely what is more important is that every person in this country is living in a home? That everyone is fed, clothed, warm, that those that are disabled are receiving adequate care? That our NHS is being torn to pieces by privatisation jackals foaming at the mouth of the prospect of getting their teeth into our health service?

I’m a republican, I don’t believe we need a state backed monarchy in the 21st century, but wouldn’t it of been much better for the Queen on her 90th birthday celebration, to I don’t know? Help the many poor and needy people in this country that are suffering under a brutal ideologically driven mob of a government, whose only concern seems to be how they can line their pockets of their rich chums.

County Council: Death By A Thousand Cuts

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Lingchi was an an ancient Chinese torture method which is more widely known in the west as death by a thousand cuts, a torture method this council seems to have adopted as its model for local government policy.

Make no mistake that sooner or later people will die because of the butchering of our local services, make no mistake that people are already suffering under the brunt of the county councils new torture regime.

This is an ideological restructuring of local government, the Tories have already committed themselves to destroying the state on a national level, and now their cronies at a local level are going full steam ahead with this ideological mission in their destruction of local services.

Removing lifelines for some and completely changing the face of our local services, is of course spruced up with fancy words like “efficiency savings” but regardless of what words they use to make these cuts more palatable it will never disguise them from the cold hard reality, and when reality bites believe me people will be angry.

Earlier this year the County Council agreed to outsource all its services, and now it is going to be cutting a further £77 million from its budget, no doubt they love to gamble with the future of our town, sadly the only losers in this will be us, the people of Northampton.

As it was reported the budget “Proposals include a reduction in children’s centre services, a reduction in funds for the fire service and highways maintenance, a cut in the subsidies given to the bus services, the cessation of Nourish school meals service and decommissioning two care homes run by Olympus Care Services.”

Just how much more do they think the people can take? Just how much more of this burden do we have to shoulder? We were never responsible for the recession, yet time and again we are the ones footing the bill.

These cuts, like the cuts at national level are being billed as the only way, that there is no alternative, but this is pure political posturing, there is always an alternative. When these cuts continue to hammer home just keep one thing in mind, there is but one group of people to blame for them; The Conservative Party.

We are now locked into a race to the bottom, and who knows where it will end? No support for young people, no care for the elderly? Just how far are they willing to fall, and how much suffering are we going to have to endure?

Instead of a council with a commitment to slash and burn, how great would it be to have a council committed to helping the people? To homing the homeless, to protecting those that need it, to investing in the future of the town.

Because that is the alternative, investment, investing in the future instead of planting the seeds of this towns suffering, creating revenue outside of tax. We are expected to believe that outsourcing and businesses (which we will be paying to carry out these services), will be more efficient.

Well why is that the case? Instead of throwing money at private companies (making them very rich), surely the brilliant minds in government can operate these things as good, if not better. Instead of them being operated for the profit of private companies they should and could be operated for the improvement of the town, for the benefit of the people.

The governments in post war Britain recognised this, that is how they dug their way out of a 200% deficit, through investment, through public ownership, and ultimately through a commitment to helping people, instead of cutting them piece meal.

Just how much more can the council take? How much more can we take?

What are your views on the cuts? Are you afraid of the future? Let me know in the comments.

Northampton Council – Poverty not Politics.

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You should be angry, you should be blood boiling red mist descending mad because of your council, they have shown us just how much contempt we are held in by the ruling Conservatives.

What controversial issue am I talking about? What hot-topic must I be approaching? Why the very controversial issue of child poverty, you know that controversial debate we all have over whether we think it needs to be stopped or not? No me neither.

We (well you, I would rather die than vote Conservative because it is a death sentence in it self) have to shoulder some of the blame, we returned not only a Conservative party nationally but also locally.

It really says something when you not only have a national government but a local one that doesn’t seem to think ending poverty is an issue that needs addressing. Putting aside the destructive and death sentence policies being enacted at a national level, our local representatives have gone full throttle on it too.

It really says something about the sadistic and ugly character that they must have if they seem to think it is ok that a child goes to bed at night hungry, it really says something about their nature if they do not give a shit that we are struggling to survive, getting thrown on the streets and where does that end?

It is like they just want us to roll over and die, at least that way their poverty figures would go down right? If all the poor people just jolly well went and died. It sickens me that these people make decisions over our lives, because they clearly do not give a shit what happens to us.

You might be reading this thinking “well I don’t give a monkeys, poverty doesn’t effect me” – Well it does, we all breath the same air, inhabit the same space, we all have to walk past each other on the street. You cannot hide from the many faces of poverty, it is that widespread that soon you won’t even be able to walk on by blissfully ignoring the deprived state of your fellow human beings.

You can try and shift the blame onto others, you can say it is the people in poverties fault that they are in that position (god the media like you to think that way, don’t they?). It still doesn’t change the fact that we live in a thing called society, and supposedly we live in a civilised one at that, so whether you like it or not the ugly hydra of poverty will sooner or later come back to bite you.

The ruling conservative council seem to think tackling poverty is a “political football” and that they are already doing enough to stem the rising tide of deprivation and starvation which is growing like a cancer within our communities.

We live in a county where poverty is on the rise, where 1 in 4 children live below the poverty line. What upside down logic brings you to the conclusion that if something is getting worse, you are doing enough?

The ruling council are either incompetent, lying or do not give a shit that it is happening – because if poverty is RISING whatever they are doing clearly is not WORKING.

Write an angry letter (best British way of dissent), go out on the street and let your anger known to your councillors. DO NOT STAY SILENT ANY LONGER, they take our silence for compliance and we cannot take this lying down. Get out on the streets, do some actions, create a community network and take our future into our own hands because left in theirs we may as well be signing our own death warrants.

Food Crime Today, Thought Crime Tomorrow.

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The rising tide of food theft in Northampton an ocean that is on the rise across this whole country, is something our leaders should be completely ashamed of and if they were acting for the benefit of the poor and needy, no doubt they would be.

The Chronicle and Echo (Northampton Local Paper) publishes the details of the court, in an effort to name and shame criminals, to bring some form of justice or maybe because we all just missed the good old fashion medieval stocks.

So I was surprised, saddened and shocked to see the developments of our times, a man fined £70 for stealing MILK and CEREAL.

If someone, a HUMAN BEING gets to the point that they are forced to steal to eat, the response of any civilised society and any decent human being would be to tackle the problems causing it in the first place, hunger, poverty and of course politicians.

Our response, and this tells any watching alien civilisation just how doomed we are, our response is to fine them and give them a criminal record. Would our government, our high towered overlords prefer that these people just starve to death or lie down and die?

This is appalling and disgusting and I have read similar reports across the whole country. We are criminalising the poor and those suffering the effects of poverty, while the causes are left to fester like a cancer at the centre of our society and ultimately while those responsible for that environment live in luxury, this is a gross injustice and one that should make you feel angry.

The one saving grace and I doubt something you will see reported in the Chron (Chronicle and Echo) was the response by the people of Northampton and beyond. On the same day this was reported Bianca Todd from CCY (Community Court Yard) put a shout out on Facebook to raise money to not only pay off the court fine but provide food for the individual, which was met with great kindness and empathy.

What logic leads our law makers to the conclusion that those struggling to survive and those struggling to make ends meet, even those that are homeless should be fined for acts which take place directly because of that poverty. If you have no money, how can you pay a fine? If you cannot afford basic essentials and basic human needs, then how is a fine going to help that situation?

We live in a society where the poor feel the full force of the law, yet the wealthy can use that wealth to not only influence the law but to hide from it as well. How many bankers have gone to jail for their part in destroying the UK economy in 2008? How many people suffering from poverty have gone to jail as a direct consequence of their actions?

This has to stop, we need to act.