Monday, 5 October 2020
Wednesday, 30 September 2020
|A great save, the Selby keeper had a very good game |
and prevented his side from suffering a much heavier defeat
|There is one small seating area behind one of the goals|
Monday, 21 September 2020
Sean McGovern - the plan to write a booklet on the disability rights activist
I am set to write a booklet on Sean’s life for the Unite Education department. Sadly, Sean, died on 6 May 2020, aged 63. He has left behind a number of people who deeply miss him. (*) The labour and trade union movement has also lost a real inspiration.
Sean wrote a blog (**) from 2010 that contains hundreds of articles up until the end of 2018 when his prolific output faded with just a couple of pieces in 2020.
If you want to know about the attacks being mounted on disabled people by the ConDem coalition between 2010 and 2015 and then the Tory government from 2015 onwards then it is a mine of information.
It also shows how New Labour never really bothered about opposing these attacks. Not so Sean, plus those he inspired to fight back, who refused to accept the unnecessary austerity agenda, which has seen the rich rob the poor.
Sean worked tirelessly to defend and extend the public services and welfare resources that are needed to enable disabled people to participate fully across society. By understanding the need for unity in the face of a common enemy he did all this work by also seeking out support for other marginalised groups facing attacks on their rights and living standards.
The blog is also packed with everyday observations and Sean’s dry sense of humour, which he could skilfully utilise to attack his political opponents, shines through to create a fair few laughs.
I have already made contact with Sean’s sister, Colette, who has promised to help in whatever way possible. I also have a growing list of people to interview and I will be expanding on this in due course. I have around another 100 articles from the blog to read.
If you want to know more and/or to contribute to the work then please get in touch.
* I can’t hope to match this obituary of Sean that was in the Morning Star from his former partner Claire Glasman.
** bombasticspastic.blogspot.com : A look at life's quirkiness through a jaundiced eye and a mind open to all except that to which it's hermetically sealed...
BLOOD SUCKERS - how PFI has left a toxic legacy by sucking the NHS dry
Note - this was intended to be the words to a brief documentary film but COVID19 has prevented its making so far.
Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) began under John Major's government in 1992 but was expanded under Labour after 1997. At the 2002 Labour Party conference, Prime Minister Tony Blair assured worried delegates that PFI “isn’t the betrayal of the public services. It’s their renewal.” This was all part of New Labour’s revolution.
Private Finance Initiatives use private money from bankers, construction companies and facilities management firms for major public sector capital projects. Private consortiums build and own the facilities, which are then leased back to the state, in exchange for regular repayments that are considerably higher than if the projects had been funded directly from the public purse.
In 1998, Alan Milburn, Labour health minister, signed a deal for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust allowing them to procure under a PFI project the funds to construct a new Halifax hospital, Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH), costing £65 million. Bovis built the hospital. One of the benefits for Milburn of PFI debts was that they did not form part of Labour’s deficit balance sheet as the costs were passed on to future generations.
Backing the Halifax deal was local Labour Mp Alice Mahon, desperate to see a new local hospital, plus both major opposition parties nationally and locally.
The PFI contract lasts for 60 years and will cost taxpayers £774 million by 2058 with the total cost of the PFI debt of capital + interest over its 30 year life coming to £290 million, with the rest of the monies covering services such as catering, maintenance, portering and domestics.
Private investors are able to charge an annual rate of return much higher than others types of investment. Investors can also sell their equity to other investors as has happened regularly at Calderdale Royal Hospital.
In 2016 Trust chief executive Owen Williams reported that 6% - around £22 million - of the trust’s annual £343 budget had been spent on repayments. Attempts to renegotiate with the owners of the debt or even escape the deal were found to be impossible. Some smaller hospital trusts had been able to buy out PFI contracts. In 2014 Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust bought out Hexham General Hospital, which was opened by Tony Blair ten years earlier.
Faced with such crippling debts Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust sought to close Huddersfield and Accident and Emergency Department, sparking outrage and the largest post war demonstration in Huddersfield in 2016 with 5,000 taking part. The campaign was ultimately successful but only at the expense of the continuing run down in other services at the Huddersfield hospital.
Calderdale Royal Hospital is one of around 100 PFI Hospitals including the Pinderfield’s Hospital in Wakefield.
Originally the PFI hospitals cost £11.5 billion but will ultimately cost 7 times that sum at around £80 billion. £2.1 billion was spent on interest repayments by NHS hospital trusts alone in 2018-2019. Particularly badly hit was St Helens and Knowsley, which paid out over 13% - £51 million - of its overall budget in interest repayments.
Despite such high levels of spending a report last year also calculated that many PFI hospitals require significant improvements such as new fire safety hazards and sewage repairs that are calculated to cost around £3 billion.
Carillion was a major holder of PFI projects with £485 million awarded under Labour between 1997 and 2010, £347 million under the Conservative - Lib Dem coalition between 2010 and 2015 and a further £439 million awarded by the Tories in 2015.
Carillion collapsed in 2018 and following which the Conservative Government abolished PFI projects. None of which stopped the two PFI hospitals that Carillion was building at the time collapsing – Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Midland Metropolitan Hospital – are both currently due for completion several years late.
In August 2019 Boris Johnson promised to upgrade 20 hospitals by boosting NHS spending by £1.8 billion annually.
This is less than was paid to private bank accounts in PFI repayments in 2019 and which ensures NHS trusts have mountainous ongoing debts with no new money for capital improvements. The ongoing decline in the NHS will thus continue.
“For every PFI hospital built and up and running you could have had 3 hospitals up and running and that includes the staffing as well.” Allyson Pollock - Director of the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University.
PFI projects were one of the many way used by government’s over the last 40 years plus to dismantle a loved public health service. A mass public mobilisation is needed if we are to reverse these processes in order to keep our health service public for all.
MEMORY IS THE STORY OF THE FUTURE
* Have you or someone you know been active, for even a relatively short time, in UNITE or one of its legacy unions?
* Interested in having your experiences recorded?
The Unite oral history project would like to hear from you. www.theunitehistoryproject.org
The memories of interviewees will be making a positive contribution to the writing of six books of 40,000 words each covering the period from 1922, when the Transport and General Workers Union was formed, till 2022.
By identifying with what has happened in the past interviewees can help guide the actions of present and future trade union activists. Future generations need you!
Across the Unite North East Yorkshire and Humber (NEYH) region a number of interviews have taken place.
You can hear more by going to 3 edited interviews of Jacob Goddard, a young member from Leeds, paramedic Debbie Wilkinson and bus equalities rep Abdul ‘Tan’ Rashid.
ALL WEATHER PITCH HEALTH RISKS
PM plans to build 2,000 artificial pitches
Campaigners say they pose risks to players
Parents and teachers have spoken out about the health and environmental risks
of artificial sports pitches after Boris Johnson announced plans to build thousands of them for England’s bid to host football’s 2030 World Cup.
Artificial turf allows games to go ahead that would otherwise be postponed. But so-called 3G pitches are often made from used car tyres and contain chemicals such as lead, mercury and benzene. In the Netherlands more than 100 clubs have banned their use for youth games after analysis of 60 showed carcinogen levels to be up to six times higher than would be allowed for consumer products.
There are currently 4,853 3G fields across the UK, with the government planning to build 2,000 more. But the English Football League (EFL) has outlawed artificial pitches.
In 2013, Lewis Maguire, 13, from Darlington was half way through a 12-week trial as a goalkeeper for Leeds United when he was forced to quit after he became unwell. He was found to have developed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. His father, Nigel, quit as chief executive of NHS Cumbria to look after Lewis, who died in 2018.
In 2016, Nigel Maguire wrote to sports minister Tracey Crouch highlighting the developments in the Netherlands as well as research by former US international goalkeeper Amy Griffin. Of 150 footballers who had played regularly on 3G fields and had cancer, Griffin discovered that more than 100 were goalkeepers – a position that means the player will be in contact with the pitch surface more than other players.
Acting sports minister David Evennett replied that football authorities “adhere to the latest independent evidence, which indicates that 3G pitches ... are safe”.
Maguire remains unconvinced. He wants to see a moratorium on the construction of any 3G pitches, the replacement of rubber with inert materials such as cork and coconut fibres and to ensure that young goalkeepers no longer practice on such fields.
He called on the Football Association to ensure coaches make players shower after playing or training on 3G pitches, to remove rubber crumb from their bodies and equipment.
Others point out that 3G pitches only last around 10 years. Viv Mitchell, whose local council built a 3G pitch close to her home in Northampton, pointed out that companies in the Netherlands had refitted pitches in Africa rather than disposing of them responsibly at the end of their life. She calculated that the pitch close to her contained 20,000 tyres.
“This is going to be a lot of plastic waste and rubber crumb going to landfill every 10 years,” she said. “It is industrial dumping as these pitches won’t last any length of time before they aren’t fit to play any sports on.”
In reply to Big Issue North’s detailed list of questions, a spokesperson for Defra, the government department responsible for sports fields, said waste tyres are classified as “absolute non-hazardous” by the EU.
Call for urgent review
The spokesperson also pointed to a 2017 European Chemicals Agency evaluation that concluded there is a very low level of concern from exposure to substances found in recycled rubber granules used in sports pitches, and that there is “no reason to advise people against playing sports on synthetic turf containing recycled rubber granules as infill material”.
The spokesperson added: “We are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife including through the regime which regulates chemicals and restricts the use of harmful substances in products.
“The European Chemicals Agency concluded there is a very low level of concern from exposure to substances found in recycled rubber granules used in sports pitches. A further restriction is being considered that would further lower the concentration limits.”
According to an FA spokesperson: “Hygiene guidance is being promoted on social media and shared with the county FAs.”
Tony Gavin, former head of Laurence Jackson School, a specialist sports school in Guisborough, North Yorkshire, said: “There should be an urgent FA review as part of a full government enquiry with legal powers to investigate the whole process, from procurement to construction, including materials used.
“The priority must be the health, safety and wellbeing of young people. Any ingredients which pose a risk must be identified, highlighted, discontinued and removed immediately.”
Brighter off the pitch than on: Swallownest 1 Ashton Town 0
This was not a game to remember for long but it was nevertheless an enjoyable enough occasion watched by a crowd of just 97, of which around a third were following the away side. These fans were left disappointed when their side were punished for giving away an unnecessary free kick around 25 yards out in the second period.
The subsequent hard hit shot took a slight deflection off one of the defending players and although the Ashton Town keeper did remarkably well to switch direction to make a fine save he was left helpless when the ball ran free and one of the Swallownest forwards was first to it and scored from around 4 yards out. Home fans behind the goal, who had enjoyed sinking a few beers - taken direct into the ground from the clubhouse - and relaxing in the sun, cheered loudly.
Ashton had been the better side in the first period but had rarely threatened after the break and the home goal was reward for a more adventurous approach by the South Yorkshire side. Ashton pushed forward in search of an equaliser but did not appear confident and apart from a couple of decent corners that left the Swallownest keeper in no man’s land the home goal was never seriously threatened thereafter and the game thus ended in a 1-0 home victory.
The cost of entry was £5 entry for adults and free for under 16s who attended the match with a full-paying adult. Because of the COVID19 emergency then it was necessary to purchase online tickets to gain entry to Swallownest’s small ground, which can best be described as two and a half sided as their is no entry behind one goal and down one half of the side furthest from the entrance. Behind the dug outs there is a small seated stand and there is also a small stand behind the goal closest to the entrance. The side opposite to the dug outs is all standing on a small path.
Thai-British language firm teaches its pupils ‘nonsense’
Recruits do not need teaching qualifications
An Ormskirk man employed as a basic high school English teacher in Thailand has accused the British-Thai company that employed him of providing poor-quality education and withholding his pay.
David Sheekey said Sine Education Service, a Bangkok company that provides English teachers for Thai schools, recruits unqualified teachers whose lessons go “well over students’ heads.”
Sheekey moved to Thailand from Uganda, where he had been living with his wife but had been unable to find work and access vital medication. Joining family in Thailand in 2015, be began working for Sine Education Service, whose website says it “provides English conversation courses for government schools all over Thailand. We focus on tackling the challenges that come with delivering English language programs – notably to large classes – through our specially designed courses, delivered by our Sine trained teachers.”
The company claims it is in partnership with 40 Thai schools.
Sine employees are not required to be qualified teachers or to possess a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate but they must be “native English speakers from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland or South Africa” and have a degree.
Sheekey, who has a social studies BA, a higher education diploma and a TEFL qualification, said he was only give three days training before he was put in front of a class. Sine teachers are meant to provide high school students with between one and four hours English schooling each week.
“My training was insufficient,” said Sheekey. “The young people are receiving poor quality education. Everything was done on Powerpoint programmes where the language is in technical terms that UK students of similar ages would not understand. It went over the Thai students’ heads.”
Some of the curriculum that Sheekey, who worked at a government high school in Khon Kaen, was expected to teach left him scratching his head. “Students were informed that in Britain there was a culture of movie watching and not much reading of books. There was other such nonsense presented as facts by the teaching programmes.”
Sheekey also said the company, which is partly run by British people, was excluding qualified teachers from a number of countries in Africa and Asia where the official language is English because of its recruitment policy.
When he had to take time off work after contracting chicken pox, Sheekey had most of his wages docked. He has not been paid the money he is owed. He left the company and returned to the UK to live in Chester earlier this year.
Sheekey met his Ugandan wife Sarah in Wigan, where she was seeking asylum. Evidence showed she had been tortured by the Ugandan authorities, but she was nevertheless deported. Sheekey is again looking to find work in Uganda, possibly with his younger daughter who is a lawyer.
Big Issue North sent questions to the Thai Embassy in London, Sine Education and two members of the British-Thailand Parliamentary Group, Sir Graham Brady and John Spellar, but did not receive any response.
Friday, 21 August 2020
Using film to rediscover lost working class heroes
Edward McHugh at :- https://vimeo.com/roughjersey/mchugh
With Subtitles: https://vimeo.com/roughjersey/mchugh-subtitles
The successful work of Unite rep Luke Agnew from Wallasey for a new headstone to Edward McHugh, an inspirational dockworkers organiser, has been captured in a 10 minute film from Rough Jersey Productions.
Irishman Edward McHugh, co-founder of the National Union of Dock Labourers led long, bitter, successful strikes in Glasgow and Liverpool in 1889 and 1890 respectively.
Earlier he led a Land League mission to the Scottish Highlands where he helped direct the nascent crofters’ agitation. McHugh later settled down in Birkenhead but in the 1890s he spent time in New York City where he organised the American Longshoreman’s Union and preached Henry George’s gospel that the unequal distribution of land lay behind all social ills.
On his death in 1915, McHugh was buried at Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Birkenhead but his headstone was destroyed by the German bombing of Merseyside in WWII.
It was Luke Agnew, a gravedigger at the Gardens, who rediscovered McHugh’s burial spot. When Luke then heard a speaker on his Unite stewards course talk about how trade unionists have erected plaques nationally to honour legendary labour movement figures he became determined to mark Edward’s final resting place.
As a Unite workplace rep he got support from Mick Whitley, a former UNITE NW regional secretary and now Birkenhead MP, who features in the documentary.
Funds were raised for the headstone and the Unite Education Department also released a concise booklet on McHugh and which can be downloaded for free at:- https://markwritecouk.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/edward-mchugh-booklet-1.pdf
In June 2019 a crowd of over 75 people assembled to see the new headstone unveiled. Speakers included local MPs and councillors, Unite officials, Helsinki’s Martin Newby, author of a biography of Edward McHugh, plus Kevin Robinson, one of the leaders of the Liverpool Dock Strikers in the mid 1990s.
By following Luke’s successful campaign, Edward McHugh’s life is recreated through a combination of contemporary photographs, moving images and an explanation of the roles McHugh played in the organisations he was so active within.
The ten-minute film was created by Rough Jersey (RJ) (*) Productions, who earlier this year released a 7 minute documentary on the successful efforts of Bolton Socialist Club members, including Unite’s Martin McMulkin, to honour with a plaque a local man, James Alwyn, who lost his life fighting fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Both documentaries were directed by Adam Marseille and co-produced with Mark Metcalf.
You can also watch the documentary on James Alwyn at:- https://vimeo.com/398711929
If you have an idea for a plaque or headstone to honour a local labour movement figure then please make contact @markmetcalf07 or email@example.com
Rough Jersey Productions can be found at:- http://roughjersey.com
RJ is now seeking to raise funds to continue this series of works and any help and/or donations would be appreciated. RJ is also exploring other labour movement works as well as moving forward with its football documentary based around the life of Fred Spiksley.
Wednesday, 19 August 2020
With the help of the Big Issue North, Michael Ryan and myself are really the only people who've highlighted how incinerators raise infant mortality levels wherever they get opened. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the excess death levels are around 150 plus infants annually.
Many articles can be found at:- https://markwrite.co.uk/incinerator-study/
Thursday, 13 August 2020
Monday, 3 August 2020
Happy to house the homeless - Big Issue North article from 20-26 July
Hoteliers speak of positive experience
Kangley couple make offer for the long-term
The owner of a Sheffield city centre hotel that has been accommodating homeless people through the lockdown says he would be willing to continue supporting them after the pandemic if he had the backing of the government and local authority.
At the end of March the government followed the lead of California by funding the accommodation of rough sleepers in hotels and offices. Around 45,000 people, many vulnerable to Covid-19 because of respiratory and other health problems, were housed under the Everyone In policy.
24 hour deadline
Sheffield City Council asked Grant Kangley to accommodate rough sleepers at the 16-bedroom Dalbury and Palmer Hotel in Sheffield’s Antiques Quarter.
Kangley, who bought the hotel five years ago to add to the two he and his wife Anne own in North Wales, said: “After meeting the council it was decided after discussions with staff that because of
the often chaotic nature of homeless people we should play safe, take just three people and see how it went. We were also concerned that some local residents would complain if all the hotel was used by homeless people.”
But the council wanted to take over the entire hotel. People needed to be taken off the streets and safely housed within 24 hours. Family rooms at the hotel were converted within eight hours into single rooms. Almost before staff knew it homeless people were at the hotel.
“I must admit that the first week was slightly scary,” said Zoe Burke, aged 27, who had just been appointed manager, with her partner Jordan also employed with responsibility for security. Having always worked in hospitality, she had been looking forward to priorities such as building
up business in the new restaurant.
“We had been told only negative things about the people we were now hosting. I suppose the council has to highlight the problems that homeless people are facing, such as drug and alcohol abuse, but also there was a suspicion amongst people that we would police them and keep them permanently indoors.”
In normal times, rooms at the boutique hotel – “each with its own story, with some nice finishing touches”, according to Kangley – cost £85-£95 during weekdays and more at weekends, when it had generally been fully booked. But all visitors had cancelled reservations just before the lockdown.
Kangley and Burke admit they had never previously considered homeless people’s needs but they soon began to understand their new guests, some of whom were asylum seekers while others had been recently released from prison.
“A mutual respect was quickly established. I heard some difficult stories and soon realised many homeless people have just fallen, often very quickly, on hard times and can’t recover without help,” said Burke.
Begin living a better life
One of those who moved into the hotel was Nick, a trained chef who had become homeless after losing his job, becoming ill and then getting into difficulties with claiming benefits he was entitled to. As well as sleeping rough Nick had been staying with friends. They had to turn him away once the advice on how to tackle Covid-19 included telling people not to accommodate anyone outside their own families.
After the council agreed with Kangley’s request for the hotel to provide everyone staying there with breakfast and an evening meal, Nick was asked to do some cooking. The council has since found Nick permanent accommodation and he hopes to find work again once as a chef.
Nick is grateful for his accommodation at the Dalbury and Palmer. “I hope anyone who needs it can be moved into the room I was using. Having a place to live, even temporarily, makes it easier for other agencies including the council to make contact and start helping homeless people to begin living a better life.”
Ann Clarkson moved from Grimsby to Sheffield a year ago. She had worked full time for over three decades. Her last job, for 13 years, was a supervisor at Howden Kitchens. But she got breast cancer, which damaged her mental welfare, even though she overcame it. She loved her dog and, when it was stolen and the police refused her request to investigate the person she believed had taken it, she sought her own revenge and was arrested.
This first ever offence resulted in just over a month in prison and she was living on the Sheffield
streets when Framework, a street outreach project run by a local housing association, found her outside Sheffield Cathedral and gave her a bus ticket to get to the Dalbury and Palmer. She too helped make meals at the hotel, laughing that it kept her out of mischief. But she knows she would otherwise have been living in a squat or doorway this summer.
“Covid-19 might, if projects such as this can continue for a while, really help homeless people,” said Clarkson. “But I am concerned that if people are moved on without ongoing help they won’t be able to cope. The manager and staff here have helped create a community and people feel safe.”
She wants to use her considerable work skills to set up a café as she likes cooking and has arranged to meet the Together Women Project after lockdown has ended to discuss how to take her ideas forward.
Like Clarkson, Burke fears for homeless people if this support is removed.
“This is the best thing I have ever done,” she said.
“I can get quite emotional about it and I have developed some great friendships. For some guests this experience will help greatly in the future but I worry about others who currently have support, including being able to discuss things that worry them.”
Kangley added: “The vast majority of homeless people who have stayed at the hotel have been very friendly, kept the place clean and also done many spare jobs such as gardening. I’d be happy to continue doing this for a while but that is up to the government and the council. Whatever happens I intend taking a keen interest in tackling homelessness in the future.”
Sheffield City Council did not respond to Big Issue North’s request for comment.
20-26 July 2020