Monday, 1 August 2022

Remembering the Great Strike of 1842 By Daniel Whittall Tony Shaw Mark Metcalf Catherine Howe - TRIBUNE magazine

Remembering the Great Strike of 1842 By Daniel Whittall Tony Shaw Mark Metcalf Catherine Howe This summer marks 180 years since the general strike of 1842, when hundreds of thousands of workers walked out calling for higher pay, a shorter day, and democratic reform – demands that remain just as relevant today.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Few dental practices accept NHS patients


NHS faces ‘exodus’ of dentists

Long-term problems exacerbated by Covid

Mark Jones, a Unite workplace representative has helped kick start a national campaign for more funding for dental care. It comes after residents of a small rural Suffolk village lost their last remaining dental practice that provided dental treatments on the NHS.

The lack of access to dental care, which has been a concern for more than 15 years in some areas, has worsened during the pandemic, with dentists exiting the profession in large numbers, leaving it “hanging by a thread”, according to a British Dental Association (BDA) leader.

According to Healthwatch, the statutory body that represents patients, lack of access to NHS dentistry has “exploded as an issue for people over the last 18 months”. Patients needing urgent care are left in “excruciating pain” – with one reporting they had pulled out their own tooth – and many are forced to go private. Using NHS Digital data, last December Healthwatch said only 11 per cent of the more than 5,000 dental practices in England were accepting new adult NHS patients, and only 17 per cent took on new patients.

Regional inequality

The headline figure masked large regional and sub-regional variations. A quarter of North East and Yorkshire practices accepted adult patients. But in the North West and the South West, that figure dropped to 1 per cent.

Only 4 per cent of North West practices accepted children.

Healthwatch North Yorkshire found that of the 77 NHS practices in the area, only two would take on new adult patients for NHS treatment. Healthwatch Blackburn reported that all the 21 practices in its area on the NHS website were refusing to take on NHS patients for the foreseeable future. In May and June, Healthwatch York also found not a single practice taking on NHS patients.

 York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who prior to entering Parliament was the National Officer for Health at Unite, has long warned of an NHS crisis in her constituency. Referring to a pre-pandemic Healthwatch report, she said: “46 per cent of people in York could not find an NHS dentist and 45 per cent of those searching had been looking for more than two years. I can testify to this from the amount of correspondence I get on the matter.

“In talking to the BDA, around 30 per cent of dental nurses are unvaccinated so could leave the profession by the end of March, and many dentists are leaving NHS dentistry or the profession altogether.”

Heightened by pandemic

Although the crisis has been heightened by the pandemic – with dentists forced to drastically reduce the appointments they can offer because of the need for restrictive PPE and distancing measures – it stems from the 2006 introduction of a controversial new contract for dentists paying them for activity rather than patient numbers.

As far back as 2007  just 13 per cent of surgeries in the North West were taking on new patients – despite the new system being meant to create more places. And in Leeds, nearly a quarter of the city’s 138 dental practices had gone private.

The number of dentists providing NHS care in England fell from 23,733 at the end of 2020 to 21,544 at the end of January this year. A BBC article on the crisis, quoted one patient, forced to wait for treatment for over a year, who used a metal file and superglue to perform her own treatment.

That exodus is “just the tip of the iceberg”, according to the BDA, which warned that “NHS dentists who have never contemplated working outside the system are now looking to the exit”. Its December survey suggested over 40 per cent of dentists are now likely to change career or seek early retirement in the next 12 months.

Over half stated they are likely to reduce their NHS commitment. One in 10 thought their practice will close in the next 12 months. The government has imposed a target of resuming 85 per cent of pre-Covid activity but there was no increase in spending for dental care in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s package of extra NHS funding in his budget of October last year.

“Years of failed contracts and underfunding have meant a growing number of dentists no longer see the NHS as a place to build a career,” said Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee. “The pandemic has upped the ante and we are now facing down an exodus.

“Integral to healthy society”

“Ministers have failed to grasp that we can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. Rather than punishing colleagues, we need a service that recognises and rewards commitment. Millions stand to lose out if the government fails to deliver needed reform.”

Residents of Suffolk village Leiston lost on April 30th  last year its last remaining dental practice that provided dental treatments on the NHS.

The closure of the MyDentist practice sparked outrage around the town and surrounding villages, and the Toothless in Suffolk campaign was then launched by local resident Steve Marsling and his friend Mark Jones, who is a Unite workplace rep at UK Power Networks, to bring back an NHS dentist for Leiston.

Steve Marsling and the 'Toothess' campaign team have met with the Head of NHS Commissioning several times to press for immediate action in Leiston and provide access to NHS dentistry, but the results of these discussions have yet to bear any fruit. 

“It’s nothing short of a disgrace. A national disgrace.” says Steve, and added, “NHS commissioners are employed to ensure NHS treatments are provided where there’s a need, and yet they are seemingly incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities. 


"Their understanding of the severe consequences this dental crisis is having on the health of patients, both young and old, is limited.”

British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“Leiston offers a taste of where NHS dentistry is heading unless the government steps up.

“A whole community denied access to basic healthcare, with charities that normally operate in the developing world left to pick up the pieces.

“We will only see progress if Ministers turn the page on a decade of failed contracts and underfunding.”

Meanwhile, Toothless campaigns have started this year in Huntingdon, Newcastle and Manchester. People in other towns and cities have also made contact with the national campaign.

As the campaign spokesperson for Toothless England, Mark Jones, said: “We are demanding an NHS dentist for everyone and treatment free at the point of use, with free routine check-ups and preventive treatment. We want reforms to the dental contract to encourage dentists to provide NHS treatments and an end to NHS dentistry privatisation.

The public’s oral, general and mental health has continued to suffer in the face of a dental crisis brought about by successive years of government neglect and underfunding by the Treasury of a critical NHS service.”

Allison Fewtrell, a South Manchester resident, said: “The Toothless campaign is resonating with Greater Manchester communities, and people have contacted us with a variety of problems. Some can’t get an affordable dentist and have had no treatment for years. Others have suffered with problems that are preventable with regular dental care. People have endured chronic toothache and lost teeth.”

Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: “I regularly receive e-mails from constituents asking where they can find an NHS dentist for themselves or – quite often – their children. I cannot give them any options.

“I would like a return to free dental care and increased services, especially for children. Dentistry should be integral to ensuring a healthy society.”






Money will grow on trees for big companies who are buying up large amounts of land for carbon trading projects

 This article, to my disappointment, was not published in the Landworker 2022 summer edition.

The run down of rural economies that Landworker has continuously highlighted will proceed for the foreseeable future under the Tories. This is because Boris Johnson’s Government is facilitating the transfer of land that should be used for food production and sustainable environmental job creating projects to wealthy companies. Standard Life and Aviva are amongst those set to profit from carbon trading projects that are based almost exclusively on planting swathes of trees.

In the Winter edition of Landworker, Dr Charlie Clutterbuck raised concerns that the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) that was this year being introduced following Brexit to replace the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farm subsidies would prove unpopular with farmers.

DEFRA claims the SFI is based around incentivising sustainable farming practices, profitable food production, improving air and water quality, protecting wildlife and boosting soil health. Soil scientist Clutterbuck though has multiple doubts including how soil quality will be assessed, payment mechanisms and a lack of sufficient scientists and research facilities to provide farmers with advice.

There is also the fact that Johnson’s “100 per cent guaranteed” promise to farmers in 2016 that subsidies to farmers would be the same as they were paid under CAP has proved to be worthless as famers will lose half their former subsidies by 2025 and will also be forced to apply for funds under the SFI, when they can only access 1/10th of the previous subsidy. Many are not bothering, either carrying on with the old 'Countryside Stewardship' schemes, ploughing up more land to plant grain for which they are expecting high prices due to the Ukraine war, are considering taking up the government offer to pay them three years subsidies to leave farming altogether.

There is no mention of food production, in any of the new subsidies, and many farmers fear new trade deals will lead to increased competition against cheap food from elsewhere grown under lower standards. Furthermore, the government has put off - for the fourth time - any check on food imports from EU for health and safety standards. Rees-Mogg suggested this delay may be permanent. It is clear this government wants 'cheap food' from anywhere in the world, threatening rural livelihoods here.

Landowners are taking back land from their tenants. Defra's own figures report that land on Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) Agreements fell by 3% in England between 2019-20 - the first reduction since FBTs were introduced in 1995. Landowners are clearing the way for carbon offsetting.

Under the Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme, which was allocated £50m in 2019, land managers in England can apply for funds to plant more trees and create new woodland in return for guaranteed payments as those trees grow and lock up and store carbon from the atmosphere. Similar schemes exist in Wales and Scotland.

Successful participants are to be offered options to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over 35 years at a guaranteed unit price per tonne set by auction. Each unit can be used to report against UK-based emissions or to use in claims of carbon neutrality or Net Zero emissions. The UK is committed to hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

According to the Green Alliance, a charity and independent think tank with a track record of over 40 years, ‘carbon sequestration alone could be worth up to £1.7billion per year in UK, which is roughly half the total value of public support payments for agriculture.

Late last year it was reported that the Foresight Group had bought up a farm in Carmarthenshire's Cothi Valley and that multinational companies had already secured more than £1.3 million of Welsh Government funding to plant trees in Wales.

180,000 hectares of new woodland are needed in Wales by 2050, equivalent to 3,750 average-size family. “The Welsh Affairs Committee is rightly raising its concerns that the consequence of major companies investing in farming land to offset emissions will price Welsh farmers out of the market and lead to even less food being produced. According to Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West, “carbon offsetting is destroying Welsh farming communities,” said Clutterbuck.

Using land alone to remove the world’s carbon emissions to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 would require at least 1.6 billion hectares of new forests, equivalent to five times the size of India or more than all the farmland on the planet.

Scotland is now at the centre of a ‘Net Zero land grab’, with wealthy individuals - so-called Green Lairds - charities and large companies competing to profit from the commodification of climate change and the growth of a global carbon offsetting market to create its "lost forest". BrewDog bought Kinrara estate in Strathspey to create its “lost forest.” Aviva and Standard Life are engaged in similar offsetting venture.

“ Such ventures carry a veneer of environmental respectability. So too do the rewilding visions of the likes of Anders Povisen, the Danish retail tycoon and biggest private landowner in Scotland. But the Net Zero land grab is inflating the cost of estates and pricing out those local communities which were supposed to be at the heart of the Scottish government’s approach to land reform. Land prices rose 31% last year, “ explains Clutterbuck.

A report by Community Land Scotland (CLS) said the drive to plant carbon off-setting forests in the Highlands also risked widening inequalities in rural areas. If investors are making money from the climate change emergency, while communities are left behind, how does that tie into the idea of a ‘just transition’ to a net zero carbon economy?” asks Calum MacLeod, CLS policy director. 

The NFU Scotland has reported: “On a weekly, if not daily basis, members are contacting us from all parts of the country about the loss of productive Scottish agricultural land to wholesale forestry".

Clutterbuck points out: “One of the things that sets carbon sequestration aside from previous land grabs is its aura of respectability. When lairds were clearing estates for sheep, or industrialists were using them as a playground for their rich friends, there was no disguising the capitalist forces at play.”

But there is big money across the UK behind all this. There is a plethora of new companies setting up claiming they have the credentials to trust with carbon trading. Then there are those doing the buying and they are a bit harder to find, but include Shell, Unilever, Google & Microsoft. According to the Green Alliance those in the top 20 Woodland Carbon Code credit holders include project developers, forestry managers and charities (40%) air transport (1%), retail (1%) finance and insurance (17%) plus oil and gas (37%).

At the current time various organisations are telling farmers not to sell. The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) says "Not only is the value of the carbon stored in farmers’ soils and woodland likely to increase in coming years, signing up to selling it might unwittingly tie them into restrictive agreements.

As a soil scientist, Clutterbuck has been taking a keen interest in evidence gathered by researchers at the University of California and others that forestry may not be as effective a carbon sink as pasture, especially when properly grazed. It may well be that carbon is stored deeply within the soil and as temperatures rise globally this will be a more secure location compared to forests that are vulnerable to fires.

Clutterbuck is clear: “life cannot be reduced to a single element, carbon. The best way to address global warming is to invest to regenerate the land and rural economies here to allow for more food production. This will allow overseas communities to use their land to produce food they need for themselves and by reducing the amount of imported food then the UK will cut down on its own massive carbon footprint.”



How changing land use led to the Pendle Witches Deaths and how the land is changing rapidly today 

Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck is organising a special walk near Barley on 18 August at Barley Car Park BB12 9JY Meet at 11am - return to car park by 1.30pm at latest for refreshments at nearby cafe. 

Many thanks to Mark Harvey of ID8 photography for allowing me to use this and other photographs and all of which are copyright Mark Harvey and not to be reproduced elsewhere without his permission 

It involves exploring how changing land use played an important role in the deaths of the Pendle Witches four hundred years ago plus examining (see article on Carbon Counting elsewhere on this blog) how land use will alter dramatically over the next decade.

In Pendle, land remained ‘common’ at the end of the 16th century. This was not the case around large parts of nearby Burnley and many inhabitants were evicted after common lands was enclosed by Sir John Townley, head of a famous Catholic family. Instead of living on home produced meat, cheese and vegetables, families now relied on bread and potatoes. Dispossessed families flocked to Pendle Forest (which was not, in fact, woody as ‘forest’ then meant ‘a tract of land belonging to the sovereign and set apart for game.’)

However, the land there was – and still is – generally unproductive and impoverished arrivals were often forced to rely on begging and stealing.

James Device was one of those left landless and he took out his revenge by digging up turf at Carre Hall, which was only demolished in 1954, home to one of the Townley family.  Device was accused of being a witch. In a clear case of grooming his sister, Jennet, aged just 9, stated that James had muttered curses during his protest. Jennet Device subsequently gave evidence against her neighbours and family at the Pendle Witches trial.

Other possible sources of income around Pendle were to become a village healer who practised magic and dealt in herbs and medicines and the extent of witchcraft reported in Pendle at the time may reflect that many people were posing as witches.

The Witch Finder

In 1605, Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up parliament and Shakespeare had written Macbeth for King James I, who was particularly fearful of witches and who the King blamed for a bad return journey from Denmark. During the Pendle Witch Trials, connections to the ‘gunpowder plot’ were quoted.

With paranoia rife and royal, twelve people local to Pendle Forest were imprisoned after they were charged with using witchcraft in a number of incidents and arguments with other local people.

One of the accused  – Elizabeth Southern (‘Demdike’) – died in prison before the start of the trials and following which nine people – seven women and two men – Alizon Device, Anne Whittle, Alice Nutter, James Device, Elizabeth Device, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock and Anne Redferyne were convicted of witchcraft. They were  executed on 20 August 1612 at Gallows Hill on the Moors above Lancaster.

                                                The Pendle Witches by Peter Naylor 

They died in the traditional manner of executions; first being made to stand tied together on a cart, wait while a rope was fastened around their neck and then killed as the cart was moved away.

This legendary story features prominently in the Pendle Sculpture Trail outside Barley. It will be incorporated into the walk on the day along with a practical appraisal of how the current landscape is changing due to government plans to subsidise the planting of trees at the expense of food production.

Places will be limited on the walks with a maximum of 18. To find out more please contact either Charlie on 01254 828114 or Mark on 07392 852561



This walk is organised as a result of joint work over many years between Charlie and Mark for the Landworker magazine of Unite the union.




Worcestershire County Museum, Hartlebury Castle, Kidderminster

The Worcestershire County Museum (WCM) at Hartlebury Castle is looking to radically transform the experiences of visitors to its beautiful Gypsy Roma and Traveller (GRT) Vardo (the Romany word for a horse drawn gypsy caravan) collection.

The move follows the appointment as Vardo Project Officer of Georgie Stevens, part Romany herself, who by reaching out to the GRT community to record their distinctive lives intends to help WCM visitors and the general public at large to understand how these minority ethnic groups have contributed to British society – and rural communities particularly - for centuries.

Most of the 9 Vardos at Hartlebury were acquired in the 1960s for the transport section of the museum. Opened in 1950 the museum also hosts displays of costumes and toys and dolls.  The 1960s was a period when traditional living methods were in decline amongst GRT communities.

According to Stevens: “In older days all the wood on a vardo  was carved and the carvings express strong relationships with animals, especially horses, wildlife and birds. Sadly, as the skills died out it became too expensive to maintain the practice. Colours from natural backgrounds were important as the community wanted to blend in and be part of the local landscape and so used green, browns and rich reds.”

There are six different vardo forms. The Burton would be used for specific purpose such as carrying goods to sell at showgrounds or fairs. The Bow Top would house whole families and faced with such a small living space inside the waggon, then naturally as much time as possible was spent outside around the campfire. Cooking was done on an open fire.

Cleanliness was maintained according to strict rules and traditionally gypsies would only wash themselves in running water as a bath involves sitting in dirty water. No animals were allowed inside a waggon.

Sleeping was done inside and outside the waggon. Adults slept on the top bunk and small children in the lower bunk. Other family members would sleep under a cover on the cart, beneath the wagon on warm nights or in a bender tent constructed from willow or hazel with a tarpaulin over the top.

“According to my auntie, who is a district nurse, it was the coldness of sleeping outside across Herefordshire that contributed to her adopting a more traditional life when she grew up. My dad, who became an agricultural contractor, made the same decision, “explains Georgie.  

Her paternal grandparents bred horses, which have always been economically important in GRT life. Gypsies, whose roots trace back to Northern India over 1000 years ago and who arrived in Britain around 500 years ago, were important in breeding horses that were used to transport goods and materials during the early years of the industrial revolution.

The GRT community sought employment while on the move and thus earnt their living by various means - of which agricultural work was central. With its extensive orchards, hop fields and fruit farms, Herefordshire and Worcestershire were popular destinations to travel to.

 “The rural landscapes of both counties would look very differently today if the GRT communities had not harvested the fruit and cut down and processed the hops,” says Georgie.

Other occupations undertaken by GRT include door to door sales, the collecting of scrap and rags for recycling and metalwork; especially knife grinding, blade sharpening and the manufacturing of nails and pins.

According to Helen Large, Museums Audience Manager for Museums Worcestershire, the Vardo Collection is the equivalent to a National Collection and “we know a great deal about physical aspect of the caravans and some associated stories. But it got to a stage where we wanted to connect with all the communities that make up Worcestershire. We wanted to hear the words of the GRT community itself and were fortunate enough to begin work on this by getting funding from the John Ellerman Foundation to employ Georgie and despite COVID she has made brilliant progress since beginning work last year.”

Stevens sees the work as part of her identity and is “passionate about getting the GRT story recorded and explained to the many members of the public who are not educated about the history of GRT communities and their culture. “

Stevens has started to approach older members of GRT communities to interview them. Some are not too keen to get involved as they prefer for stories to be passed on orally and they also feel undervalued as a community.

“I need them to know that is not the case and convince people that they have a really interesting story that also dovetails with the histories of many other communities who have migrated to Britain from overseas or who have moved from different regions of the UK and Ireland to find work”, says Stevens. She is aware that programmes such as the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series reinforced certain prejudicial ideas about the GRT community.

Once the oral histories are collected then visitors – including school students - will be able to listen to them. Local schools have a relatively high intake of children from GRT backgrounds including some who may not currently want to express it. Stevens wants these children to be proud of their identity.

She wants to work with young members of the GRT community on art, music and drama projects and to build a vardo from scratch.

Stevens is also looking to redesign the vardo display area so that they are collected around a fire and intends to construct a bender tent which visitors can sit inside. There are longer term plans for incorporating interactive interactive technologies. A growing number of museums are using apps, QR codes and touch screens that allow for easy and direct transfer of information.

The museum’s work is even more relevant now as the Government has just passed legislation that - in light of the fact that there is a substantial shortage of approved sites - means Gypsies have very few places where they can legally stop.

Landworker readers should consider keeping up to date with developments as well as enjoying a visit to Hartlebury Castle Museum in the future.





UNITE shows an above inflation pay rise can be achieved *

For the second time in two decades, Unite has led a successful defence of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland. (NI) In doing so it has also proved possible to negotiate a 5% pay increase for thousands of agricultural workers.

Plans to scrap the AWB were announced last year to the Northern Ireland Assembly by Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots. They were immediately opposed by the union pointing out the need for a collective bargaining body to cover agricultural workers working in the private sector from being badly exploited.

The NI AWB secures workers’ pay under the national minimum wage; sets enforcement standards for piece rates; provides enhanced levels of sick and holiday pay; guarantees overtime pay at 1.5 times the standard rate and provides protection for section 75 groups by requiring public authorities to have due regard for the need to promote equality of opportunity.

Many of the 11,000 agricultural sector employees covered by the NI AWB are migrant workers with little other protection.

Unite’s campaign to retain the NIAWB won the backing of the entire trade union movement, the official rural community network of NI, rural councils and small farmer organisations such as Family Farmers for Action. Whilst the Ulster Farmers’ Union that represents larger farmers backed scrapping the AWB, the majority of respondents to the Department of Agriculture’s public consultation wished to retain the AWB, which will be 75 years old this year.

Poots required Assembly cross-party backing within the NI Executive to proceed with his plans and was struggling badly to achieve sufficient support. Then in February, Paul Givan, the first minister of NI, resigned as part of the Democratic Unionist Party’s opposition to the NI Protocol. This automatically meant Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, of Sinn Féin, lost her position.

Whilst other ministers remained in place to run their respective departments the move prevented the Northern Ireland Executive from functioning properly. A new assembly will be elected on 5 May. Poots is seeking re-election but on his last day in office it was confirmed by his department that ‘there was insufficient time and capacity for the AWB proposal to be progressed. The matter will therefore remain on hold, subject to consideration by an incoming executive and Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister.’ 

The decision to put ‘on hold’ plans to scrap the AWB was welcomed” by Unite’s Donal O’Cofaigh, who is also a Fermanagh and Omagh Council District Councillor for the Cross Community Labour Alternative Party. “The widespread support we gathered means it is certainly not a given that abolition will be adopted by the next Executive and it will meet greater opposition next time. Without Unite’s campaign the AWB would have been lost and it is the second time in two decades that the union has led a successful defence of the NIAWB.”

The AWB reprieve meant that pay negotiations were able to proceed this year.

The employers had begun by offering no increase at all but were forced “to concede an increase of 5% from 1 April,” states Joanne McWilliams, Unite regional officer with lead responsibility for AWB workers.

“We also raised demands for extended bereavement leave rights – which go way beyond what is available under Stormont law for other workers – but vitally important to migrant agricultural workers – and there is a meeting due when the employers will respond to that. If we secure this additional right it will confirm the AWB delivers results outside general legislation. These results show the continued relevance of the AWB.”

O’Cofaigh hopes that the Unite success in NI “will help re-invigorate the campaign of our comrades in England to re-establish the AWB there to the benefit of their agricultural workforce.”

Following the scrapping of the AWB by the 20101-15 Tory-Lib Democratic Coalition Government, agricultural workers in England are the only part of the UK not covered by a collective bargaining structure. Young workers in particular in England have lost out badly.



Northern Ireland AWB pay rates from 1 April 2022

Grade 1 - Minimum rate

Applicable for the first 40 weeks cumulative employment - £6.95 per hour

Grade 2 - Standard worker

£7.49 per hour

Grade 3 - Lead worker

£9.36 per hour

Grade 4 - Craft Grade

£10.06 per hour

Grade 5 - Supervisory Grade

£10.59 per hour

Grade 6 - Farm Management Grade

£11.50 per hour

Should the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage, as applicable, become higher than the hourly rates set out above then the hourly or other minimum rate will default to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage, whichever applies.

For more information contact the Unite Belfast office on 02890 232381

·         At the time of the negotiation, January 2022 inflation was below 5 per cent.

"Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay" - The 1926 Miners' Lock Out and General Strike

 This can be downloaded at:-

This can be downloaded at:-