Sunday, 24 May 2020

Pupils, with parents support, take strike action in 1930s to make things safer

Six dead and still nothing said: Halifax 1842 remains unmarked in the West Yorkshire town

I have made a short film on events in Halifax in 1842, 178 years on there is nothing publicly anywhere in the West Yorkshire town that honours those who were slaughtered by the military and special constables, who were cheered on by the local employers who are very much publicly honoured in the town with statues and plaques.

This needs to change.

Friday, 22 May 2020

A talk about Betty Tebbs

Bury-born Betty Tebbs, who died in January 2017, was a working class socialist, trade unionist, internationalist, equal rights champion, peace activist and class fighter for all of her 98 years. 

Unite has published a biography by Mark Metcalf (available as a free download via of Betty’s remarkable life, which drew on taped interviews, correspondence and other material by and about Betty held in the Working Class Movement Library.  

Mark spoke about what about Betty has most inspired him. The Working Class Movement Library would value your financial support at this difficult time - if you can help, please head to

Maxine Peake and Betty Tebbs 

Betty speaking at 1969 TUC Conference 

Betty's union

Betty became a peace activist for the rest of her life after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"The bombings were not aimed at ending the war, but in order to test nuclear weapons."

SCHOOL ACCOUNTS INVESTIGATION Unspent funding at Whitehaven school

Unspent funding at Whitehaven school 
Cumbria police pass probe to fraud squad 
A police investigation into alleged fraud at one of the worst run academies in the country remains ongoing. 
Founded by venture capitalist Michael Dwan, Bright Tribe Trust, a 16 school multi-academy trust, took over the running of Whitehaven Academy in 2014, only to withdraw four years later. 
In 2016, Julie Rayson, herself a former pupil at Whitehaven whose son was studying there, founded
the Whitehaven Academy Action Group (WAAG). Members were concerned about the quality of children’s education and why public funds totalling £321,774 had been obtained for building work, lighting and fire safety improvements that remained unfinished or had never started. 
Request dismissed 
Two-thirds of the Whitehaven site was closed in 2017, which is when Rayson first raised
her concerns with Cumbria Constabulary. Rayson had a year earlier asked to discuss parents’ worries with the Department for Education’s (DfE) Regional Schools Commissioner for Whitehaven Academy. But her request was dismissed “with a response that the DfE were in ongoing discussion with the trust”, said Rayson, who began taking her concerns to town council meetings and then won a seat on the council. 
In 2018 a Panorama programme alleged Bright Tribe Trust (BTT) had received hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants for improvement works at its schools that were never competed. Bright Tribe also received £1 million in 2015 to establish a “northern hub” of schools. Academies minister Lord Agnew revealed that the majority had been spent by the end of 2016 on hiring senior staff. 
Another BTT school, Manchester UTC, which closed in September 2017 three years after opening, left behind a £526,000 deficit that had to be paid off by the government. 
In 2018, BTT announced it was withdrawing from running schools, all of which have been transferred to new sponsors. 
BTT accounts for the year ended 31 August 2018, published in June 2019, show that £212,032 of the £321,774 grant for works at Whitehaven had been repaid. Some £1.5 million was put aside
for any potential claims for improper use of these grants from the DfE, which said it would not take any action to claw back any money until 27 December 2019. 
“Clearly the need to pay back over two-thirds of a £321,774 grant indicates it was handed out generously without robust checks to ensure it would be spent on genuine projects,” said Rayson. 
“Where was the £1.5 million from? Most academy trust funds are accumulated from DfE government funding anyway, so are the DfE actually paying themselves back?” 
Formal investigation 
Rayson also suggested £35,000 BTT reclaimed in VAT for paying a contractor for work not completed at Whitehaven should be investigated by HM Revenue and Customs. 
Cumbria Constabulary has passed on its investigation to the City of London fraud squad, whose spokesperson said that as it had begun a formal investigation it could not comment at this stage. The DfE was also unable to comment on the investigation but did state: “The £212,000 is a repayment of Conditional Improvement Funding, which is public money.” 
In November 2018 Rayson was a key witness at a Commons Public Accounts Committee inquiry into academy schools accounts  and performance. Its report said that Whitehaven was one of the worst run academies in the country and that academies needed to be more accountable about spending. 
Following BTT’s collapse, Whitehaven Academy was re-brokered to be run by the Cumbria Multi-Academy Education Trust. Rayson and other parents had wanted other options explored, including a return to local authority control. 
Rayson said she was pleased a police inquiry was underway and is encouraged by the school’s progress. 
“There’s been a turning point in the learning environment for the students, with some interim repairs to the current buildings also already completed. This can only lead to a better quality of education and ultimately improved exam results. 
“It might be too late for those children educated under the sponsorship of Bright Tribe but the future is looking positive.” 
Parents are also happy that the DfE has provided funds for a new-build school that should be opened by next year. 
BTT was placed under interim leadership in spring 2018 and is now in the process of liquidation. A BTT spokesperson told Big Issue North it could not comment on the police investigation into “historic matters” while the £1.5 million set aside to meet liabilities has yet to be reclaimed by the DfE. 
The spokesperson claimed that by working with the DfE “the interim leaders have done an outstanding job to ensure the BTT’s schools, including the Whitehaven Academy, were swiftly transferred to strong new academy trusts, providing children with a first-class education, and so that creditors were paid.” 

Monday, 18 May 2020

Letter to Halifax Courier regarding schools re-opening

Regarding schools reopening 

Mark Metcalf
A NUJ and Sports Journalists’ Association member 
07392 852561

Dear Halifax Courier,

As the trade union liaison officer for Halifax Constituency Labour Party I would like to express my solidarity for teachers in the public sector. They are, in a move not being imposed on private schools, being forced to return to work when it appears unsafe to do so as their is little evidence the pandemic is under control never mind defeated. 

Teachers are keen to do everything they can to support all of their students and those that can have been working through the crisis to support young people and their families, but there is a very real risk that prematurely opening schools risks allowing the virus to spread more rapidly amongst our communities. The five demands put forward by the NEU offer a framework for the safer re-opening of schools, but so far the government have not engaged meaningfully with these demands. 

In the event that any teachers decide to collectively not go into work I would support this initiative and would urge other trade unionists to do the same. 

Meanwhile, as a parent of a schoolchild I have spoken to other parents who are not convinced it is safe to reopen schools and in the event of a parents boycott being organised I would support this. 

Council wise, Liverpool and Hartlepool councils have both said they will not be reopening schools on 1 June and it would be good if this was also the case across Calderdale. 

Mark Metcalf 

Letter to British Newspaper Archive regarding Peter Manning's blog on his Crystal Palace book

Mark Metcalf 
NUJ and Sports Journalists’ Association member
07392 852561

Mark Metcalf is the world’s most published author of books on football clubs and players prior to World War I. 

Dear BNA, 

I am writing after I was recently alerted to a guest blog piece by Peter Manning from October 2018 on the BNA website.

I am particularly interested in the claim that:-

The overriding aim of the project and the book was to see if the newspaper archives could provide enough evidence to link the early Crystal Palace amateur football club of 1861 to today’s current professional club, making the current club the oldest professional football league club in the world.

I am sorry to say this but this, as I will show below, is frankly nonsense. I believe that Manning has set out to prove a point and he has failed to do so. Worse he has ignored evidence that he must seen that shows there is no link between the amateur football club of 1861-1875 and the professional club that was formed in 1905. 

I would therefore like to ask whether anyone at the BNA checks with authors of blog pieces as to their accuracy? Is there a process in place and if so can you send me a copy of it?

Can you send me the questions that the BNA asked Mr Manning about his work?

I ask this because I am deeply interested in the history of football and I am the most published author of books about clubs and players before WWI. 

History proven through newspaper archive  

I have also, in conjunction with many friends used the BNA for a very long time. One such occasion allowed myself and Robert Boyling, who worked until fairly recently at the British Library for many years, to confirm that Kenny Davenport was the scorer of the most important goal ever, namely the first ever League goal. 

This attracted significant publicity in 2013 and is now an acknowledged fact and has led to a plaque placed at the location where the footballer achieved his feat.

In recent years a book written by Clive Nicholson and myself and called FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE; the remarkable story of Fred Spiksley has attracted significant publicity eg see BBC article Spiksley scored 2 goals for his side, Sheffield Wednesday, at the 1896 FA Cup Final that was played at the Crystal Palace, an arena that no club called Crystal Palace Football Club played at from 1875/6 to 1905. 

About 6 weeks ago I heard that Crystal Palace FC were claiming they were the oldest League club in the world.

This was an issue that I am keenly interested in and, in fact, last year after Notts County, formed 1862, were relegated to the Conference, i was drawn into who was now the oldest as can be seen by this article

I had never heard of any previous claim by Crystal Palace and along with Clive Nicholson I started to take a look at the information on the club’s website and it referred to the work by Peter Manning. A little bit of digging by Clive at the BNA soon made clear that Manning’s claim was not standing up too well. A lot more digging has revealed it does not stand up to any serious scrutiny and that in some cases Manning appears to have ignored the most obvious articles disproving has claim and found obscure pieces that appear to confirm what he is saying.

Clive and myself thus put together a lengthy document on this. We have sent it to the football club and also forwarded a copy to Peter Manning. Copies have also been sent to the FA, various football clubs, media and TV. 

Following our press release (which is below)….,Some newspapers have already covered the issue - whilst others are now showing an interest.

We have asked Peter Manning and the CPFC owner Steve Parish to read our work, which is all based on primary sources materials from your own archives, and either disprove what we are saying or withdraw the claim. Neither has had the decency to even respond.

Our document is at and I think you will see it is very comprehensive. 

We would appreciate the opportunity to include it on the blog with the full right of reply to Peter Manning. In fact I would expect any author to be happy to engage in debate on their work if s/he feels that can stand it up to scrutiny. 

I have no wish to prevent anyone making available their work to the public but I contend that what has been written on the blog that you have published regarding Crystal Palace being the oldest league club is quite frankly nonsense. It does the BNA no good to allow yourselves to be the medium for unsubstantiated claims to be made. 

I am happy to speak to anyone at the BNA about this or to answer any questions you may have on the matter. 

Many thanks,

Mark Metcalf
A member of the NUJ and the Sports Journalists’ Association

Mark Metcalf & Clive Nicholson  @SpiksleyBook     07392 852561 

Co-authors of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE: The remarkable story of Fred Spiksley, who was

CPFC 1861 or 1905?
Why the Eagles oldest League club claim is becoming grounded.

Second Press release - 12 May 2020 

In early May we released an eighty-four page document packed with primary/contemporary source materials showing that the claim by Crystal Palace Football Club (CPFC) to be the oldest League club was an own goal by the South East London club. This document has been downloaded over a thousand times. 

Following its release a number of Palace fans challenged our work and we have responded by answering their questions and examining information that has been used to challenge what we have previously written. We have also received a considerable amount of information from football fans in general and, in particular, Palace that strengthens our original work. We have now made available a revised document at:-


CPFC, generally acknowledged to have been formed in September 1905, is claiming that their start date is 1861. This would make them the oldest League Club in the World.

This is quite a claim and being very interested in football history we sought to see if it was true. Our examination was very thorough and originally resulted in a 84 page document. 

We followed the qualification requirements as outlined by Martin Westby in his England’s Oldest Football Club’s 1815-1889: A New chronological classification of early football published last year. 

We revealed no CPFC side was affiliated to the FA from 1875, when an earlier club formed in 1861 went out of existence, to 1905. 

CPFC were the Corinthians in disguise 

We showed that CPFC played no League or Cup matches between 1875 and 1905 and how the 3 games in the mid 1890s under the banner of CPFC all contained 8-9 players from Corinthian FC. On one occasion in January 1896 when these Corinthian players decided to play elsewhere the planned CPFC v The Wednesday match became Swindon Town v The Wednesday. 

We showed that the local and national press, which covered - and still does - extensively all football developments reported that moves to set up a CPFC in the mid 1890s always reported that this would be a new club. Claims by CPFC today that the failure at this time was due to the proposed club being barred from playing on the cricket pitch at The Crystal Palace were exposed as wrong. 

One mention in 115 years of a link? 

We showed that all articles in the year leading up to and including September 1905 specifically mention this was a new club. We showed how the 1905 claim of lineage back to 1861 comes up just once in a club handbook in 1906, subsequently being left hidden thereafter till well over a century later. 

We also show how the basis of many of CPFC’s claims largely consisted of linking facts elsewhere, such as the claim that as other professional clubs were set up out of cricket clubs then so were Palace. 

We sent all of this information to the FA, EFL, Nottingham Forest, the current oldest League club as they were formed in 1865, Notts County, now of the conference, formed 1862, plus Stoke City FC, who maintain an interest in the subject. We also sent it a number of media outlets and articles have subsequently been published on this in the Stoke Sentinel

We have also spoken to a number of journalists who are watching with interest any developments.

We have also sent the work to CPFC and made Steve Parish and @FYPFanzine aware of the work via twitter and we asking for their response.

New information sent to us over the last week shows that:-

1. The official CPFC supporters’ magazine from October 1947 states “to prevent misunderstanding, it should be pointed out that the Crystal Palace Club in existence before 1905 was a purely amateur concern and had no connection with the present club.”
2. Sydney Bourne was the first chairman of the current club. We have his original voice speaking to us from over a century ago. In his June 1906 letter to the Croydon Guardian he invites more investors to come forward saying, “we ask for the support of your readers, as shareholders, to help us with funds to pay the summer wages and to guide this the youngest of first class London clubs

3. The Crystal Palace Company did not own or run the 1861 CPFC. 

4.  The Crystal Palace Cricket Club did not merge with London County Cricket Club. It was, just like the 1861 football club, an independent sports club.

5.  Crystal Palace Rovers played a single match in 1883 and had a connection to the original CPFC. The 1895-97 team was a Corinthian side that played three exhibition matches, they were CPFC in name only and have no connection to either CPFC 1861 or 1905.

We feel sure that many CPFC fans would like to know more about the 1861-1875 club whilst understanding that it has its own independent history separate from that of the current club. 

We are asking CPFC to:

  1. Examine in detail the evidence we have provided 
  2. Consult their official historian, Ian King, about his reaction to our findings
  3. Withdraw the claim to be considered the World’s Oldest League Club, or engage an independent sports historian to review our findings and report back to Mr Parish
  4. Open a dialogue with us about how the club intend to proceed.

We have specifically asked the CPFC press officer to make sure that Steve Parish is forwarded and made aware that the document has been shared with the FA and is publicly available, with over 1,300 people having read it so far.

Everyone that is working with us on this would like to reiterate that our only interest is the integrity of the history of football and determining the correct historical narrative.

Kind Regards 
Mark Metcalf & Clive Nicholson 

Co-authors of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE: The remarkable story of Fred Spiksley and which is the base for a Rough Jersey documentary on the early history of professional football 

Mark Metcalf is a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association and is acknowledged as the man who co-found that Kenny Davenport was the scorer of the first League goal in 1888. Mark works on a freelance basic for the PFA in mounting plaques to former greats to such as Frank Swift. Mark has had published more books about football clubs and players before WWI than anyone else. 

For more details, interviews and comments please ring Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561 

We welcome views on this work and they can be sent to

Friday, 8 May 2020

Council housing: how those who fought in WWII such as Bill May, now aged 93, were later housed

Originally published by Big Issue North magazine just prior to the December 2019 general election 

Legislation paving the way for mass council house building was passed exactly one hundred years ago. Mark Metcalf, who grew up in a council house, looks back at the way they improved quality of life for millions – and asks whether the main parties would revive such large construction programmes after the general election 

“It was really wonderful in 1951 to get a well looked after council home that we could turn into a comfortable place to raise a family,” says Bill May, aged 93. 
The Teessider had joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and saw action on the battleship HMS Nelson, the flagship in the British Far Eastern Fleet. 
After leaving the navy in 1951, Bill and his wife Marjorie privately rented a wooden bungalow. But they, like millions, wanted somewhere better. 
“We went to Hambleton Council offices and put our name on the housing list. Within weeks we received news that one of the houses newly built by the council was ours. We collected the keys and moved in. It had three bedrooms, a sitting room, radiators throughout, a kitchen and a garden. We were elated and felt very positive about the future as we now had a permanent place to call home,” says a smiling Bill, who remained a council tenant with Marjorie until 1986 when they bought a Harrogate flat. 
Record numbers of council homes were built in the first half of the 1950s. The Conservative Party was in government but all parties were committed to a mass public housing building programme where, to quote Nye Bevan, the Labour minister of housing and health after the war, “the working man, the doctor and the clergyman will live in close proximity to one another”. 
It was amidst the carnage of the first World War and the 1917 Russian revolution, which appeared to put the working class in control, that all politicians were forced to guarantee that once the conflict ended there would be major social improvements. Liberal prime minister Lloyd George promised that returning soldiers would have “homes fit for heroes”. Instead of overcrowded, insanitary accommodation there would be good quality homes that would form the cornerstone of a higher living standard for all. Meanwhile, changes to election law gave the vote to all men aged over 21 and women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications. Voters wanted radical change. 
The newly elected Conservative government introduced the Addison Act in 1919, paving the way for large-scale council house building. Under it, 213,000 of the originally promised half a million new homes were built. Dr Christoper Addison, like Bevan, held the joint role of housing and health minister as it was believed poor housing was largely responsible for poor health. 
The 1924 Wheatley Act, under the first Labour government, was aimed at building more houses with indoor toilets, electricity and gardens. Thanks to subsidies from central government between the two wars local authorities built 1.1 million council homes, an average of 50,000 annually. 
These figures were dwarfed after 1945, with an average of 110,000 new council houses constructed annually in the five years up to 1950. Almost double that yearly figure were built over the next
five years, when soon after that my just married parents moved into a council house in Peterlee, one of a series of new towns with mixed housing that were specially built after the war. My father would regularly tell me how proud he was to collect the keys as it involved him and my mother both being able to move out of Easington Colliery, where many houses were in a poor state due to heavy pollution from the local mine.
My parents and other council tenants of their era generally had any repairs to their home carried out by their landlord. Having grown up with his five siblings in council housing on the Royds Hall estate in Huddersfield, mason bricklayer Terry Cunliffe later worked for the Huddersfield Corporation Direct Labour Organisation. 
All property services and repairs were done in house rather than by private contractors. “I knew from my own experiences of council housing, without which I doubt my mother as a single person could have kept all six of us together, how important they were to working- class people,” says Cunliffe. “Direct Labour Organisation workers wanted to provide good, affordable homes. As trade unionists we managed to negotiate good bonus schemes in the voids [empty homes] section. We worked quickly to refurbish rundown houses as the council then obtained rents from tenants who were usually very pleased to move in and leave behind poor private housing. Some tenants had inside toilets, central heating and shower facilities for the first time. Everyone – tenants, the council and Direct Labour Organisation workers – won out.” 
Like many people my parents remained council tenants until, also like millions of others they purchased their council property under Right to Buy. 
Right to Buy is best known as Margaret’s Thatcher invention. In fact it was Edward Heath’s government (1970-74) that first introduced the policy. Thatcher was though astute enough to expand it under the Housing Act 1980. It could be argued that on its own terms it is the most successful policy introduced by a government, as it undoubtedly changed the attitudes of many working class
voters who would never have previously considered voting Conservative. Discounts were paid from the public purse. 
Lifelong Labour voter Allyson Daykin worked for 40 years until 2008 at KP Foods in Rotherham, where she was active in the TGWU trade union. “I recall when Right to Buy was promoted by Thatcher. Once one worker had bought their council house then everyone wanted to follow suit. You’d have people advising each other. Break times would be dominated by conversations of how much discount people were getting. People would be full of their own self- importance because they now owned some property.” 
Daykin pointed out to the union members she represented that there would be long-term problems ahead.“I understood that the numbers of newly built council properties was being dramatically reduced and ultimately younger people in the future would struggle to find places to live. I had no impact.”
By the time Thatcher left office at the end of 1990 her government had sold off 1.5 million council houses. With both major parties now committed to Right to Buy sales have continued ever since. Meanwhile the numbers being built continued to tail off until they dropped to just 360 in 2009. In 2016 just 2,000 council homes were built. 
Daykin’s concerns have proven correct. Today we have a serious housing crisis. Homelessness is at record levels and house prices are unaffordable for many. Cunliffe’s two children are both decently paid professional workers but neither can afford to buy a house. Private-sector rents are increasing and tenants have no security.
Sheffield housing campaigner Carrie Hedderwick has seen the impact of council house sales on local communities. She worked for Sheffield City Council as an enforcement officer between 2002 and 2014. 
“Many private properties needed essential repairs,” she says. “Landlords generally acted when placed under legal pressures. Tenants would plead with us to say their accommodation was unfit for human habitation as this would get them placed on the council housing waiting list. 
“I have lived in Sheffield’s East End for 35 years and with many people forced into renting privately then they don’t feel part of the community as they might be evicted at any time. No one knows each other and communities are shattered by the whole housing policy framework.” 
Hedderwick was delighted when Sheffield City Council retook control of its 42,000-unit housing stock in March 2013. The council had previously transferred its properties into an arms length management organisation in 2004. 
“The problem is that funds for repairs and to build new homes needs massively increasing by the government,” says Hedderwick. 
Recently George Clarke, an ambassador for Shelter, who was brought up on a council estate in Washington new town in Wearside, produced the documentary 
The Council House Scandal. The architect and TV presenter backed housing campaigners’ demand for 100,000 new council houses a year. Just two million homes remain under council control. Over a million people are on social housing waiting lists. 
The current government appears unlikely to back such demands as between 2012 and 2018 it spent
£3.5 billion of public money facilitating under Right to Buy the sale of 60,000 homes, at discounts averaging 43 per cent per property, which equates to £61,180 each. The Conservatives have also piloted schemes to allow housing associations to sell off their properties under Right to Buy, to which they remain committed, according to their manifesto. Despite ministers’ promises that all the homes sold will be replaced, just one new property is being built for every five sold off. 
Delegates at Labour’s annual conference passed a resolution calling for 155,000 homes for social rent to be built annually under a Labour government. In the end, its manifesto promises £75 billion will be earmarked over five years to build 100,000 council houses a year, and 50,000 social homes from housing associations. But there would undoubtedly be practical problems in implementing such policies as very few councils currently have the expertise to organise large house building programmes. 
Labour’s manifesto also promises an end to Right to Buy, but it does not commit to giving councils the ability to take over housing associations – which was a motion passed at its conference. 
The Lib Dems have promised to build 100,000 homes for social rent, while the Conservatives have repeated a previous pledge to publish a social housing white paper. But it will not use public money to build houses, believing instead in stimulus for the private sector. 
But Cunliffe, Daykin, Hedderwick and May remain united in wanting to see the end of Right to Buy and start a massive council house building programme. “The divide between people across society is growing worryingly large,” says May. “We must address a situation where many people are unable to afford decent housing. Council housing provided for my generation the bedrock of a good upbringing and it can do so again in the future.”