Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Selby Town lose to Skegness 4-1 at home in an NCEL fixture on a chilly night


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 

I spent the first half with a Skegness director and former player 
and whose son now plays for them although he was missing for 
this game due to injury. It was a good performance by the away side (playing in orange) who were temporarily pegged back briefly at 3-1 but deservedly earned all 3 points. 

Rossington Main drew 0-0 with Emley Town in a NCEL fixture


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Monday, 21 September 2020

Sean McGovern - the plan to write a booklet on the disability rights activist

 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.

** : 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

 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. 

New Unite oral history leaflet - to be printed in due course


* 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.

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.

To be interviewed please email Andy Pearson, Unite NEY&H regional officer at 07718 666580 or Mark Metcalf 07392 852561 

Design of the Julia Valley blue plaque for Bradford City Centre




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. 

Pitch contact 

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.” 


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Swallownest 1 Ashton Town 0

 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’

 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.” 

Training ‘insufficient’ 

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. 

UK return 

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.