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So many people have contributed to and supported the campaign against the Trade Union Bill.  The great news is that we had a big result in the House of Commons last night, with confirmation of further government climbdowns to add to wins over the last 10 months.

Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary said today:

"Last night, minister Nick Boles announced to the House that the government would:

  • ABANDON plans to ban union subscriptions via payroll (check-off), provided the union pays payment processing costs (as many already do).
  • CONCEDE safeguards against politicisation of the union regulator (Certification Officer) and reduce its costs to unions.
  • WATER DOWN plans to restrict union political funds. Changes will no longer apply to existing members, and costs and effort will be much reduced.
  • AGREE TO a review of online methods for strike ballots. This would help increase turnouts.
  • ADD SAFEGUARDS to a new power to cap union facility time. This could happen now only after at least 3 years research and negotiation.

This adds to concessions already made to:

  • DROP extreme measures to restrict protest, pickets and social media campaigns.
  • ABANDON plans to make everyone on a picket show personal data to the police, employers or anyone who asks for it.
  • SCALE BACK the double threshold for strike ballots in “important public services”, to avoid capturing hundreds of thousands of ancillary workers.

Make no mistake, there are still some very harmful proposals that could become law, but the bill that passed the Commons today was hugely reduced from what the government originally proposed –  an amazing turnabout for a flagship bill at the start of a new parliament.

Next step is to see if the Lords will insist on points the government refused last night. And then there will be arguments to come on the mass of secondary regulations and codes of practice still to be published.

But today is a day to be proud. None of these positive changes would have happened without trade unionists and supporters uniting to mount a huge campaign. You and tens of thousands of others marched, emailed, signed petitions, held local events, joined consultations, told personal stories in a billboard campaign, and took part in the biggest ever mass lobby of MPs.

There’s more to do, but trade unionists and campaigners everywhere can feel justly proud today in what we’ve achieved so far. "

In solidarity,
Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary

For further information, read France O'Grady's blog here.

Big result for Labour last night in House of Commons

So many people have contributed to and supported the campaign against the Trade Union Bill.  The great news is that we had a big result in the House of Commons...

 

Blog post from Cllr Jenny Matterface, Leader of the Thanet Labour Group of Councillors at Thanet District Council.

 

"We have had tramps, gentlemen of the road, hoboes, vagrants for centuries and legislation to deal with them from Elizabethan times but today's rough sleepers face issues no less draconian at times.

 

We have such a severe shortage of accommodation whether social or private that if you, and it could be any one of us, fall between the tracks you could end up on the streets sleeping in shop doorways to the tut-tutting of the well-heeled passing by.  Maybe you find a quiet spot on a beach or in a shelter until you get moved on. Possibly you try to sleep in your car with doors and windows securely locked.

 

You may be offered bed and breakfast in one of our local hotels or guest houses that possibly has seen better days or may even still be open to paying guests. Oh, forget the breakfast. These days it's a bed, maybe, or a mattress on the floor if you are a child in an unheated, damp room without any drinking water, cooking facilities or clothes-washing arrangements. You may have a kettle if you are lucky, so at least you can make a hot drink or 'enjoy' a Pot Noodle for your dinner. You might even share your room with some unwanted guests of the insect kind.

 

Thanet District Council arranges to pay for your accommodation at a daily rate that may be higher than if you were paying for your own accommodation, a good deal for the hotel/guest house owner but unfortunately it is only for a limited period of 28 to 36 days after which you have to hope something will turn up otherwise the future looks even bleaker.

 

You may be able to move away nearer family or friends as many areas up north have spare capacity in their housing stock.  TDC might even offer you your fare to the north it what if you do have a job but no home. Do you give up that and hope for the best when you move or stay put here?

 

You may struggle with private-rented accommodation due to letting fees, deposit and high monthly rents. Housing benefit is capped but private rents aren't so there will be a gulf between what you can afford and what you pay. As a result a vicious circle of rent arrears, eviction, homelessness, letting fees etc soon forms made worse by low pay locally even with the national living wage, part-time work or zero hours contracts.

 

So, who are the rough sleepers we see on our streets or some may prefer to ignore? Many come from abusive homes and may have never formed secure relationships. Some have been in care and never knew a 'normal family life'.  Others became addicts. Some may have mental health issues coupled with a shortage of beds in mental health units. Ex-servicemen and women find it hard to adjust to ‘civvy street’ without the daily structure of the forces.

 

Maybe the rough sleeper suffered a marital breakdown or lost a job and fell into debt with the home being repossessed.

 

Every rough sleeper has a different tale to tell but all face lonely, cold nights on the streets or in substandard temporary accommodation.

 

There are no easy answers to the situation but it has been made worse by the lack of social housing and now housing associations can sell off what properties they consider surplus or too costly to bring up to standard. In my own ward, one-bedroomed flats have been vacated by tenants who moved to alternative accommodation enabling the housing association to sell off the void properties on the open market. It seems if the rent is higher at the alternative offered the extra rent is down to the tenant and, hopefully for housing benefit claimants, the top-ups cover the extra cost.

 

What can we as Labour members do? Support organisations that do work with the rough sleepers like GAP, Turning Point or Porchlight. GAP Community Centre welcomes donations of clothing items like boxer shorts, gloves, socks plus food items like ring-pull cans of meat, hot dogs, rice pudding etc.for their pantry. Donate to the food bank collection points in our supermarkets. Offer a home to a former looked-after child leaving care, perhaps.

 

Campaign for: more social housing, more inward investment in sustainable employment, for rent caps in the private-sector, stop cuts to welfare, offer to help charities that support rough sleepers like Crisis at Christmas.

 

I asked at the recent full council meeting how much it cost the taxpayer to support rough sleepers and the homeless in temporary accommodation and the answer was that for the last eleven months £302,000 was paid out and, although some £261,000 was covered by housing benefit, this is all taxpayers' money going to private landlords running hotels and guest houses. I asked when these had last been inspected and the answer was that full inspections hadn't been carried out since 2013 so that was being remedied as soon as possible.

 No-one chooses the lifestyle of the rough sleeper and we need to do what we can to help this worsening situation."

If you are interested in supporting any of the charities/organisations helping the homeless and rough sleepers in Thanet, the links below are a good starting point:

Porchlight

The GAP Project

Turning Point

Thanet Families In Need

For advice/guidance on housing and homeless issues at Thanet District Council, click here.

 

Thanet's Homeless and Rough Sleepers - Cllr Jenny Matterface

  Blog post from Cllr Jenny Matterface, Leader of the Thanet Labour Group of Councillors at Thanet District Council.   "We have had tramps, gentlemen of the road, hoboes, vagrants...


Whilst the Labour Group appreciate that Cllr Collins and Cllr Smith are innocent until proven guilty, the fact that the serious allegations of criminality brought against them have been concealed from the elected members at TDC gives us great cause for concern. We believe that had this information been known to TDC members then the extension of absence, on ill health grounds, given to the two at the full council meeting on the 31st March would not have happened.

The Labour Group now supports the call for their resignation with immediate effect.

Labour Group Statement on Cllrs Collins and Smith

Whilst the Labour Group appreciate that Cllr Collins and Cllr Smith are innocent until proven guilty, the fact that the serious allegations of criminality brought against them have been concealed...

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