Is everything in the garden rosy?

Reposted from Mirror on line

At his door: David Cameron’s own gardeners at 10 Downing Street are going on strike

Strikes have reached David Cameron’s doorstep as the Number 10 gardeners go on their first walkout in 37 years.

Downing Street staff will walk out for 12 hours over a pay wrangle – and complain some of them aren’t being paid the £9.15-an-hour London living wage.

The famous garden’s maintenance contract was handed over to a private firm a year ago, and groundsmen are now angry at the company’s pay plans.

It follows a planned bank holiday strike by Network Rail staff which has now reached the High Court.

And it comes shortly before the government pushes through a new crackdown on unions by making it harder to take industrial action.

Rosy: The garden is where David Cameron and Nick Clegg revealed their Coalition plans

All the staff are GMB union members employed by the Royal Parks, who maintain Hyde Park, St James’s Park and Green Park in central London.

That means their strike will also affect the Queen, hitting the three parks around Buckingham Palace a day before she leads the State Opening of Parliament.

Royal Parks staff are also responsible for Kensington Gardens, next to William and Kate’s official residence, and the Prime Minister’s garden at 10 Downing Street.

In the first Royal Parks strike since 1978, they’ll be protesting outside their workplaces including the PM’s residence from 6am to 6pm on Tuesday – and want him to back them.

Regional organiser Gary Carter told Mirror Online: “I hope the Prime Minister now he’s supporting ‘working people’ will support the strike. But that may be too much to ask.”

Crackdown: Business secretary Sajid Javid is introducing strict new curbs on strikes

The row centres around the employer, Outsourced Client Solutions, moving from weekly to monthly pay.

The union says OCS is paying two week’s pay as a ‘loan’ which will be ‘recovered’ over 12 months.

A spokesman said: “This will put staff into debt and wipe out any pay award. The two weeks’ pay will only be paid when staff leave.”

The GMB claims OCS won its contract a year ago by offering to run the parks for less money than competitors and is now trying to ‘claw it back’.

Mr Carter said: “The taxpayer will foot the bill if they try and get money out of the Royal Parks. It’ll be the same if our members are claiming extra tax credits.

Wider impact: The gardens around Kensington Palace (pictured) will be hit

“New starters are getting £35 less a week than current staff. Some people are being paid less than the London living wage. They’re earning about £7 an hour.”

An OCS spokesman told Mirror Online: “Over the last three months, OCS has consulted with staff and representatives of our recognised trades unions on a change to monthly pay for our staff working at The Royal Parks in London.

“This change is part of a UK payroll consolidation project moving all employees to monthly pay, which we are making for reasons of efficiency and in order to reduce the errors that result from a large volume of varying payroll runs.

“In response to staff concerns, we have staggered the changeover period in order to minimise the impact on our staff.

Queen’s front yard: St James’ Park won’t be maintained a day before the Queen’s Speech

“We are also offering an interest free bridging loan to cover the two-week gap between the last weekly pay date and the first monthly payment.

“In response to staff requests, the repayment period for this loan has been extended from three to twelve months.

“OCS is not withholding any pay from any member of staff and there is no question of anyone suffering a loss of earnings.

“OCS is disappointed that the GMB has initiated a dispute on this occasion and we are working actively to resolve this matter via ACAS.”

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Rainsbrook G4S youth prison slammed by Ofsted report as children suffer ‘racist’, ‘degrading’ abuse from guards high on drugs

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; privatisation of services used by the ill, elderly, vulnerable and disabled should NEVER be happen. It seems the tory tossers don’t give a monkeys left one about private firms profiting from peoples misery.

“These child jails run for profit are secretive and should never have been set up in the first place. Rainsbrook should be closed immediately. No child is safe in this jail.”

Reposted from the Independent on line

Children held at a prison run by the outsourcing giant G4S were subjected to “degrading treatment” and “racist comments” at the hands of staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs, a damning report by the education watchdog has revealed.

Ofsted inspectors who visited Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire earlier this year said staff had behaved “extremely inappropriately” towards the young people in their care, causing them “distress and humiliation”.

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described the inspectors’ conclusions as “the worst report on a prison I have ever seen”. Six members of staff at the jail were sacked in the wake of the incidents.

The report said that doctors’ advice was often overruled by senior managers, meaning that one young inmate who suffered a fracture – potentially as a result of being restrained by guards – did not receive medical treatment for 15 hours.

The centre, which is managed by the private firm G4S, is designed to house up to 87 male and female young people aged between 12 and 18 who have been given a custodial sentence or are on remand.

Ofsted said the full details of a number of incidents – some of which involved staff in leadership roles – were so serious that they were being withheld to protect the children’s confidentiality. Its report gave Rainsbrook the lowest possible rating of “inadequate”.

G4S said the incidents had taken place well before inspectors visited and that a new management team had since been put in place. Rainsbrook is currently being investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

Ms Crook said: “This is the worst report on a prison I have ever seen because it is a catalogue of abusive practices that have been inflicted on young children who have no escape.

“I visited Rainsbrook some years ago and found it to be claustrophobic and obsessed with security, a recipe for exactly the disaster now happening. These child jails run for profit are secretive and should never have been set up in the first place. Rainsbrook should be closed immediately. No child is safe in this jail.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the worst report on a prison I have ever seen because it is a catalogue of abusive practices that have been inflicted on young children who have no escape. (Getty)

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the worst report on a prison I have ever seen because it is a catalogue of abusive practices that have been inflicted on young children who have no escape. 
The Ofsted report added that after some of the incidents there had been “unacceptable and inexplicable” delays in removing staff from their roles caring for young people. In some cases the outcome of internal investigations had been “too lenient”, inspectors said.

In the space of six months, children held at the centre were restrained 166 times, the report said, with 72 of these in response to an inmate self-harming. A stash of contraband DVDs discovered at Rainsbrook was likely to be the result of smuggling by staff, the report added, raised concerns that some may have “colluded” with young inmates to “elicit [their] compliance by wholly inappropriate means”.

The Ministry of Justice said the report raised “issues of serious concern”. A spokesperson added: “The safety and welfare of young people in custody is vital. Urgent action will be taken to tackle the unacceptable failures raised in this report.”

Lin Hinnigan, chief executive of the Youth Justice Board (YJB), added: “Earlier this year, Ofsted informed the YJB of serious concerns in performance at Rainsbrook STC. As the safety and wellbeing of young people in custody is of paramount importance, and the YJB sets high standards to ensure it is maintained, we immediately required G4S to address the issues swiftly and effectively.


“Rainsbrook has new leadership in place and an action plan to improve recruitment and training is being implemented. We are confident that Rainsbrook will return to the high levels of performance and care it previously delivered.”

G4S’s director of children’s services, Paul Cook, said the report was “extremely disappointing report for everyone connected with Rainsbrook”. He added that many of the issues raised by Ofsted had already been dealt with by the time that its inspectors visited, so the watchdog’s report should be considered more of a “retrospective review”.

“We recognise that the incidents highlighted by inspectors were completely unacceptable and took swift action at the time, in discussion with the YJB,” he said. “[It] has expressed confidence in our action plan to address all the concerns raised and I am keen for inspectors to revisit the centre at their earliest opportunity to check on our progress.”

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Tax doesn’t have to be taxing.

Reposted from Mirror on line

It takes 3 to 4 years to train an Inspector of Taxes and a further 18 months to 2 years to consolidate that training. In the meantime, medium to large businesses can afford to hire accountants and lawyers to exploit loopholes in the taxes act. 

As there are fewer staff at HMRC they cannot call to business premises to audit accounts and records as they once did, so some companies will simply take a chance at breaching their statutory obligations on the grounds that the tax inspector is unlikely to call.

Axe: HMRC could face huge job cuts – but George Osborne wants staff to tackle tax avoidance

Tory cuts could axe more than a fifth of staff at the department in charge of chasing tax dodgers, a union has warned.

It’s claimed HM Revenue and Customs will lose out as new waves of cuts spread across Whitehall, ditching up to 100,000 jobs.

That’s despite HMRC being in charge of a new tax avoidance crackdown that George Osborne claims will net Britain £5bn.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, says HMRC will suffer because other departments like education, health and foreign aid are better-protected.

And it won’t be able to track down tax dodgers without investing in expensive experts, he warned.

He told Mirror Online: “Tax avoidance is just one part of HMRC but it’s a critical one.

Union boss Dave Penman: ‘They’re not going to get the £5bn unless they invest more money’

“HMRC has already delivered the tax avoidance targets it was set in the last Parliament and that’s because it invested in key people on the tax avoidance side.

“You are going after big accountancy firms – we’re talking about £250,000-a-year tax lawyers – so it’s critical you have well-trained people.

“It’s about paying for experienced top tax professionals and they’re not going to get the £5bn unless they invest more money.

“HMRC staff have absolutely made the case that if you invest in tax professionals you will get a return of 10 or 20 times what you spend.

“Whether the Chancellor remains convinced is what has to be answered.”

Getting the money back: Britain loses billions every year to tax avoiders

Mr Penman’s union represents more than 18,000 senior government and NHS managers.

He claims HMRC will lose between 10,000 and 15,000 of its 64,000 staff.

He also claims the Department for Work and Pensions will lose between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs.

The numbers are based on the union’s analysis of figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility, which said only 40% of Whitehall cuts between 2010 and 2020 have been made so far.

“It’s not difficult to get a ballpark figure,” he said. “HMRC has already lost 12,000 staff over the last Parliament.”

The government has refused to confirm the figures and dismisses them as ‘speculation’.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The minister will set out his priorities for this parliament in due course.

“Anything else at this stage, one week into his tenure, is purely speculation but all is working well so far and we have a strong, cohesive centre.”

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There’s a storm brewing …

Reposted from the Guardian on line

Steve White told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.”
Steve White told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.” Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Police will be forced to adopt a “paramilitary” style of enforcement if the government inflicts big budget cuts on them, the head of the police officers’ organisation has warned.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation, said his 123,000 members, from police constables to inspectors, fear a move towards a more violent style of policing as they try to keep law and order with even fewer officers than now.

White told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.”

White said cuts would see the bedrock principle of British law enforcement, policing by consent, ripped apart.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation. Photograph: Police Federation/PA

The week ahead sees the federation stage its annual conference, which starts on Tuesday 19 May. The key day will be Wednesday when the home secretary, Theresa May, will address rank-and-file officers.

Last year May stunned delegates with a speech telling them to reform or be taken over by government, and telling them policing was failing too often.

Police leaders have a fine line to walk in opposing cuts. Rank-and-file members are furious at the effects of austerity on their terms and conditions, as well as falling officer numbers nationally. But May and her advisers believe some members of the police force use over-the-top rhetoric in predictions that cuts would lead to chaos on the streets, and instead believe they should squeeze maximum value out of the public money given.

White said police had already endured five years of austerity and were braced for more “swingeing cuts” after the election of a Conservative government with a majority.

White said that since 2010, when the Conservative-led coalition started slashing its funding to police by 20%, the service had been cut by 17,000 officers and 17,000 civilian staff, but had managed to limit the effect on the public.

He said the service was now “on its knees”, with some internal projections within policing of a further 20% to 25% of cuts by the end of the next parliament in 2020. This would lead to more than 15,000 officers disappearing off the streets, only being seen when responding to crime or serious events such as disorder on the streets.

White said: “You are left with a police service who you only speak to in the direst of circumstances, a police service almost paramilitary in style.”

“You police by consent by having a relationship with local communities.

“If you don’t have a relationship, because the officers have been cut, you will lose the consent which means the face and style of policing changes.

“The whole service, from top to bottom, is deeply concerned about the ability to provide the service that the public have come to expect over the next five years.”

After the Conservative election win, May was reappointed to the Home Office. The party’s manifesto promised further reforms to police. There is no sign theConservatives, emboldened by an electoral mandate, will reduce the size of cuts in government funding the police face.

White said: “The concept of the British bobby at the heart of policing will be coming to an end.”

He said crucial parts of policing which help prevent crime are under threat, including prevention, reassurance patrols and neighbourhood policing.

“The police officers we represent are telling is, day in and day out, that they are close to being on their knees,”the Federation chair said.

The burgeoning stress on officers has led to increased mental health problems, increased sick leave and plunging morale, he claimed.

White said policing needed longer-term planning, and less political turmoil, about how it is structured and what it continues to do and what it stops doing. He said political parties were too short term and big reforms could save money and limit the damage to policing. White said: “I’m saying give us more money or let us radically reform.”

Some chiefs have talked privately about cuts so large their forces are reduced to 1980s-style policing, responding to crises only, with heavy cuts to prevention and building relationships with communities.

West Midlands police is planning ending the bobby on the beat in some areas, and expects its funding from government to be cut by 40% by 2020, compared to the money it received from central government in 2010.

Unlike the National Health Service, policing was not protected from cuts.

The Conservatives point to the fact that official figures show crime has fallen, while police numbers have been cut and the service reformed.

The Conservative manifesto for the general election pledged to “finish the job of police reform”, vowing that would boost confidence in the police.

On Thursday Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, said he would fight for police to be kept on the beat, amid fears budget cuts will see fewer officers gathering potentially crucial intelligence needed to thwart a growing tide of terrorism. Rowley said he would stress in upcoming budget talks the “essential” role played by uniformed officers in neighbourhood teams.

White won the top job in the embattled Police Federation last year on a promise to reform the organisation whose reputation had been tarnished. He beat his rival on the toss of a coin after the committee supposed to make the decision was evenly split.

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How many Cabinet members would have failed the trade union ballot test?

Reposted from Union Solidarity International

The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots

Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.

The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.

Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.

But at the same time he refused to allow union members to vote online or in the workplace, insisting they continue to use the method introduced by Margaret Thatcher – postal votes sent to their home address.

The plans were widely condemned by unions. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a government not so much on the side of hard-working people but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it.

“The government’s proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more. After five years of falling living standards the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a typically vindictive and hypocritical move by the Tories, who were voted in by just 24% of the electorate. The fact they are refusing to talk to us about modernising ballots to make them easier for more people to take part tells us everything we need to know.”

The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote is:

Business secretary Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) 38.3%

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) 31.4%

Education secretary Nicky Morgan (Loughborugh) 35.4%

International development secretary Justine Greening (Putney) 36%

Energy secretary Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) 30.1%

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales) 39%

Scottish secretary David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale) 30.2

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) 33%

Wales secretary Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) 28.6%

Environment secretary Liz Truss (Norfolk South West) 33.1%

Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Letwin (Dorset West) 36.1%

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, who has been leading the union’s efforts to modernise voting, said: “The divisive face of Conservatism has not taken long to reveal its face with the new business secretary Sajid Javid suggesting a 50% turnout of all eligible union members voting for industrial action, instead of the straight majority now required.

“It is a terrible shame and a big mistake that one of the government’s first acts is to attempt to reduce rights for working people that even past Tory administrations have upheld.

“Voters did not put a tick in the box for this, especially as David Cameron has pledged that he wanted to reach out to all corners of Britain in the traditions of One Nation Conservatism.

“Many of the electors, who provided the Tories with their slim majority, are working people concerned about justice and fairness in the workplace.

“They won’t understand why this proposal is coming from a new administration with just 36.9 per cent of the vote to underpin its legitimacy.

“Unite urges Sajid Javid and his colleagues think long and hard about this move as there are better ways of improving the mechanisms for industrial action ballots, such as electronic voting and ballots at the workplace.

“We are open for constructive discussions with ministers on these issues.”

RCM’s Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications Jon Skewes said: “These thresholds would make it virtually impossible for workers to take action and deny employees their democratic voice.  Industrial action is a last resort for trade unions and when the RCM took industrial action in England and during our current action in Northern Ireland we have worked in partnership with employers to maintain essential services and ensure safety.”

“The fact of the matter is that we have institutions for determining pay and conditions in the NHS (the NHS Staff Council and the NHS Pay Review Body) which trade unions, employers and the government all honour and abide by. Last year the first industrial action over pay in 30 years for the NHS and 133 years for the RCM occurred because the government and employers rejected the recommendations of the independent Pay Review Body.

“This announcement deals with the symptom of industrial unrest but not the cause, had the government and employers continued to honour the negotiating institutions there would not have been a problem.

“The government should work with trade unions and employers in partnership to build good working relationships and to achieve consensus. This is far more productive than imposing voting thresholds that the government did not even meet in the election.”

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Square peg, round hole?

Reposted from Benefits and Work

So we have the “unholy” trinity of Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel and this charmer …

The prime minister has announced that the new minister for disabled people is Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon. Tomlinson has a strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background.


Tomlinson has replaced Mark Harper, who is now the Conservative chief whip.

Tomlinson is a former national chairman of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative party and has been an MP since 2010.

He is a party loyalist, with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.

According to They work For You, Tomlinson:

  • Voted strongly for of the bedroom tax
  • Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
  • Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
  • Voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
  • Voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

Tomlinson also voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act.

His responsibilities a minister for disabled people include:

  • cross-government disability issues and strategy
  • Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme
  • disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)
  • carers
  • appeals reform
  • fraud and error (including debt management)

Tomlinson has some interest in health issues, but does not seem to have shown any great interest in disability issues during his time as an MP.

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Priti Patel Appointed Minister Of Death At The DWP

Originally posted on the void:

priti-deathPriti Patel, staunch supporter of the death penalty, will replace unemployed former Employment Minister Esther Mcvey it has been announced today.  Patel has previously said that she supports the reintroduction of capital punishment as a ‘deterrence’, although she would not say whether she preferred hanging or electrocution.  Wanting to bring back state executions is only half the story of her malevolent past however.

Prior to becoming an MP, she worked as a public relations advisor to British American Tobacco, where she was linked to the sinister ‘Project Sunrise’.  This is believed to be part of the initiative established by cigarette firm Phillip Morris which aimed to create the “dawn of a new day” for the tobacco industry by smearing anti-smoking groups as extremist.

Patel continued supporting the tobacco industry on being elected, voting in favour of ending the smoking ban in 2010 and speaking out against plain cigarette…

View original 257 more words

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