Tory-UKIP Council Tax Stitch-Up in Dudley

Dudley South Labour

Pete Lowe

At the meeting of the full council on Monday evening Dudley Conservative and UKIP Groups voted together in proposals that will see a loss of £1.1million pounds to the council.

Proposals put forward by the Labour Group would have resulted in an extra £3.1 million being invested specifically in to Adult Social Care and a further £2.1million per year invested in general council services.

The proposals put forward would have meant that Dudley would have remained the lowest council tax authority in the West Midlands whilst investing much needed funds in to Adult Social Care and front line services for local people.

Unfortunately Dudley UKIP group who originally stated that they would not support the extra money for elderly and vulnerable residents or the extra money forfrontline services then decided to do a deal with the Conservatives and propose an amendment calling for a private company to be brought in to look…

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Labour Council Launches ‘Fair Deal for Dudley’ Campaign

Dudley South Labour

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Councillors have called on the Government to give Dudley a fair deal on funding

The controlling Labour Group on Dudley Council has launched a campaign calling on the Government for a Fair Deal.

The motion put forward by Councillor Asif Ahmed comes as a result of ongoing cuts to the funding the council receives from the Government which has seen a £76 million cut in grant since 2010, rising to £92 million by 2019/20.

This has meant that the money the council has to spend on local services such as roads, social care, youth clubs, libraries and other services has almost been halved with further cuts to come.

Latest figures show that Dudley is being unfairly treated and forced to make much bigger cuts than many other areas. Since 2010 the spending power of Dudley Council has been reduced by 20%, compared to just 1% in Surrey, 2% in Buckinghamshire…

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Peter Willsman – January NEC Report

Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s National Executive Committee, 24th January 2017…

Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s National Executive Committee, 24th January 2017:

For the second time running, we had a very tranquil NEC. This may be down to the fact that there was very little on the agenda that was controversial. The most noteworthy issues had arisen at the Disputes Panel and Organisation Committee held on the 17 January. I cover some of these issues below.

Uniquely among Labour Party leaders, Jeremy regularly attends NEC sub-committees. Jeremy is almost always at the Organisation Committee. I have also noticed that most of our staff are ever more supportive of Jeremy. I have never seen the staff so determined to win two by-elections as they are in Copeland and Stoke-Central. I suspect most of the staff, like most party members, do not believe that an MP should be parachuted into a CLP one minute and then resign the next. Contrary to this, some of the writers in the dire Guardian have suggested that individual career prospects take precedence over loyalty to the party.

Leader’s Report

Jeremy came hot-foot from preparing Labour’s response to the Supreme Court decision against the Tory government. Jeremy took the NEC through all of the implications of this Judgement decision and of Labour’s response. He and Keir had made it clear that although Labour will respect the decision of the referendum, we will press firmly for all of our red-lines. Jeremy emphasised that Labour must speak to both sides of the referendum divide.

Jeremy drew attention to a Tory MP who that afternoon was moving a 10-minute Rule Bill on seeking to further restrict the rights of trade unions and trade unionists (it was defeated). Jeremy believes that this is an early move by the Tories to prepare the ground for a much more serious attack on the rights of workers.

Jeremy congratulated Jon Ashworth (Shadow Health Secretary) – who was present at the meeting – for all the work he had done building for Saturday’s Day of Action. Jeremy and Jon then outlined the serious crisis facing the NHS. The crisis has been building for years, since the Tories have been continually restricting funding. Indeed, next year and in 2019, the funding for the NHS will actually be reduced in real terms. This is at a time when the challenges facing the NHS are ever growing. For example, we are living longer, the major reductions in social care provisions are having a knock-on effect, there has been a major increase in the numbers of homeless people as a result of the government’s austerity policies, and there are always implications of the advances in medical science. Jeremy and Jon highlighted the particular crisis facing mental health provision. There has been a reduction of 600 nurses and a serious decline in the number of doctors as well. Jon drew attention to possible adverse implications from the trade treaty with the US that May is desperately trying to obtain. It would open the door to the avaricious and ruthless US health insurance companies that could accelerate the privatisation of the NHS.

Jeremy stressed that the NHS is the National Health Service for a reason. Part of its aim was to overcome inequalities between different regions, which was one of Nye Bevan’s main motivations. Jeremy also drew attention to the Defend the NHS demo on 4th March.

Jeremy took the NEC through the Copeland and Stoke-Central by-elections, which are due to be held on 23 February. Jeremy especially paid tribute to all of our staff who are working around the clock to make our campaigns as effective as possible. Many members are also responding to the party’s Call to Arms. Several NEC members (me included) will also be knocking on doors in Whitehaven and Stoke. Later, Margaret Beckett referred to the talk about a ‘progressive alliance’, which she said was somewhat rich given that it was only yesterday that the Liberals were in government with the Tories, where they carried out very reactionary policies. I added that the notion of such an alliance has been talked-up by the dire Guardian and groups like Compass, but has now been relegated to the history books – their beloved Tim Farron has categorically ruled-out any link-up with Labour. Presumably Farron wants to keep his options open so the Lib-Dems are free to jump back into bed with the Tories (in fact, Farron has said as much!).

In his Report, Jeremy also outlined our developing Industrial Strategy and its interrelation with our economic policy, e.g. a national investment bank with a regional focus, investment in infrastructure, and other key issues that had been raised at the NPF.

Jeremy rounded-up by commenting on Theresa May’s embrace of the new President of the US. He emphasised that the Prime Minister should challenge the dreadfully racist, sexist, and reactionary language of the President. Jeremy also paid tribute to the inspiring women’s marches that were held across the world following the Inauguration. Jeremy was in Copeland on Saturday, but his son had represented him at the London march.

In response to Jeremy’s report, Kezia Dugdale set-out the manipulative way the SNP are exploiting Brexit. Kezia emphasised that the response by the Scottish Labour Party will be based on the interests of the Scottish people. Alun Davies also briefly outlined the strategy of the Welsh Labour Party in response to Brexit.

Martin Mayer led a discussion on the setting-out of a clear definition of ‘free movement of labour’. It was accepted that this was a quite complex issue. Jeremy paid tribute to the trade unions for making extra efforts to recruit migrant workers in order to unite all groups against the exploitative bosses – who, as usual, are using the age-old ‘divide and rule’ strategy.

EPLP Report

Glenis Willmott, EPLP Leader and our new effervescent Chair, had circulated a written report. Despite the major focus on Brexit, the important work of the European Parliament continues. In recent months Labour MEPs had welcomed European cooperation against aggressive tax avoidance. Labour MEPs voted against the compulsory opening up of railways contracts across Europe to private sector operators, because the new laws do not provide protection for rail workers’ terms and conditions. The Commission has made clear that workers employed on zero-hour contracts should have full employment rights as a result of EU law on part-time workers. Jeremy added that he had called together representatives of socialist parties in the EU and stressed the need to work together. He was pleased to report that following this meeting two of Labour’s MEPs were elected to important positions.

Local Government Report

Nick Forbes and Alice Perry had circulated a written report, and Nick took the NEC through it. The Annual Local Government Conference will take place in Warwick on 18 February. Over 200 councillors have already registered to attend. Jeremy is planning to address the conference.

In response, I highlighted a serious matter of concern that has been raised with me by many councillors and party members in relation to a matter of conflict of interest. This concerns the accountability of Labour councillors. This used to be ensured by Local Government Committees (LGCs), but with their replacement by Local Campaign Forums (LCFs), democratic processes and the accountability of councillors has diminished. In addition to this, there has been a development whereby directly elected mayors and council leaders can appoint councillors to major positions without any proper democratic processes. As I emphasised, this can create serious conflicts of interest, which, I said, must be addressed. The General Secretary nodded when I made this point, and therefore we can be hopeful that this unintended implication of the new LCF system will be addressed (indeed, at the 2017 Annual Conference in Brighton, there is a rule change to restore the separation of powers that existed under LGCs).

There was also a discussion of what, many of us saw, as the inadequacies of the recent Newham Trigger Ballot process. It was agreed that Ann Black and Alice Perry will visit Newham and report back to the NEC on possible improvements to the whole process.

Minutes of NEC Meetings and Sub-Committee Meetings

As I have already said, the most noteworthy were the Dispute Panel and Organisation Committee on 17 January. A report from officers was presented in relation to the allegations made against the Oxford University Labour Club. Our officers had carried out an investigation. Two students in particular had been singled out by those making the allegations. The investigation concluded that there was no case to answer in relation to anti-Semitism in relation to these two students. A separate accusation (unconnected to any question of anti-Semitism) had been raised regarding the two students and their general behaviour. The Disputes Panel discussed in detail whether a warning was appropriate in these two cases. It was agreed without dissent that no further action should be taken.

In relation to Wallasey, it was agreed that suspension would remain in place with a review at the March meeting of the Dispute Panel.

The Organisation Committee, considered 33 Contemporary Motions which the Conference Arrangements Committee had referred to the NEC. In addition, 38 motions submitted by CLPs to the NEC in relation to organisational matters were also considered. The main issue raised in the motions related to issues arising from the last leadership election. Many of the matters raised are already under consideration by Ann Black as chair of Disputes, Jim Kennedy as chair of Org, and senior officers, in order to learn the lessons and improve arrangements in the future. Each of the motions will be the subject of a substantive reply from the General Secretary. I congratulated our staff for bringing all of these motions to the NEC. This was always the practice before New Labour, but it had been allowed to fall by the wayside.

General Secretary’s Report

Iain took the NEC through the papers he had circulated on the major issues facing us. These included the series of local government elections taking place this year, the Richmond Park and Sleaford and West Hykeham by-elections, the forthcoming by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-Central, and an update on the party’s finance strategy. The General Secretary also presented a review of the Annual Conference arrangements etc. at Liverpool, and highlighted the lessons we learned that can benefit us at the 2017 Conference.

Iain and other senior officers presented a small booklet which analysed in detail the membership data. The membership at the 1 January was 543,645. This is the highest figure on Labour Party records. 70% of our current membership joined after 1 January 2015. Our membership is now younger, and comrades joining from BAME communities has increased. The gap between men and women has become considerably smaller. The biggest expansion of membership has been in the south, particularly the South West. The smallest increase was in Scotland. Five of our eleven regions/nations, have increased in size by more than 40%. In relation to people leaving, 77% of these joined after the general election 2015. Unfortunately, the (ever more) dire Guardian has moved into the ‘post-truth’ era. A recent editorial pronounced that the Labour Party is ‘disintegrating’. In fact, our party is now the largest political party in Western Europe.

Rail Fare Campaign Day

Dear Friends,

Just a brief report on our involvement in the national Train Fare Campaign Day yesterday (3rd Jan. 2017). We had 14 members attend our event which meant that we were able to cover the Stourbridge Town shuttle entry in addition to 4 access points at Stourbridge Junction.

Stourbridge Labour members who participated came from from Cradley, Quarry Bank, Pedmore, Wollaston and Norton, plus a member from Dudley South joined us.

We started just before 6.30 am and finished at 8.15 am – but only because we ran out of our 1,000 leaflets!

We had an excellent reception from commuters and no hassle at all from the railway people.

It was a very successful morning and well worth the effort. More than 500 similar events took place across the country. The Daily Mirror also did a double page spread on the rail bosses taking millions in pay and bonuses. The Labour Party posted items on Facebook about our rail policies, plus #RailFail and #RailRipOff trended on Twitter.

I believe that we really made a difference yesterday and we were all upbeat and excited about what was achieved. For more, please visit the Action For Rail website.

Our next event is on Saturday 21st January when we will have a street stall in Stourbridge town centre. Details will be sent out via email as soon as we know more. Also, remember to check our online calendar every now and then. 

Best wishes,

Geoff Dixon
Secretary

Stourbridge Labour Party

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Ann Black’s NPF Report (November)

image002Last month (19/20th November), the first National Policy Forum meeting in over two years was held in Loughborough. Given this, we thought it would be useful to reproduce a report of the meeting by NEC member Ann Black:

This was the first national policy forum meeting since July 2014 when we agreed our general election manifesto in a spirit of comradeship and optimism. Ann Cryer was elected as Chair, Shabana Mahmood as vice-chair from the MPs/councillors section, and Mick Whelan of ASLEF from the affiliates section, all unanimously. In the constituency section Katrina Murray was elected with 76 votes ahead of George McManus with 31 votes, four spoilt papers and some abstentions. I nominated and voted for George.

Jeremy Corbyn opened by stressing that the old certainties were falling away, and there was no more business-as-usual. Labour’s task was to restore hope and stand against divisions and hate crimes whipped up by the hard right. The Tories were taking Britain backwards, cutting £5 billion from adult social care and leaving 120,000 children in temporary accommodation. On Brexit, Labour would respect the decision of the British people, while ensuring full rights for European Union citizens in the UK and British citizens in Europe: people were not pawns. Labour would bring forward positive policies: creating a million good jobs, ending the undercutting of pay and conditions, a living wage of more than £10 per hour by 2020, rent controls and secure tenancies in the private sector, restoring employment rights from day one, scrapping tribunal charges, insourcing council services, ending privatisation in the NHS, placing conflict resolution at the heart of foreign policy, and safeguarding the future of the planet against climate change. We were ready for a general election whenever it was called.

Responding to questions, he promised that he and John McDonnell would re-issue letters to Labour councils to confirm that they cannot set illegal budgets, despite their dire situation. The blame lay squarely with the Tory government. He acknowledged low morale in the NHS, and agreed with the need to reduce prisoners’ reoffending rates. On migration, published figures were skewed by including students, many of whom returned home after qualifying, and tackling exploitation of workers from abroad was key to winning public support. Asked what Labour offered the 90% who were neither at the top nor the bottom, he said that everyone depended on good public services, and middle-class children were still living with their parents, unable to afford their own homes or pursue their chosen careers. Members agreed with his distrust of “progressive alliances” and asked him to persuade his shadow cabinet colleagues likewise.

Front Bench Presentations

Many shadow cabinet members attended, including Keir Starmer, shadow minister for Brexit. He said that most governments put national security at the head of their priorities, followed by jobs and the economy. Instead Theresa May had chosen, unforgivably, to make immigration the top issue. While Labour accepted the result of the referendum, the Tories had no mandate for the extreme form of Brexit currently being pursued, or for abandoning the single market, and their approach was confused and chaotic. Labour would continue to defend workplace, consumer and human rights in the negotiations to come.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow chief secretary to the treasury, led a discussion on economic policy in the run-up to the autumn statement. Some Forum members suggested that November’s national campaign day should have focused on jobs and the economy, where Labour needed to improve on its 15% public confidence rating, rather than on health, where the party continues to score highly except for questions about where the money will come from. Perhaps next time.

Policy Seminars

The weekend allowed Forum members to discuss policy areas in detail, within the framework of Jeremy Corbyn’s ten pledges from his leadership campaign. The aim was to identify key priorities for debate through to 2020, but also to consider what our manifesto might include if an early general election was called. We could each attend four sessions, and I chose –

Work, Pensions and Equality. Debbie Abrahams, shadow secretary for work and pensions, outlined a vision for systems of social security which would be relevant to everyone. Labour would replace the discredited work capability assessments with personalised support for disabled people, and scrap punitive sanctions. This approach was welcomed, though members recognised the need for a compelling narrative which stressed that as children, parents, workers and pensioners, we all rely on social security at times. There were concerns about the steep rise in self-employment, and how much of it was voluntary rather than a way of removing people’s employment rights.

Labour had not yet taken a position on the triple lock, whereby the state pension increases annually in line with the consumer price index or average earnings or by 2.5%, whichever is the highest. The difficulty is that support for older people can be at the expense of younger people, paying high tuition fees, receiving lower pay and benefits, and unable to buy their own homes. Any change would have to be demonstrated as fairness across generations, where older people can see the value to their children and grandchildren. [update: on 29 November Rebecca Long-Bailey announced that Labour would maintain the triple lock through to 2025.] Equality was also important, with women hit disproportionately by changes in public spending since 2010, and the gender pay gap persisting.

Environment, Energy and Culture. Global warming emerged as a key theme, with strong support for renewable energy sources, and for better education on the extent of the dangers and the action necessary to avoid them. However there are differences within the Labour family on fracking and on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, both of which are opposed by many activists, and at some point these will have to be reconciled. The importance of creative industries was highlighted, along with ensuring that cultural and sporting activities were available to all.

Justice and Home Affairs. This commission is responsible for developing policies on migration, and for keeping people safe at home, at work and in the streets. Labour’s police and crime commissioners, working closely with their communities, should play a key role. Cuts to legal and court closures were reducing access to justice, and violence to women and girls continued to be a major concern. Northern Ireland members pointed out that in their country women had no access to legal abortion even in cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormality. The 1967 Act did not apply, and women travelling to England had to pay for NHS services, though Scotland may offer to help them. I asked about party policy on allowing British citizens abroad to vote in UK elections. Currently this ends after 15 years, but the government are likely to extend their rights indefinitely. I was told that Labour opposed this move on the grounds that most expats were rich Tories, but Labour International take a different view, arguing that many are working abroad but retain close connections with the UK, and I hope that there is still time for debate.

International. Discussion ranged across Kashmir, Turkey, Syria, the Middle East, and the Balkans, understandably nervous about threats from Russia. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry expressed regret that some Labour MPs did not vote for the motion suspending support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen until possible breaches of international law had been investigated. Forum members were appalled at Boris Johnson’s appointment as foreign secretary at a time when tact and diplomacy were at a premium, and were worried about the direction of United States policy. On Trident, Unite and the GMB restated their unconditional support for the jobs of their highly-skilled members who were involved in making weapons of mass destruction, while constituency representatives restated the majority of grassroots opinion on the moral, strategic and economic objections to replacement. However, having discussed the issue for eight months without resolution, the policy commission was not minded to continue indefinitely, and official party policy remains as at 2014: that Labour in government would conduct a full review of all aspects of defence and security, including nuclear weapons.

Next Steps

The results of all the discussions will be collated and discussed by the policy commissions, which will publish documents for consultation in spring 2017, hopefully before party meetings pause for local election campaigns. The NPF will meet again in summer 2017 to finalise documents for annual conference, where the new provision for referring back sections of documents will be given its first outing. The years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 will see further revisions, with the manifesto signed off in spring 2020. However if there is a snap general election the joint policy committee will draw up contingency plans for producing the manifesto to an accelerated timetable.

In the meantime the Your Britain website has been revamped as http://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/ and members, branches, constituencies and others are encouraged to post submissions and resolutions, and to comment on others’ contributions. I am on the work, pensions and equality commission, but happy for you to copy me in on everything.

Go to www.annblack.co.uk for Ann’s NEC reports.

How can the Labour Party influence the Brexit negotiations?

Richard Gupwell is the Stourbridge Labour Party’s Political Education officer. Richard has lived and worked in Brussels for the majority of the last 45 years and was a political adviser to the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Reproduced below is a short extract from an essay Richard recently wrote on the Brexit process, focusing specifically on the Labour Party’s role. The essay was discussed at Stourbridge Young Labour‘s meeting on the EU on 6th December. 



How can the Labour Party influence the Brexit negotiations?

There are two main ways for Labour to influence the Brexit process. The first is to exert influence within the British Parliament – already being done with some success. This needs to be accompanied by an effective public campaign to criticise the Conservative Government’s inept handling of the whole Brexit business.

 

However, the Party can also exert influence with Labour’s allies in Europe, both in the European Parliament and in the Council and the European Council.

 

The Labour Party belongs to the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S & D) in the European Parliament, which has 191 MEPs, second only to the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP), which has 221 MEPs. There are no British MEPs in the EPP group but 20 Labour MEPs in the S & D Group. The other political groups are all in the second division. The Conservatives and Reformers have 70 MEPs (including 19 British Conservatives and 1 Ulster Unionist), the Liberals and Democrats have 67 MEPs (with 1 British Liberal Democrat), the United and Nordic Left Group have 52 MEPs (including 1 Sinn Féin member), the Green/Free Alliance have 50 MEPs (including 3 British Greens, 2 Scottish Nationalists and 1 Welsh Plaid Cymru member) and the Freedom and Direct Democracy Group have 48 MEPs (including 24 UKIP members). There are also 52 non-attached MEPs (including 1 Democratic Unionist from Northern Ireland).

 

The Council of Ministers and the European Council are dominated by the EPP, the S & D and the Liberals and Democrats. These three political families between them control three-quarters of the seats in the European Council, the remainder being made up of Conservatives (Britain and Poland), the Far Left (Greece) and independents. Thus, in the rest of Europe, the Labour Party and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats, are able to exert far more influence that the present British Conservative Government, which has few allies. Indeed, apart from UKIP, it could be said that the Conservatives are the party least likely to be able to obtain “the best possible deal for Britain”.

 

Jeremy Corbyn recently attended a meeting with other European Socialist leaders in Prague. It is encouraging that the Labour Party is concerting its policy on Brexit with its European partners and that a European Socialist conference has been proposed by Labour to take place in London in the near future.

Richard Gupwell

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A Message from Siôn Simon

In six months time (4th May, 2017), the first ever election for a West Midlands Mayor will be held. It’s an election we absolutely have to win.

Right now, so much is at stake for the schools, hospitals and public transport services that we rely on. As Labour’s candidate to be the first West Midlands Metro Mayor, I want to invite you to join my campaign.

We’re just getting started and we’re building our team. Members win elections when Labour wins elections. Our people have shown time and again – in places like Wolverhampton where we saw off the Tories in May 2015 – that Tory cash is no match for the talents, commitment and passion that we in Labour possess when we pull together.

This election is between a local Labour Mayor – always putting the West Midlands first – or a Tory candidate dancing to the tune of a Conservative government that has let our region down. They have starved our NHS of the cash needed to run our hospitals, ignored our housing shortage and returned our children to overcrowded classrooms.

Together – with our distinct identities, our shared history and our combined economic clout – a  Labour Mayor for all the West Midlands can be a powerful leader for Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Solihull, Birmingham and Coventry.

Thank you,

Siôn and the campaign team.


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  • Join Siôn Simon’s team here if you are able to help out in any way.