Recent Articles



Barnet workers to go on strike over outsourcing

by Kate Belgrave     March 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

More than 140 staff at Barnet Council’s Regulatory Service’s Department will take industrial action, in a bid to remain directly employed by the council.

Barnet council is a flagship for the Tory’s small-state vision of outsourced public service delivery.

Instead of directly providing services, the council plans to shrink the workforce down to a small core of a few hundred staff, who will commission services from outside providers. The current workforce is 3500.

The Regulatory Services Department is first in line for sell off, which includes Trading Standards and Licensing, Land Charges, Environmental Health, Planning and Development, Highways, Cemeteries, Registrars, Building Control. The programme of action is designed to cause maximum disruption to councillors and to their plans, but very little inconvenience to local residents.

Vicky Easton, UNISON head of local government in London, said:

Many council workers are Barnet residents too – they wont just stand aside and watch the council take a wreaking ball to local services. This department is well run and staff want to remain directly employed by the council. We’ve tried to negotiate, we’ve presented the council with alternative proposals, but they stubbornly refuse to listen. Staff do not take action lightly, but they’ve tried everything else – they have no other choice.

The action starting next week will cause maximum disruption for councillors and for their agenda, but have a minimum impact on the public. We remind the employers they could avoid action by getting into talks.

Action will begin on Wednesday 16 March. Staff will stop answering calls, attending meetings and other support work.

*Full list of departments

Trading Standards and Licensing Land Charges
Planning and Development
Building Control and Structure Registration (births, deaths and marriages)
Environmental Health Highways Strategy
Highways Network and Management
Highways Traffic and Development
Highways Transport and Regeneration
Strategic Planning and Regeneration
Cemeteries and Crematoria

People battle hard to save council services across the country

by Kate Belgrave     February 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

At the start of last week, I was surprised by what I felt was a relatively quiet national political and press response to the battles that were raging at council meetings as people protested about council cuts.

The BBC spoke to me about using some of my stuff for segments on cuts last week, and there have been stories here and there on protests.

Nonetheless, I think the depth of the conflicts at council meetings deserves a lot more reporting – saturation, even. I’d also like to see public outrage at local service cuts championed publicly by Eds Miliband and Balls. Daily. Hourly, even.
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Old and female and better off dead…?

by Kate Belgrave     January 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

This is another post about people I’ve talked to as I travel round the UK talking to those dealing with public sector cuts:

There are times when I wonder if being an old woman without money will be as funny as all that. It seems likely that I’ll find out first-hand in the near-ish future. Right now, I get to watch.

I’m in a room in Gateshead with about 15 older women at a Personal Growth – Take Individual Steps session (known as PG Tips here at the Tyneside women’s health centre).
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We must fight politicians to tell stories of cuts

by Kate Belgrave     December 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I’m on a three-month trip around the UK talking to people affected by public sector cuts. This is a post about the efforts two Northwest Tory councils have made to stop me reporting on spending and cuts:

My visit to the soon-to-be-closed Grange daycentre in Shropshire hit the skids before it started.

The Grange daycentre is an adapted community facility used by people with severe physical disabilities. Their conditions include multiple sclerosis, severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Many have had debilitating strokes.
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Video reports from Lewisham protests/riot

by Kate Belgrave     November 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

“It would be easy to declare our opposition to the cuts the coalition is proposing,’ Sir Steve told us at the council’s AGM way back in June.

It’s even easier, it seems, to put up no opposition at all. Locals have gone mad at Bullock’s proposals to cut libraries, refuse services and staff (especially in a borough that depends on council for employment).

As early as June, Lewisham council had bullocked ahead and forecast a budget gap of up to £60m for 2011 to 2014 (although was still in the dark about government plans for key grants). People expect (for reasons that will forever escape me) a little more from Labour. 

It has been clear for a while that Sir Steve should keep an eye on the tide. Yesterday evening, he tried to ignore it. Several hundred people turned up to protest at the early-evening council meeting. All went well, until people heard that the public gallery would be restricted to 40. Then, someone said 28. Then, people decided they’d head in regardless. Why didn’t Bullock hold this meeting in a large hall somewhere and have it out?

Here are a few videos I shot during the rush.

How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security

by Kate Belgrave     November 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm

On Saturday, I went to the Shepherd’s Bush library on the Westfield shopping site to help out at a small protest that a group of Hammersmith and Fulham librarians had organised.

The librarians’ salaries (library assistants earn about £21,000) are due to be cut as part of Tory Hammersmith and Fulham council’s gleeful pursuit of ‘savings’. The home library service is to be dismantled and word is that some local libraries will shut.

Three or four librarians – all middle aged women – stood outside the library for about an hour in their own free time and handed leaflets about their worries to members of the public.
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More on why to avoid retailers who support public sector cuts

by Kate Belgrave     October 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I posted last Sunday about my plans to stop shopping with retailers whose senior managers publicly champion George Osborne’s ideologically-driven spending cuts.

I thought that post would go the way of most women-and-shopping stories (and indeed of women-and-anything stories), but things went a lot better than usual. Thousands of people turned up to read and rightwingers went into tailspin - two very good reasons to push on in my view.

So. These are the three companies we’re boycotting in November – ASDA, Boots and Mothercare. Here are boycotters on facebook. And here’s a very good site that discusses the corporate behaviour of the companies that signed that Telegraph letter.

The chance to hit pro-cuts businesses where they’ll feel it seems to have struck a chord. Consumers want to redefine their notions of ethical business. Ethical business cannot, by definition, avoid tax, or cheerlead a widely-criticised cuts programme that threatens jobs, economic recovery and retail and local commerce. Vodafone protests, enthusiasm for boycotts, big anticuts protests – you’re seeing a revitalised scene.

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Why I’m boycotting the 35 businesses who support the cuts

by Kate Belgrave     October 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Last week, 35 deluded business leaders wrote to the Telegraph to praise George Osborne’s vicious spending review.

I’m joining those who have decide to boycott every single company that those business leaders represent.

There are two reasons for this:
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My average life as an average whore

by Kate Belgrave     October 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm

This post is part of an article I wrote about my time as prostitute in New Zealand in the 1990s.

It’s a story of prostitution from the perspective of someone who wasn’t forced into the work. I wasn’t trafficked, or there to finance a drug habit (although I was a very heavy drinker). I was there for the money.

I wanted to post it as an alternative to the modern socialist narrative that has all prostitutes pressed into trade – by traffickers, by drug and alcohol addiction and/or by personal experiences of sexual abuse. In that narrative, all johns are brutes and all brothelkeepers are bloodsuckers.
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Low earners won’t thrive in Big Society

by Kate Belgrave     August 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Hazel Scully

Hazel Scully

Last week, I went to Skelmersdale to talk about David Cameron’s ‘big society’ concept with council tenants Ted and Hazel Scully, and Sandra Porter. I spent time with them last year as well.

Cameron’s ‘big society’ idea is as hard to grasp as it is to buy into. It’s centered on the notions that people will volunteer to provide public services in place of the state and that residents should drive local council spending and direction. Phrases like ‘community empowerment’ and ‘people power’ guff through big society talk.

These phrases means nothing. Neither ‘community empowerment’ nor ‘people power’ will make it past rhetoric under Cameron’s administration. The realities of Tory rule in local government are vicious service cuts and a chilling detachment from people who need public services. There is no engagement. There is no consultation with poorer communities. Funding is cut and services eliminated without a word of discussion with service users and providers.

Let’s spend some time now in Skelmersdale – a working-class town in the Conservative West Lancashire borough: continue reading… »


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