Tuesday 31 March 2015

Who says we can't afford to stop the cuts?

Take the wealth off the 1%, photo Paul Mattsson
In 2013 the Economist ran a feature on tax havens that admitted: "Nobody really knows how much money is stashed away: estimates vary from way below to way above $20 trillion." And we won't know what money is out there until we gain access to the secretive accounts of big business. 

Corporate Watch has unearthed some interesting figures
But we know there are vast sums available. 2014's Sunday Times Rich List found that Britain's richest 1,000 people are wealthier than ever. They have a combined fortune of £518.975 billion. Meanwhile a million people had to queue at food banks, many of them because their employers did not pay them enough to feed their families.

In January only five Labour MPs voted against the Tories' proposal for another £30 billion of cuts over the next three years. But the top five UK entries to the 2015 Forbes rich list have a combined wealth of £35 billion. Taking the wealth off the 1%, or the 0.001%, could end all austerity today.

A democratic socialist plan for the economy would open the way to eliminating poverty, unemployment and want. Under capitalism there is enormous waste. Look at the human and material resources that are poured into nuclear weapons, for example. 

The annual operating costs of the Trident programme are well over £2 billion. Replacement will cost at least £100 billion. A socialist government would invest that technology and finance into solving humanity's problems. 


Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has promised 20,000 more nurses by 2020. But we need them now. The RCN estimates that £980 million would pay for 28,155 permanent nursing staff. 

But Labour has not promised to scrap the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) robbery. There are 149 PFI hospitals valued at £12.27 billion for which the NHS is due to pay £70.5 billion! Refusing to pay back that excess of almost £60 billion to the privateers could easily fill the £30 billion funding black hole predicted by 2020, paying for many of the nurses, doctors and beds we need - and an end to the pay freeze in the NHS. 


Young people have suffered under this vicious Tory-Liberal coalition. In the autumn of 2010 college students protested in their thousands against the cold cruelty of the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance payments of up to £30 a week for 16 and 17 year old students. To restore it is estimated to cost a mere £680 million.

The Con-Dems trebled tuition fees to £9,000 so going to university is a pricy business. But the wealth exists to fully fund high-quality free education (far better than Labour's £6,000 fees). Labour has priced its cut at £1.7 billion. It's estimated that re-introducing the grant and scrapping fees altogether would cost £12-£15 billion a year. That sounds like a lot of money but York university research found that £14 billion was paid out in grants and subsidies to big business in 2011-12. For example, the Department of Business provided £5 billion of coaching and marketing and advocacy services for big business.

Austerity is an attempt to steal away the gains of the past - like our libraries. But the Robin Hood tax campaign group estimates that only £110,000 would save 350 of those at risk of closure. 

Decent jobs not cash piles

£375 billion has been pumped into the economy via quantitative easing (QE). That money has gone to the richest in society. The biggest share of this has gone to the top 1% or even 0.1%. If this had been handed over to the British public, it would have meant an extra £24,000 per family.

Instead much of it is being hoarded. In March 2012 it was revealed that UK companies were sitting on £750 billion worth of cash piles. The Financial Times reports those piles are growing. They refuse to invest in factories and jobs. Why? Because of the weakened state of British capitalism they see no profitable outlet. Between 2007 and 2014, over 350,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared leaving 350,000 families without that income.

While Tory Osborne boasts that unemployment is no longer increasing, low pay and precarious working conditions mean the share of wealth going to workers continues to shrink. The Socialist Party campaigns for a £10 an hour minimum wage - now the official policy of the TUC. A campaign to win that demand is urgently needed.

The successful socialist-led campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle in the US shows what a struggle can achieve. It's estimated that in this city, the size of Glasgow, 100,000 workers will be lifted out of poverty over the next ten years, as $3 billion is transferred from the bosses to the workers.

The figures on this page pose the question - if the capitalist system can't use the resources that exist in a rational way to meet the needs of the population, 'what is the alternative?' The Socialist Party advocates going much further in order to fully transform the lives of the 99% - including nationalisation, under democratic workers' control and management, of the key sectors of the economy with compensation paid on the basis of proven need.

Thanks to 'The Socialist for the facts and arguments - original article taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/20387/25-03-2015/reject-the-austerity-lies

Monday 30 March 2015

TUSC candidates - we're people at the sharp end of austerity like you!

I've been replying tonight to RCN members lobbying prospective candidates over their 'Nursing Counts' priorities. Here's what I've let them know about TUSC and what we stand for:

Thanks for getting in touch with me, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Lewisham West and Penge. TUSC aren't the same as the other parties that you're rightly lobbying. Like you, we're public service workers, trade unionists, ordinary people at the sharp end of the austerity that's ruining people's lives - and we're determined to do something about it by offering people a real alternative to cuts and privatisation in this election.

I am a teacher, rather than a health worker, but know from my colleagues - including TUSC candidates who are nurses (see below) - how we both face the same pressures of long hours, low pay and insufficient resources to properly meet needs. Our 'goodwill' is taken for granted while the big businesses that want to leach profits from our public services just want to cutback even further - and it will be patients, or in my case young people, and their families who will suffer.

Other candidates may give you assurances (or maybe not!) but what we are trying to do in TUSC is to build a new party that can make sure that our voices are directly represented in Parliament - by having trade union colleagues there in the House of Commons to say things as they really are, rather than us having to rely on just lobbying establishment politicians in the hope that they may listen to us (but they usually don't!).

TUSC are standing over 130 Westminster candidates, making us the sixth largest stand on May 7th - but the media don't want to publicise our stand (I wonder why not?!). Like many TUSC candidates, I'm also standing as a "workers' MP on a worker's wage" - pledged to stay on my teacher's salary if elected, using the rest of the MP's bloated salary to help support trade union and community campaigns.

So I certainly will be standing up for nursing and patient care in this election care and hope that you, in turn, can let people know about TUSC's stand. You can read more about me, my policies and my campaign on my blog .

Martin Powell-Davies, TUSC prospective candidate for Lewisham West and Penge

 PS As Jacqui Berry, nurse and TUSC candidate, puts it on her blog, "I was really chuffed to see the RCN have started lobbying candidates because frankly, if politicians had any idea what it is actually like being a nurse, health care assistant or allied health professional, well, we probably wouldn't have endured a 5 year pay freeze for starters. We keep people alive. We give people dignity. We teach. No-one ever became a nurse for the money, but for a third of the pay of one lazy-arse back-bencher you start to think, maybe we don't have effective advocates.That's why I'm standing. We can't rely on politicians with their corporate interests and privileged lifestyles to have any idea what we need to provide a decent service without totally losing our minds. We deserve £30k starting pay. We deserve double time for unsocial hours. We need a regulator that is democratically run by us, not an outside body which charges us ever increasing fees for the pleasure. We need more staff, more beds and more time. We need a system which doesn't pit hospital against hospital, practice against practice. We need one NHS not hundreds of competing trusts and providers . We need a social care system that publicly owned, run and accountable".

Now the campaign starts for real....so spread the word about TUSC!

That's it, the Con-Dem Coalition Government is now officially over - but whatever new Coalition the main parties cobble together after May 7, we know that it is guaranteed to still be one that continues with cuts and austerity. That's why TUSC is standing in over 130 different Westminster constituencies to offer a real alternative to the establishment parties. YOU can help us build that support in Lewisham West and Penge.

The nomination papers are all ready to hand in this week and then we will be going all out to spread the support for TUSC's stand. We have got thousands of leaflets to distribute, so, if you can help leaflet streets near where you live, please get in touch so we can get some leaflets to you.

Help make sure that your friends and neighbours know about TUSC - ask for leaflets so that you can spread our campaign up until May 7!

TUSC say bring back academies so that all schools belong to democratic Local Authorities. Sadly, the main parties don't!

Sunday 29 March 2015

TUSC's five pledges in Lewisham West and Penge

TUSC got an excellent response on the streets of Lewisham West and Penge yesterday with our new campaign leaflet:

It's clear that most local voters are sick of this Coalition Government - but they're also fed up with a Labour Party that has become just another establishment party. 

Our five campaign pledges got tremendous support - and that's why we are winning backing across Lewisham West and Penge:

1. £10 an hour minimum wage now. End zero hour contracts

2. No to privatisation of services. Stop Academies in Lewisham.

3. Save the NHS. Stop cuts and privatisation.

4. A mass council house building programme and rent controls.

5. Not in it for the money. A workers’ MP on a worker’s wage.

Speaking out against cuts in Lewisham West and Penge

Thursday 26 March 2015

Dave Nellist explains TUSC's stand on RT's Going Underground

Dave Nellist speaks for TUSC on being the 6th largest party on the ballot paper, fighting austerity, the Greens, standing on a worker's wage, TTIP and the NHS, public support for renationalisation, organising against council cuts and on trade union backing for Labour.

For the full programme, click here

Sunday 22 March 2015

Marching to Stop Academies in Lewisham

Students bring their messages to the march

The battle over the future of the three schools in the Prendergast Federation is now having to step up another gear. The Governing Board have announced that their 'formal consultation' starts tomorrow, to end by May 18th.

They clearly hope to have the legal processes done and dusted in time for a new Government to sign-off the Funding Agreement and, as long as they can also resolve PFI funding issues, complete the conversion. 

All safely self-stewarded - no police in attendance at all!

The consultation announcement was answered with a demonstration through Lewisham and Ladywell yesterday lunchtime. Organised at short notice, around three hundred staff, students and parents gathered at Lewisham Clock Tower to march to a rally on Hilly Fields, next to Prendergast School.

TUSC members were there to support the demonstration and the pink 'No to Academies, Hands Off Our Schools' placards were well-received.

On the way through Ladywell

Saturday's demonstration will be followed by a joint two-day strike across the three schools on Tuesday and Wednesday. Striking staff will be distributing leaflets explaining why local parents and residents should say NO to academies. 

Chairing the closing rally
 UPDATE: Pictures from the two-day strike action:

Thursday 19 March 2015

Joint Union Statement released on strike action as Governors start academy 'consultation'

The following statement has been posted on the Lewisham NUT website tonight:

An updated leaflet has also been produced for the SAiL campaign:

Now that Governors have announced that their 'formal consultation' starts on Monday, there's even more reason to be on the SAiL march on Saturday - see you at midday at the Clock Tower on Lewisham High Street!

Key questions for General Election candidates - where do I stand?

"Candidate Hub", one of the various internet sites gathering information to allow voters to compare candidates' views, has asked me to respond to a set of ten questions. Here are my answers:

1. Obviously our goal is to strengthen the relationship between voters and candidates, but what do you plan to do in order to make sure you remain ‘in touch’ with the electorate?
I've been living and campaigning in Lewisham West and Penge for over 25 years. I will be an MP for this community, meeting and talking to local people and helping to lead campaigns to defend our jobs and services. I'm also pledging to be "a workers' MP on a worker's wage", staying on my classroom teacher's salary and using the rest of the MP's salary to support trade union and anti-cuts campaigns.

2. What makes you the best candidate for this constituency?
I'm not just a candidate who makes promises, I am a candidate who has a proven record of leading campaigns - and achieving things for the people I represent. Back in the 1990s, I organised the Penge Anti Poll tax Union, where we showed that organising together could even defeat the Thatcher Government. I have led dozens of campaigns as the Secretary of Lewisham NUT as well as supporting countless individual cases. I would continue with that energy and dedication as a socialist MP.

3a. What has the current Member achieved that you believe has been successful?
Good question! Jim has dutifully followed the New Labour party line - a Labour Party that I once belonged to and my family helped to build too - but a Party that has forgotten what it once stood for.

4.  In your opinion, is austerity working? What should we take from the state of the economy during this Government’s tenure?
It's working for the 1% - and that, of course, is the real aim of austerity. They want to steal away the gains of the past - like the NHS, social housing, comprehensive education, decent jobs and pay - to boost the wealth of the super-rich at the expense of the 99%. For the rest of us, it's been a disaster, driving people into poverty, cutting services and leaving people without money in their pockets to boost demand.

5. Does (legal) immigration need more limitations or is it vital for the UK?
Migrant workers play a crucial role keeping our public services running but government cuts to those services mean that migrants become an easy scapegoat for workers who can't find the jobs, schools and homes they need. That's why I would want to lead united campaigns for homes, jobs and school places for all.
Profiteers exploit migrant labour to boost their profits and to push down all our wages. So I oppose racist immigration controls but say that it's crucial that all workers are paid the rate for the job to stop a 'race to the bottom' being used to impoverish all workers.

6. Many people are concerned about the cost of living in the UK, with wages having failed to rise in line with the price of food, energy and rent in recent years. How can this be corrected?
First of all, we need a £10 minimum wage now - not the £8 an hour postponed until 2020 offered by New Labour. We need rent controls to stop private landlords ripping off tenants and forcing them to move away from the places where they and their friends and families live - especially in London. We need to nationalise the big companies, especially energy firms, so that we can plan and invest to provide affordable clean energy instead of allowing big business to profiteer at our expense.

7. How would you like to see the NHS change in the future in order to become more successful?
Stop the cuts, closures and privatisation that threaten the future of the NHS and threaten people's health and lives. End the PFI 'Profit from Illness' schemes and stop TTIP being used to open-up the NHS to more privatisation and asset-stripping by the big multinationals. Extend the NHS to make sure that dental and prescription charges are scrapped and take over the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS. Fight for a better society where poverty - the biggest killer and the greatest cause of ill-health - could become a problem of the past.
8. What measures do you think need to be taken to decrease unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and those who have never been employed?
Launch a crash programme to build the social housing, hospitals and schools that we need. Cut the ridiculous workload facing many workers by enforcing a shorter working week for all workers - but without loss of pay - to allow people to live as well as work. Stop driving up pension ages too so that we can retire on a decent pension at 60 and allow younger workers the opportunities they need. Can all this be paid for? Yes - there's no shortage of wealth, it's just in the wrong hands.

9. Does the lack of diversity in Parliament equate to a lack of representation?
Parliament and the government should reflect the communities it purports to represent but the electoral system we have doesn’t achieve this. Increasingly, 'politics' is seen by many people as the preserve of the wealthy and careerist big business politicians. We need more working class women and men in Parliament, and Black and LGBT voices too, that will speak up for the unrepresented majority who are being hit by cuts and austerity. We need to change the 'first-past-the-post' system that protects the big parties and makes it harder for alternative voices to be heard.

10 . If an EU Referendum were to take place, how would you encourage your constituents to vote and why?
I’d encourage people to vote 'NO' so that we can get out of the bosses' club that the EU has always been and work for genuine workers' unity across Europe. That's very different to the narrow nationalism of UKIP and the Tory right - which I reject entirely. Events in Greece show more than ever that the EU has been constructed to help impose austerity, even when people vote against it. I would campaign for a real alternative that can genuinely bring together the working peoples of Europe and those Governments and parties that are fighting against the dictatorship of the market - in Greece, Spain and elsewhere.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Osborne's Budget for the 1%

The 1% 'walk tall' while the 99% are bowed by austerity 

Commenting on today's budget by Tory chancellor George Osborne, TUSC Chair and ex-Labour MP Dave Nellist said: 

"Hoping to gain a few extra votes, the chancellor has tried to sell this budget as a little relief from the endless austerity he has offered up for the last five years. It is nothing of the sort. The coalition once again banged the austerity drum, promising £30 billion worth of cuts, including £12 billion from welfare.

"George Osborne says austerity is working but the queues at food banks and pay day lenders tell a different story.

"This government of millionaires might think things are improving, but most ordinary workers are facing a Dickensian future rather than a bright recovery. 

"George Osborne says wages have started to increase but - that is only if you include bankers' bonuses in the figures! In fact they are still lower than they were before the 'Great Recession' - for young people a massive 12.5% lower. A 20p an hour increase in the minimum wage is a drop in the ocean compared to that. TUSC is campaigning for an immediate £10 an hour minimum wage for all with no exemptions. 

"No one who has experienced five years of Con-Dem government will be surprised by this budget, but where is the opposition? Labour also promises continued austerity. When Osborne put his plans for £30 billion worth of cuts under the next government to parliament only five Labour MPs voted against it! 

"It is time to take a stand. That is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has attracted a record number of anti-austerity candidates in the elections on 7 May 2015." 

Taken from: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/20353

Join the Stop Academies in Lewisham march on Saturday

Friday 13 March 2015

TUSC says 'Grants not Fees'

March in Leeds for free education 6.3.15 (Photo: J.Dickens)
I received an enquiry today from a Goldsmiths student about TUSC's response to the Labour Party pledge to reduce tuition fees from £9,000 a year to £6,000. This was my response:

TUSC's manifesto calls clearly for "student grants not fees" and, if elected, our representatives would use their positions to help organise campaigns and actions to help make that demand a reality.

The fact that the Labour Party hopes that students and their families will be content with a pledge to reduce tuition fees to £6,000 a year shows how far removed they are from the pressures facing most young people.

They, and all the main parties, have abandoned the idea of free education. Of course, it was a Labour government who first brought in tuition fees for higher education in the first place.

Reducing student fees by a third will still leave many students from working class backgrounds feeling that university is something that they cannot afford. For those students who do go on to higher education, then they will still leave with a mountain of debt to go with their degree certificate.

It also appears that the shortfall to universities from a cut in tuition fees would not be funded by the prospective Labour government. This will mean more cuts in courses and facilities. Students will still be paying huge fees for an underfunded university education.

Of course, students don't just have to borrow to fund their tuition fees. Rents and other living costs continue to rise as well. That's why TUSC also stands for the return of grants - a system that helped fund today's MPs when they were at university but which they now wish to deny to a new generation of students.

All the main parties will say that TUSC's demands are 'unaffordable'. TUSC disagrees. We do not accept their 'austerity' agenda. We know that there is plenty of wealth in our society but that is in the hands of a tiny few who are using the 'austerity' agenda to steal back the gains of the past, like free education, from the rest of us.

TUSC candidates in, for example, Manchester include students standing as council candidates for TUSC to help campaign for our demand for "grants, not fees". I would call on students who support what TUSC are saying to get in touch and help build TUSC's campaign up to the General Election on May 7.

Martin Powell-Davies
TUSC prospective candidate for Lewisham West and Penge

Nicky Morgan - carrying on with Gove's agenda to attack teachers' conditions

When Michael Gove was removed from office and replaced by Nicky Morgan, teachers celebrated and the NUT rightly pointed out that its industrial action had helped him on his way. However, it's now clear that the change of Secretary of State was also a clever move by Cameron. An unpopular Minister was pushed aside - to help make sure that the Coalition's policies could stay exactly the same.

Some conciliatory comments on workload after Nicky Morgan was first appointed led some to hope that a deal could be struck. However, Morgan and the Tories played for time with her 'Workload Challenge', then ended up conceding next to nothing. (See previous post from 8 February)

In her final letter to unions on March 4th, summarising the talks, Morgan blatantly makes clear that, in reality, she has never differed from Gove in a refusal to seriously negotiate. 

Her letter bluntly states that "The scope of the programme of talks has always been focussed on policy implementation. As I and my predecessor have set out on a number of occasions, the direction of policy on teachers’ pay and pensions is set: it has not and will not change". 

Their insistence that Performance-Pay is here to stay is confirmed in the latest Review Body Report. The Report admits "that the recruitment and retention pressures on which we commented in our last report had become more acute and the latest national data suggested the position had further deteriorated". Yet it is only prepared to recommend a 1% increase to TLR responsibility payments and the minimum levels of the various pay ranges.

What might sound like a slightly less frugal recommendation, to "recommend an uplift of 2% to the maxima of the main pay range" is qualified by the statement that "We would not expect all teachers on the maxima to receive a 2% increase: the full uplift should be awarded only where merited by performance. Some might receive a lower award, or none". So, with school budgets tight, one teacher's higher award could be matched with another's zero increase.

As far as the Review Body is concerned, national pay scales are already a thing of the past. Now divisive 'flexibility' rules and schools can "determine starting salaries and decide annual pay awards for individual teachers on the basis of performance, constrained only by the maxima and minima of the nationally set pay ranges. They do so in the context of managing their overall budgets. Our recommendations on pay range minima and maxima should not – and are not intended to – translate into uniform pay increases within every school". 

The facts are that, despite the Union's action, lobbying and campaigning, the Tories have succeeded in imposing their pay and pensions attacks - and workload has continued to increase intolerably. However, that does not mean that the campaign wasn't worth fighting. The real conclusion is that, under the next Government, we have to wage that campaign even more determinedly - and by employing a strategy that aims to defeat the attacks we face, not just to voice protest.

As an amendment agreed by Lewisham NUT, and other Divisions, for this Easter's NUT Conference bluntly puts it, "Communications should make it clear that lobbying, workload assessments, publicity stunts, casework etc. will not on their own lead to effective changes and the only solution, no matter how inconvenient and difficult, is a planned campaign of escalating strike action".

TUSC backs 38 Degrees campaign: No to TTIP, tax the rich, and save our NHS

Helping the 38 degrees stall in Penge
Across the country, members of 38 Degrees have been contacting TUSC parliamentary candidates to ask their views on various questions. As a supporter of their campaigns, I was out in Penge a fortnight ago, petitioning myself - and other candidates -  to Save Our NHS.

There are now over 120 TUSC candidiates standing in the General Election, meaning that TUSC will have the sixth biggest presence on the ballot papers in May.

Yesterday, on the TUSC website, a statement was posted on three of the main issues raised by 38 degrees. I fully back these points and have copied it below for information:

Q1. Do TUSC candidates oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? What will we do to stop this deal and protect our public services?

Unlike the three major parties, which all support TTIP, TUSC is completely opposed to it. At our 2015 national conference we agreed our general election platform which included: "No to TTIP and all secret austerity treaties". No wonder TTIP has been devised behind closed doors, it aims to further open up our public services (particularly the NHS) to be privatised and run in the interests of profit, rather than the public.

TTIP would further deregulate finance, genetically modified organisms and fracking. But probably the most dangerous aspect of TTIP is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). This would allow corporations to bring claims against states whenever they feel that their business interests have been adversely affected by national laws or policies. It would give, for example, governments an excuse to further accelerate privatisation of the NHS as US private healthcare companies could demand access to run NHS services and be entitled to legally claim against a government if denied.

TUSC opposes all privatisation of public services. We resolutely oppose TTIP now, and would continue to do so if elected. TUSC MPs would help mobilise opposition to TTIP, both through raising awareness but also supporting protests, demonstrations and strikes which can force positive change. We believe TTIP is yet another example of how we need to change the type of society we live in - which is run in the interests of the 1% not the 99%. We will continue to campaign for a democratic socialist society. 

Q2. Do TUSC candidates support a crackdown on tax dodging by the big companies?

Yes! While public spending is being cut to the bone, big companies are not even paying the very low levels of corporation tax demanded of them. A National Audit Office report showed that more than 400 of the 800 largest businesses paid less than £10 million in tax in 2012/13 and around 160 paid no corporation tax at all. Imagine how many public services that have been closed - including libraries, community centres and youth centres - could have been saved if these big companies had paid up what they owed.

It is little surprise that big business has got away with this when successive governments have assisted them in doing so. At least 14 of the top 20 donors to the Tory party are linked to 'tax havens'. But with Labour recently declaring that it is "furiously, passionately, aggressively pro-business" it cannot be trusted to act either.

TUSC's general election platform states: "Tax the rich. For progressive tax on rich corporations and individuals and an end to tax avoidance". We also campaign for the cutbacks in Revenue and Customs to be reversed to enable rich tax dodgers to be pursued. However, we think there are also wider issues here. The whole banking system is rotten, based on gambling and speculation. It needs reorganising and rationally planning. But you can't plan what you don't control, and you don't control what you don't own. Large amounts of Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland are in public ownership, but not under democratic control. Nationalisation should be extended to the whole banking system and tight regulation then enforced in the interests of the millions not the millionaires.

Britain is not a poor country. The problem is we have an economic system, backed up by the main establishment parties, which means vast wealth is concentrated at the very top. The key point is that the minority at the top own and control this wealth, whilst most of us struggle to get by. We think we need a radical change, whereby ownership and control of the main resources in society are put in the hands of ordinary people, and human need (such as the NHS, decent housing and free education) are put before private greed. 

Q3. Do TUSC candidates campaign to defend the NHS by opposing NHS cuts and privatisation?

Yes. Historically the NHS has been one of the most important gains made by working class people in Britain. We need a massive campaign to stop it being destroyed; which would leave workers in Britain facing the nightmare of a profit-driven US-style 'Breaking Bad' health service. If the Tories win the election they will accelerate the destruction of the NHS. Labour has said it will repeal the Tories Health and Social Care Act, but it has not pledged to reverse privatisation, much of which took place under Labour governments. TUSC campaigns for all the profiteers to be kicked out of the NHS. We demand an end to Profit From Illness (PFI) and for the massive debts it has created to be written off. We oppose all cuts, closures and job losses in the NHS.

We also go further, calling for the expansion of the NHS with free and accessible dental care for all and the abolition of the prescription charges. We call for nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS.

We demand a minimum of at least £10 per hour and a 35-hour week for all health workers.

We also campaign for a democratic socialist society where poverty - the biggest killer and the greatest cause of ill-health - could become a problem of the past.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Give Prendergast parents a vote to decide on academy conversion

Parents, staff and students have taken part in a series of protests to show their opposition to the proposed conversion of the three Prendergast schools into academies. With news expected soon from the Governors on a formal consultation timetable, that campaign is now having to step up even further. 

For now, Ladywell Fields, Hilly Fields and Prendergast Vale are all schools ‘maintained’ by the elected Local Authority. Academies are quite different. They are, in law, ‘independent’ schools governed by Funding Agreements drawn up between them and the Secretary of State. 

This Government vowed to put ‘rocket-boosters’ under the academies programme. In some boroughs, this has already led to the fragmentation of local schooling into different academies and academy chains. SAiL, the ‘Stop Academies in Lewisham’ campaign, is determined to make sure our schools don’t suffer the same fate. 

This debate is not just about the Prendergast schools. If they convert, SAiL understands that other Lewisham schools could follow suit, for fear of being left behind in a rush to academise. The future of education right across the borough is at stake.  

Prendergast Governors claim their proposal is based on the facts about what is best for ‘their’ schools. Yet even their own Working Party Report admitted that academies are ‘controversial and unproven’ and that ‘there was no funding advantage to being an academy”. 

As SAiL has shown in a detailed rebuttal of the Governors’ claims (‘Response to Prendergast Report’ on its website http://stopacademiesinlewisham.org/), there is increasing evidence questioning the claimed advantages of academy status. Many experts also point out the dangers of giving power over admissions, school budgets and staff conditions to an unaccountable Academy Trust. 

The extent of opposition seems to have taken Prendergast Governors and the Leathersellers’ Company by surprise. However, as things stand, they appear to be pushing ahead regardless. With the outgoing Government apparently keen to encourage as much academisation as possible while they can, the Department of Education has already granted the ‘Academy Order’ that the Governors rushed to apply for.

Under the Academy Act introduced under Michael Gove, all the Governors now need to do is to carry out a rudimentary ‘consultation’, get the Funding Agreement signed, and then the conversion would be complete. Unless the law changes, this is an irreversible decision. 

Parents are awaiting an imminent Governors' announcement on the precise timescales for consultation. There are suggestions that this process may begin shortly, rather than being postponed until after the General Election as Governors originally seemed to be suggesting to staff (see updated earlier post: http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/prendergast-governors-ignore-protests.html ).

What happens at the Prendergast schools could trigger the break-up of maintained schooling across Lewisham. A small group of Governors should not be allowed to take such a serious decision alone. A full and genuine consultation now needs to take place. Opponents of the academy proposal should be given as much opportunity as the Governors to distribute information and to present their case at consultation meetings. 

Under a previous Conservative Government’s similar model of ‘Grant-Maintained Schools’, any transfer had to be agreed by a ballot of parents. Surely the same opportunity should be given to Prendergast parents too.

If the Governors are so sure of their arguments, how can they object to balloting parents? If they won’t, then, just as Brighton Council did over the plans to academise Hove Park School, surely Lewisham Council should step in and conduct a ballot themselves.

An online petition has just been launched demanding such a ballot. Please go to the SAIL website to find the link, sign and share!