Saturday, 19 December 2009

Truth, Justice, Racial Violence and Belief

Over the last five days I’ve had to give a redundancy notice to a pregnant women and had to hear the ultimate abuse of a Council Worker of twelve years who has been told that they don’t know what will be happening with their job or whether they will be made redundant or redeployed in the next few weeks.

That and writing off my car (again!) Thursday morning only to have another car collide into my courtesy vehicle on Friday makes it officially a danger zone. So in situations like this it is about the fundamentals. Those have to be words like truth and justice and making them more than words.

Work at the moment is hard ... harder than ever ...we always say that it is hard ... but the search for truth and justice seems harder than ever.

So in the context of this turmoil news comes of this. So is it better to feel that there is the potential of people in the then institutionally racist Met being brought to justice for the failure to properly investigate a murder that happened sixteen years ago or is it right to focus on the fact there has been sixteen years with no individual accepting or being apportioned blame.

Perhaps the most important thing is to belive that truth and justice will be brought to the front of our minds regardless of collusion of those who do not value these ideals for the world of today or the future.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

So when does it matter what people say?

At Weston Favell School staff, students, community and politicians have spoken and it still doesn’t seem to matter. So when does it matter what people say?
Following consultation from everything from public meetings (one of which only allowed three questions from members of the public) and OFSTED surveys when everyone says that they don’t want this school to be an academy why has it still been voted by a Tory cabinet to be on track to turn into one.
At the end of the day it is all about Northampton. The reason why a Tory cabinet can stumble into this decision is only because there is no heavy representation from Northampton what do Tory;s from rural South Northants or Kettering care about Northampton.
So why should they care? They should care because students at Weston Favell went on strike twice over Wednesday because they cared about their school. They were threatened with exclusion but felt passionately about the millions of public money invested in their school over the past couple of years being handed over lock stock and two smoking barrels to a company which has been deemed by the Government as having no capacity to manage any more schools.
There is now a hastily arranged full council in January to discuss the issue. Politicians panic stations!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

moving forward

It seems that people have been talking about me and my news.
So guess it must be time to have my say.
Since being told that I was no longer in the Labour party I have
• had good friends who has expressed genuine love and affection for me and a wish for me to move forward in a positive way.
• contacted by a Tory M P expressing profuse regret and stating respect for my hard work and integrity
• contacted by a recently born again Independent wishing to “share my pain”
• a Labour group leader looking for the mobile number of a colleague
For all those from all political persuasions who have given me messages of support, thank you for your very generous words.
To the BNP who reverted to gloating at the situation I find myself in ... all the more time to do anti-BNP campaigning. The events surrounding my exclusion from the Labour Party do not cloud my judgement about who are real political enemies.
The task now is to get political change for Northampton which delivers real benefits for the people living here and destroy the evil ... the racist and the fascist views in our communities.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

It's been an interesting few days. Firstly the mass revulsion at the Jan Moir article in the Daily Mail. The writing had been based on hatred of Stephen Gately because of the way he chose to live his life and the way he used to love in his life. In many respects this terrible event and Jan Moir's choice to get a cheap headline out of his tragic death has propelled Boyzone into new found popularity in quarters they would never have found favour with.

Over the weekend a local Community Centre in the Northampton South constituency had their local BNP candidate introduce himself at their open day. The recent press reports of the stand that the Royal British Legion has taken in respect of offers of support from the BNP, highlights how charitable and community organisations can and will be aware of the damage association with extremist parties can do. Increasingly with the run up to the general election this are the kind of new choices and conflicts many will have to face.

On the issue of the question time appearance of Nick Griffin, we have to wait and see the impact of this level of exposure for the BNP. For the record allowing a holocaust denyer and the figure head of a racist organisation on mainstream television can never be the right thing to do.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Wanting to think the best of folk

With news rapidly running about town about the proposals to close down the Northampton Borough Council Cliftonville offices there are plenty of people worried about whether they have a future in their job.
In the mean time the BNP locally seem to have taken to heart campaigning against them with a series of offensive posts on their blog. They try to pass the requests for the age of consent to be lowered to 10 and hate messages to the african and caribbean community and asian community as infiltration ... the truth is ... the BNP and their supporters do hate and this is the essence of what they do whether they like to think of this happening or not.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Unlikely bed fellows

Apologies for the lack of posting but life has been busy of late. With the local BNP standing in two by-elections over the next few weeks (Daventry District Drayton Ward) and Kettering Borough Northfield Ward) there has been a lot to be keeping up with.

It was intriguing to find that the Northants Patriot blog had started trying to earn revenue with a Google ad's stream, particularly when one ad related to equality diversity training and another related to bespoke consultancy for equalities work in local government. Seems like exactly the kind of stuff that the blog seemed to spend it's time criticising as 'a waste of money and why don't these people get real jobs rather than using my council tax for something that might be more useful instead' rant. I do wonder what the companies listed would think if they knew the exposure that they were getting.

This all co-incided with the shift in government direction to include far right extremism as part of the prevention of violent extremism agenda. It's been a long time coming but at least it's there now. The recent graffiti attack on the Ramgaria Centre on Craven Street in Northampton which included the National Front emblem is clear evidence of why work in this area is so important.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The last couple of weeks have had their ups and downs. Firstly, the swanspool by election last thursday was a definate up.

June 2009
con 548 46.0
lib 162 13.6
lab 361 30.3
BNP 120 10.1

July 2009
Con Bell, Paul Anthony 958 41.2
Lab Cass, Pat 543 23.3
Lib Dem White, Julie Dorothy 282 12.1
BNP Robinson, David Peter 274 11.8
Green Hornett, Jonathan T. 270 11.6

Labour 7 points up and the BNP 2 points down :-)

With a by election in daventry soon (albeit not yet announced) it's all reasons to get our act together.

Thank you so much to all the many activists that delivered and organised the anti -BNP leafleting and the printing of the leaflet ... a lot of learning this campaign that will do us proud for the next few years

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Behaving responsibly in the face of unfairness

Children seem obsessed with being treated unfairly. They constantly question whether the treatment and benefits that are laid down out by parents, school or anyone else in the line of fire is delivered fairly.

I guess it’s human nature ... but the issue of being treated fairly is not only a local one or a national one but also a global one. With this release of Obama’s first speech to African nations stressing the role of good governance, it really seems that western nations and particularly Britain after the expenses scandals are in glass houses throwing stones.

Working over this weekend I’ve also been thinking about how to get the clearest message to local people about the need to take action to protect public services when there is such a lot of unhappiness with the quality of them after years and years of sustained cut backs on all from all sides. Some politicians seem to think that it’s just about fighting the cause, however some of the work has to be about taking local communities with us. One of the difficulties is media onslaught from certain prominent individuals about public sector wages and pensions. Although some of it is from the shallow thinking of the Tax Payers Alliance and other Daily Mail readers there all too often pressure from “so-called” friends. Look here for a thoughtful post from Michael Meacher telling it how it is.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Trust me a little ...

After a challenging weekend with my nearest and dearest, I came into work yesterday to this.
Some of the interesting arguments in it relate to what local politicians should be doing rather than slagging each other off without however addressing the sticky wicket of resourcing.

Another interesting bit includes a quote from then former Chief Executive of Solihull, current Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council, Katherine Kerswell. Katherine highlights the importance of citizens feeling that they have at least been listened to in decision making even if they disagree with the decision made.

The publication also dwells a little on the semantics and space between justice and fairness ... can there be a distinction to people who are outside of local governmentspeak? The document talks about citizens having trust in the organisations like Councils when they don't deliver for them as long as they can see that things are done fairly. Can't see it myself.

The legislation for decision making now demands thorough investigation on how decisions changes will affect people and whether new decisions will unfairly or less favourably treat people and has done since 2000. It's interesting that in a document based on discussing trust, there is no mention of discrimination and less favourable treatment. Equally, there's not consistent application of the legistlation as yet in local authorities. Perhaps it's just a little unfashionable at the moment. When doing the right thing and making the right decisions based on treating people equally falls out favour it's a trend that I'm willing to to fight. I don't think I'm the only one either.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

With the Blockheads due to play in Northampton at 2pm on Sunday in the Market Square and Penny Red’s post it seems to be the right thing to start blogging again with.

Having had a couple of days to think about elections I think it’s time we regained a sense of humour. The picture indicates this house on Calder Green is unlikely to have voted for me but 577 others did.

One of those that told me that she did, attended one of my councillor surgeries a while back. She told me that she used to live in the Boroughs (Spring Boroughs) and when she went to a girls school in the town there were only two teachers there: one teacher for the English and one for housewifery. The girls took it in turns for two of them to go in early so that the floors were scrubbed clean and the fires light in the classroom.

Reasons to be cheerful, reasons to celebrate progress.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Change, Risk and Judgement

The Labour Party blogsphere is saturated with discussion of "smeargate" emails from number 10 and now the debacle that is the Erith & Thamesmead selection. Makes Northampton Labour Party politics positively tame.

The bloggers response to this been this , which poses a number of statements about the principles under which we operate.

The chaotic and unstructured environment that blogging can produce is something I find attractive partly because I believe most really good solutions to problems involve an element of risk. The risky nature of blogging in that you don't know who's reading and what kind of mindset they have when they do ready your work, I think does produce possibilities that would not usually be there. I guess it is all about judgement in the end, something Damian McBride and Derek Draper showed little of in this episode.

Of course, it's not really true that I don't have a clue who reads my blog apart from the usual suspects ... even with lurkers, word gets around.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tent Village Spin

With the front page of the Chron focussing on the tent village (now cleared) the local spin seems significant. The site now has an infestation of local lib dem Councillors as they look to get their next quote in the paper.

I'm sure there were some homeless people on the site (at least one to my knowledge) but despite the headline most from the picture are kids I know who have problems with their parents and who like the lack of supervision that creates opportunities to drink large amounts of alcohol and hang out with the opposite sex. The picture features two lads from St James (Symington Street)and one from Kings Heath (Swale Drive). The site has been used off and on by these kids for the past few months.

It highlights the real problems that young people have. The need to feel valued and loved and when they need it proper housing advice that gives then options not to be in a tent. Sasha in the photo has been homeless for some weeks now, and it is testimony to the lack of accessibility of the Borough Councils Homelessness advice that she has ended up in a tent.

The kids are all good in their own way, have said please and thank you when they've eat in my house but need the real things in life to achieve anything more than self indulgence when they get the money.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Time to turn back the tide

The war on terror produced a fundemental shift towards conservatism in the country. It's the culture of fear that makes us want to suspect all foreign students regardless of the fact that 99% of them are law abiding with their heads down trying to get an education.

With not inconsiderable public concern about what did actually happen at the G20 demonstration that resulted in the death of a homeless newspaper seller perhaps the time is right for people to stand up not only for their own rights but also for the rights of others.

I came across this and thought it an opportunity to encourage all of us to think about the way we'd like to think about our neighbours. Hat tip to Nigel Ashton for showing it to me:-)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Will the last one to leave please switch off the lights

With news today that the carnival hangs in the balance it seems like it's going to be a long bleak summer with very little to look forward to. But maybe this is one thing that we really can't blame the Liberal Democrats for. After all it was athe Tory County council which gave the carnival the funding axe. Well think again, as fundemental to this situation is the fact that the Lib Dem Borough council which has given no black or minority ethnic groups any funding in this financial year or the previous one also give no money to the carnival making them realiant on a County Council grant which is no longer available as the Tory county council wishes to spend more pennies in areas other than Northampton where there might be a quite vote or two in it.

With the loss of the St Crispin's Fair and the Balloon festival it's going to be a long hot lonely summer.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Regeneration in the recession

That time of year again. You know when the kids are all sick and suddenly Liberal Democrats re-discover the areas that the represent. So with a new focus out in Kings Heath (featuring three photos of Councillors in Spencer and focus on Dallington Park and Spencer Brook ... do they really know so little of what exists North of Mill Road) what's interesting is the news that isn't there. Over the last few weeks the talk from West Northants Development Corporation has been about demlotion of some of the housing on Kings Heath. It's fairly horrifying how blasé the discussion is on the destruction of people's homes. What's more horrifying is that the demolition being proposed is not for the worst housing on the estate. Given this fact, it just does make you question to motivation of actions like this.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Community Prosecutor

The real heroine of today for me was Grace Ononiwu of the Crown Prosecution Service (however she always is ... just love her smart dressed lady look ... just wish that I was able to pull it off). Having been invited to the Northamptonshire CPS staff development day, it was a real eye opener to see the drive to embrace the role of community prosecutor. Despite my dislike of much that has come out of Louise Casey, this is a real revolutionary step forward in transforming the organisation responsible for ensuring that justice is delivered for victims into something that is a public service in the real sense of the word (focussed on communities, delivering to communities and being held to account by communities).

Over the last few months there has been a growth in hate incidents without identified victims. These include aggressive racially and religiously motivated graffiti in public places. All the evidence shows that the increase in this kind of offence increases offences of violence against people and property in addition to having a significant impact on relationships within communities.

The concept of the community prosecutor, encourages the gathering of a different kind of evidence ... evidence that relates to impact on the community. To date impact evidence has generally focused on impact on individuals and sometimes even that is not consistently presented. The concept of the community prosecutor will also provide opportunities for other criminal justice agencies to raise their game by putting the focus on the community. Can't be a bad thing.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Kings Heath in the Springtime

In May 2005, the Silver Cornet was where we stopped to wind down at the end of a campaigning session. This is what it looks like today. I guess the derilict environment is slightly better than the wreck of the Morris Man on the other side of South Oval. Both sites have had planning permission to build housing for a good three years or more now. Doesn't stop the rumour mill of the potential of a mosque being built there. Local Lib Dems don't seem to care that the rumours exist or even that the sites remain eyesores for the local community. Clearly, with overwhelming control of the local Borough Council, they could do something about it if they really wanted to. Perhaps, the real priorities are shutting down services and axing neighbourhood wardens.

The merit of pounding the streets

It's been a tough week or so, emotionally with death issues around. One of my strategies about dealing was trying to stay focused on what's important and trying to stay busy. I've been doing a bit of delivery of late in Spencer, Dallington and King Heath. I was eased into it through a request from the Neighbourhood Manager to deliver the neighbourhood newsletter. Given the amount of casework I still get from that part of the town I thought it maybe was time to start acting like a councillor in the better sense of the word. I did get quite a bit of feel good walking around as people came up to chat about the forthcoming elections. Going to ponce a cup of tea after delivering is always a good idea. I dropped into a local residence in Kings Heath to be told that the Tories had been paying for their election leaflets to be delivered in St. James. The poor kid who had been saddled with the task has been telling folks the leaflet “Was just wrong!”. Having never read a political leaflet before, the beleaguered Tory leafleter commented that it just seemed wrong to scrap National Insurance so that the health care could be purchased privately. Who says young people don’t have the right political instincts!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Careful who's bandwagon you jump on

I have a lot of respect for Tim Hadland, having served as a borough councillor with him. I remember when he expressed his condolences at the death of my parents, he wasn't aware that they were Conservative voters. He said that they didn't seem to be on their voter identification list. I did let him know that I seemed to be on the Tory voter ID list given that I seemed to get all the promotional literature from them.

However the letter six of the letters page of the Chron today really does concern me.

With the local Northants Patriot website (local BNP website) hoping that muslims stay away from the march through the town this week, I believe it is a case of being careful what bandwagon that you are climbing on.

Talking to key Army recruitment personnel in the region they talk about the activities of the British army from this region returning from Afganistan. They talk in terms of those from the forces responsible in reconnecting electric and water supplies for the area that they were working in. The officer I spoke to, spoke in very emotive terms of the muslim officer killed alongside him when trying to undertake the task. Almost exclusively, the muslim community would accept the actions of this regiment as support for Afgani communities and would celebrate the courage and commitment to duty that these individuals have shown. No need to think the worst of people.

Friday, 6 March 2009

When can a whole be part

The part privatisation of Royal Mail simply makes no sense in the current climate. The spade work of getting us out of the recession must be done through greater investment in public services not by selling bits of it off. There has been a massive groundswell of support for this matter locally. Even the teenagers living in my house recognise that the postal service is something owned by them.

It's really positive that there has been so much support for the Early Day motion opposing the plans.

It's interesting that after all the bluster over the campaign to save post offices like the one on London Road in Delapre, the only way that this proposal will go through will be through Conservative support. Mores the pity, if the proposals go through it will represent a breach of a cornerstone manifesto commitment by the Labour Party.

Contrary to popular belief, Private Finance Initiatives approaches are not the only game in town and it's supporters in the Labour Party represent the part of the party who still think people are fooled by spin.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Council Tax - do people really matter?

What's clear is, people are willing to pay for better public services but if they think they're being palmed off with dross, as an electorate they'll reap their revenge.

In Northampton do people think their getting better public services for their council tax? ...after speaking to people today ... I think not.

Despite Lib Dem protestations that services have improved, the
people really just can't see it. One of the key issues is the scrapping of award winning public toilets. Many up and down the country see this as a key indicator of public pride and active citizenship.

I guess for me the key question is what town do we want to be and who in the town need to be supported as the recession bites?

With a Council tax increase higher than the national average increase, the question has to be asked "Are we doing our best to help the right people through the credit crunch".

Friday, 20 February 2009

Credit carrot crunch

I've been talking to people about the market over the last couple of weeks. I've been genuinely surprised about the amount of deep, sincere feeling that the market elicits from local people. Although you come across the sections of the community that no longer go into town either because of mobility issues or just driven out of the Town centre by the prohibitive parking costs, even amongst this group of people there is a significant proportion that passionately care about the market and see it as a key feature of the towns heritage.

I went into the mobile consultation unit on the market square this morning to have a look at the proposals. Many have been commenting positively about the idea of placing a version of the historic fountain as a key feature on the entrance of the square. Aside from that there was a lot of focus on the potential of large and small events on the site rather that the core work of providing a shopping area for fruit, veg, meat, fish and clothing.

The council representative glibley commented that if the town wanted big events "We can close the market when we need to". With the potential loss of the Balloon festival impending the horizon looks like event on the market square and the the eventual ceasation of the market as traders find it hard and hard to survive with the credit crunch and a council unsympathetic to the difficulties of running a business as a local trader.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Development in Sixfields

Let's get this clear ... I have a complete aversion to any sport. 14 years of being a cricket widow and always being picked last for the team kinda did it for me. However as someone with a sport aversion ... I believe it's really important that the sixfields development goes ahead if the Northampton is to survive and have a hope of thriving.

The key problems are with the exclusive relationships that the Borough have with other key partners in regenerating the town who see anything as a threat but still won't put the required time and energy to give the town a boost.

Time to re-evaluate relationships at the very least.

Time to lay it on the line...but will it happen ... we'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Northampton- extreme snow, and the need for authorities to lighten up

There were high spirits and a atmosphere of a town where people really cared about each other and wanted to create out of the snow the essence of joy and playfulness. So was it right for the six foot snowball that appeared outside the Grosvenor Centre to be destroyed ?.

With town campaigns increasingly led by the people and not politicians it's concerning when there has been yet another incident when authorities seem to be out of touch with the wishes of local people.

The tenth anniversary of the MacPherson enquiry report being published is coming up in a few week. In the report, ten years ago there was out and out damning condemnation of the police but have things changed now?

Race for a long while has been something that's been too hard to raise as an issue in Northampton with the oh so many problems that are faced locally ... failing schools despite more government investment than anywhere else in the country, a dying town centre, an absence of ambition. Perhaps the key is harnessing the peoples sense of injustice. In that way perhaps race really does need to be on the agenda.

Monday, 26 January 2009

New Duston By election

So I have almost caught up on sleep and for those that don't know the result was Labour second place. Albeit with second to fourth being within twelve votes of one another. On the whole we did well with a well resourced campaign with frankly appallingly bitter weather.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New Duston by election

So the by election did get a little more demanding (hence the absence of posting. In the rest of the world we now have an a new world leader in situ and ready to go with an audacity of hope. For me it's just getting through the next couple of days. It's normally really difficult to get press coverage during a by election but my candidate has done really well. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. Just don't wait up for it.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Fishmarket - don't let it be another loss for Northampton

I remember really disliking the fishmarket as a child. I just couldn't work out why somewhere indoors was so cold. When it closed in 2006 it offered the opportunity to showcase cultural and artistic spirit. This offered opportunities for local artists to have their work exhibited alongside national figures. Certainly it has florished to an incredibly short space of time. All the more concerning now that it appears that the Borough Council want to snaffle back the building and throw out the cultural baby with the bath water.

The lack of strategy in relation to the Borough's relationship with the voluntary and community sector is astounding. I remember sitting in meetings with the previous Borough Chief Exec where she denounced the Borough for not having proper service level agreements with the organisations that they gave grants to. Strangely enough there actually were contracts in place then and there aren't now. In addition there seems to be very little understanding of what investment into the voluntary sector there is. So when the Borough Council consultation document on the budget suggests that support to the voluntary sector should be frozen, then maybe it is about the temperature in the Fish market and the relationship with the Northampton Arts Collective rather suggesting that support to the sector should remain at a standstill. Maybe the current administration liked it better when it was cold.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Delivery in New Duston

It maybe freezing, but delivering leaflets in the New Duston by election does really put a spring in your step. Needless to say I now have evidence on Tories doing it differently. The sight of lonely leafleters doing their own little seemingly unending patch is not something I really ever encourage. What's clear is the Tory presence seems to be from the bright young things from the North of the town (no doubt recruited in by agent David Mackintosh following his spat with Northampton North tories). He's done well in setting them to work even when they are on their own.

I've now had a better look at the Lib dem focus. Maybe it is the fact that being brought up a Bengali, I have a deep understanding of the concept of shame. Lib dem leaflets are what the more generous of us would term "apasancriti" (apologies about the spelling but it's getting it right in Bengali that counts). The correct translation is "anti-cultural" but generally bad guy talk and behaviour. The Lib dems openenly state that "Labour can't win here" when they have never came first or second (finishing seventh and eight behind the independent and SOS at the last Borough elections). They also have a go at no-show Tory councillors. A bit of a farce when they even quote Spencer ward councillors as having"excellent attendance". One of the Spencer councillors has the worst attendance rate in the Council.