Radical Roundup: 10 stories that got buried

Left Foot Forward's roundup of the progressive news you might have missed this week.

In no particular order… PS: Got a story tip? Email us: editor@leftfootforward.org

10. Local authorities spending on buses has declined since 2010

Since Margaret Thatcher deregulated the buses in 1986, the UK has had a strange system. Buses are run by private companies for profit but local authorities pay them to run services which people need but which aren’t profitable.

A report by the National Audit Office today revealed that, since the Tory-Lib Dem coalition began in 2010, local authorities spending on bus services has fallen by 38%. This is likely related to the huge cuts central government made to local authorities’ budgets in that time.

The same report also showed that bus use declined by 10% in this period. Bus users tend to be disproportionately low-paid, female and BAME.

9. Greens make pitch to disaffected Corbynites and Moranites

The Green Party of England and Wales has its online conference today. The party says its co-leaders will “make a call to the traditional supporters of other parties who feel let down following Labour’s turn to the right and the Liberal Democrat’s decision not to elect a leader who promoted more progressive policies”.

Jonathan Bartley will say: “There are now so many people who feel disenfranchised and without a political home. Who know that climate justice, social justice and racial justice are the same goals. Who still hope for a better world.”

Sian Berry will add: “Other politicians, now, are arguing again for cutbacks and cancelling investment in the wake of the economic shock of coronavirus, a trade-off between the economy and saving lives. But we dissent and we say this just isn’t true.”

8. Lib Dems want a ‘Minister for Wellbeing’

As new statistics revealed a rise in anxiety and depression among young (18-24 year old) women, the Lib Dems said a Minister for Wellbeing should be appointed.

Their health spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “The impact of poor and overcrowded housing, insecure employment and our broken welfare system on the mental health and wellbeing of young people is blindingly clear.”

“”Wellbeing must be a priority. That starts by appointing a Minister for Wellbeing to Cabinet and introducing wellbeing assessments to make sure new laws empower people to live healthier lives.”

Mental health is currently the responsiblity of the Health Secretary.

7. Heathrow workers set for strike ballot

Security guards, firefighters and others working at Heathrow Airport will start a ballot next Thursday on strike action – unless their employer and Unite can sort out a deal before then. Any strike will be some time from November onwards.

The union says it is angry over the use of ‘section 188’ notices, firing staff and re-hiring them on inferior terms and conditions. The changes will cost staff £8,000 a year, about 25% of their pay, says Unite.

While the airport blames coronavirus, Unite says they’ve been planning this since before the pandemic and had enough money to pay out a £100m dividend to shareholders like the Qatari royal family.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “The opportunism of HAL’s highly-paid managers is truly shocking. They are using the cover of Covid to impose brutal cuts on workers trying to get by in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.”

6. Scrap outsourced track-and-trace system, say council leaders

Five local council leaders, including one Tory, have called on Matt Hancock to scrap the coronavirus tracing system which has been outsourced to Serco and Sitel.

Instead, they want the government to fund local authority’s own established public health teams to run their own tracing system.

The Labour leader of Oldham council said: ““Right now it’s too difficult to get a test, and too often the results come back late or not at all. Fixing that, and giving local authorities the responsibility and resources to lead on tracing, would be a huge step towards controlling the virus while protecting lives and livelihoods.

“Oldham has a fantastic team of experienced public health professionals, who know the area and know how to reach people. So far the Government and their partners have failed.”

5. Test us and let us leave, say students

The unions representing students (NUS) and university staff (UCU) have released a joint set of demands calling for online working, students to be allowed to return home if they wish and funding guarantees to safeguard universities’ finances and protect jobs. They also called for a national test-and-trace system for students.

The statement follows comments from Professor Mark Woodhouse, from the government’s pandemic modelling group. He said that the current crisis was not only “entirely predictable”, but that modelling showed halls of residences and in-person teaching were areas of risk.

NUS president Larissa Kennedy said: ‘It is wholly unforgiveable that students continue to be punished for the government’s failure to keep students, staff and communities safe. Our education system is broken – time and again it prioritises profit over people.

4. Drunk guards tortured prisoners during Troubles

An indepedent report has been released on the treatment of prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh Prison between 1976-1981. The ‘I am Sir, you are a number report’ was conducted by human rights lawyers.

Commenting, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said: “The report found that prisoners were regularly subjected to physical and psychological torture by prison officers, with many of these officers intoxicated at the time. It found that no attempts were made by prison management or medical staff to intervene and stop these vicious assaults.”

“British Government documents also show that the British Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers were consciously pursuing policies in prisons that were in clear breach of international human right standards and common law with the aim of breaking the commitment of prisoners.”

3. UK as bad as Orban in Europe’s eyes, says former ambassador

Ivan Rogers, who spent four years, as the UK’s ambassador to the EU told Times Radio Brussels have been “shocked and disappointed” by the UK’s behaviour in recent weeks, and says it’s drawn comparisons to Hungary or Poland.

“It’s drawn comparisons in their minds with the behaviour of you know, the Hungarian prime minister or the Polish leader,” he said.

2. Shows us the evidence on 10pm curfew, says committee chair

The chair of the science commitee Greg Clark has written to Matt Hancock asking to see the scientific evidence supporting a 10pm curfew.

Specifically, the Chair asks whether the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) provided the Government with evidence regarding how the new curfews would have an impact on virus transmission.

This follows a report in the Times that the effects of the 10pm curfew were not modelled by SAGE and concern that the curfew leads crowds to gather on the street and on public transport.

  1. Lloyd’s TSB cut 848 jobs

The bank announced it will shut 1/3 of its branches by June 2021, at the cost of 848 jobs.

Unite’s Dominic Hook said: “The financial services industry has a social responsibility not to walk away from its local customers who continue to need access to banking in bank branches. It beggars belief that just seven years ago TSB had 631 local branches and this announcement will reduce that number to merely 290 branches.”

Around 70 of these branches and 300 redundances will be in Scotland and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford also called for the bank to re-think its plans.

He said: “Older and vulnerable groups will be hit particularly hard by this decision. Many people are unable to use online services, or would struggle to travel to the next town to do their banking. Local banks also provide a footfall on high streets which other businesses rely on – now more than ever.”

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