Jack Ashley

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Jack Ashley the former MP for Stoke South. He was a doughty fighter for the rights of the disabled and a very good constituency MP. I knew him best during the 1970s and 80s when I was active in the Labour Party in Stoke, for a short period between 1985-6 I was Vice Chairman of Stoke South Constituency Labour Party. His campaign on behalf of people effected by the thalidomide drug in the 70s which would be a fine record in its own right but added to that was his work around domestic violence and the need for a refuge for victims of violence later in the decade.

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Is The Labour Party Guilty of Institutionalised Bullying?

I know it may seem that I have ‘got it in for’ the Labour Party of late. I haven’t – honest. But, if there is a ass constantly paraded in front of you, there is always the temptation to kick it!

The news that our Prime Minister may not be the teddy bear that Lord Mandelson or John Prescott would have us believe, has sparked a huge inquiry over whether there is, or has been, bullying within 10 Downing Street.

The story kicked off with the serialisation of the Observer’s Chief Political Commentator Andrew Rawnsley’s new book in which he claims that Downing Street staff were subjected to angry and abusive outbursts from Gordon Brown.

This the resulted in an announcement by No 10 who said they had looked into the claims and that they had found no truth in the allegations.

Over the weekend Lord Mandelson spoke on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show and said that the PM does get angry, but mainly with himself and does not bully people.

The Chief Executive of the National Bullying Helpline Christine Pratt entered into the debate by revealing that 3 or 4 people in the PM’s office had had cause to contact the anti-bullying helpline over recent years. She pointed out that none of the calls were about the PM.

Today, John Prescott jumped to the defence of Gordon Brown in an interview with Fern Britten on Radio 5 Live.

A patron of the National Bullying Helpline, Prof Cary Cooper resigned citing a breach of confidentiality by the charity’s CE Mrs Pratt.

All this came on a weekend where the Labour Party had managed to narrow the gap in the opinion polls which gave the clearest indication yet that we are heading for a hung parliament.

All these negative stories must be having an effect on those people who have still to make their minds up which way to vote.

The same of course can be said of the ‘floating’ voters here in Stoke-on-Trent.

It is clear that the Labour Party paid enforcement officers attached to the National Executive along with the paid officers of Regional Office are inflicting bullying of the very worse kind upon the grass roots membership of Stoke Central CLP.

They are bullying those who they see as hostile, namely Barry Stockley, Gary Elsby and Mick Williams. They have dragged them to selection meetings where they knew the outcomes before they had heard these men speak.

They are then prevented from becoming candidates for the upcoming local elections and even go a step further in the case of Stoke Central CLP Secretary Gary Elsby and boot him off the Parliamentary lists too.

They have prevented Mick Williams from entering the City Labour Party meetings even though it has been proved he has a right to be there.

They have even written to every member of Stoke Central cancelling their AGM and used unscrupulous methods in doing so.

How hostile is that? Don’t you have to be hostile to be a bully?

I wonder if the Labour Party has a culture of institutionalised bullying? Is there a training course that teaches paid officials and the the party hierarchy how to stamp their feet and intimidate people until they are broken and beaten. Is that what they are trying to do here in Stoke Central?

Does this very culture come right from the top of the Labour Party? Is it a case of intimidation until you get complicity?

I am a business leader. I work with my team every day. I listen to their concerns and where there are issues I mediate and consult and above all I treat them how I would wish to be treated.

I respect my workforce for being the people they are.

If I did any different I would face the possibility of an Industrial Tribunal and a claim for Unfair/Constructive dismissal.

Oh how different No 10 Downing Street and the rest of the Labour establishment are these days.

It would seem that they are above the law – or are they?

Now that is a question……………

Audit Commission ready for change

Source: Public Servant Magazine.

Officials at the Audit Commission are already preparing for an alternative inspection system to the comprehensive area assessment (CAA) in case the Conservative Party wins power, Public Servant has learnt, writes Dean Carroll.

A Tory government would immediately abolish CAA as part of its pledge to decentralise power and create a “post-bureaucratic state”.

Commission managing director Gareth Davies told Public Servant that the regulator was “planning for any eventuality from the next general election”. He admitted that the Tories may dramatically change the way the commission evaluated public bodies, adding: “They may not agree that we need to inspect them in the way that we do now.”

But Davies said he expected the One Place website ““ the CAA online tool ““ to remain part of Tory plans because it had received a warm response from Conservative shadow ministers, who were given a demo of the portal. It may also chime well with Tory proposals for “Google Government”.

“Nobody who has seen the website has said ‘this is a waste of time,'” said Davies. “The information is now accessible on one website rather than buried in PDFs in various places.”

The new inspection regime has been criticised by the Local Government Association and members of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives for allegedly redirecting the time of public servants away from frontline duties. Merging the work of six different inspectorates had also proved problematic. Independent consultants are now analysing CAA, and their findings will be published in March.

Davies told delegates at a Capita conference in London that unlike its predecessor (comprehensive performance assessment) CAA was focused on outcomes rather than processes ““ and that the reports were designed more with the public in mind as the audience rather than “local government insiders”.

“Some elected members have felt disengaged,” said Davies, adding: “We have also had a lot of feedback from chief executives saying that CAA hadn’t told them anything new about their council or partners. There is an exercise going on to learn the lessons of the first year. We will not have the same list of excuses for next year.”

Davies claimed that the threat of CAA red flags had forced some primary care trusts and police forces to up their game in terms of partnership working, while feedback about the delivery of national schemes in local areas also “challenged government”.

He added that a value for money area assessment could be included in 2010 inspections should Labour win power ““ as the Prime Minister had hinted at in his smarter government report.

MP welcomes extra cash to fight anti-social behaviour in the city

Local Labour MP, Rob Flello, has today written to Tory Council leader Ross Irving calling on him to push the City Council to make full use of extra money being made available to tackle yobs, nuisance neighbours and other anti-social behaviour that blights local’s lives.

Communities Secretary, John Denham MP and Housing Minister, John Healey MP, recently announced an extra £54,000 for fighting anti-social behaviour in Stoke-on-Trent. This money is a part of a £10 million initiative to eradicate ASB nation-wide.

The £10 million targets 130 local councils where ASB is a significant issue, and supports a package of measures:

  • Training and supporting an estimated 10,000 community champions and front line staff to equip them to tackle ASB
  • Publicity to make sure millions of residents now how to report ASB and that communities know that they aren’t alone – the authorities have powers to tackle it
  • Small scale funding for local action to tackle ASB eg environmental clean ups
  • A measures for those living in social housing including a Housing ASB action squad and a binding Respect Standard for social landlords to tackle ASB

Rob Flello MP said:

“It’s great that the Labour Government has given our Council this extra cash to tackle anti-social behaviour. It’s an issue that I know from my surgeries and postbag is of real concern to local people.

“People want tough action and that’s what I believe the Government has done.  They’ve given the police and councils the powers they needed to come down hard on people who create havoc on our streets, but this has not been popular in Parliament, with both Tories and Lib Dem MPs voting against many of the measures.  Only last week I’ve been in Court watching the law in action – closing down a drug dealer’s house in the Meir.

“David Cameron’s “do nothing” approach will not protect law-abiding families. Time and again the Tories vote soft on crime, failing to support measures to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

“In the past I’ve criticised Council officers for not taking this issue seriously enough.  So I’ve written to Tory Council leader, Ross Irving, calling on him to make sure every penny of this £54,000 is spent on front line services making our streets safer. I hope Councillor Irving doesn’t follow his party’s line of being soft on crime”

Today’s package builds on the Home Secretary’s announcement on 13 October which includes extending victim support services, encouraging areas to set and publicise minimum standards of service dealing with ASB by March 2010 and step up action on ASBO breaches. Today’s announcement is about making sure support and training goes further and deeper across communities to make a difference.

The latest British Crime Survey shows the perception of ASB as a local problem has fallen over the last six years (17% of people felt that levels of anti-social behaviour were high in 2008/09 compared to 21% in 2002/03) but the new drive redoubles efforts for more action, faster action and better results  
Labour say that you are now less likely to be a victim of crime than at any time in the last 25 years. Since 1997, all crime has fallen by nearly two-fifths (as measured by the British Crime Survey to the year ending March 2008).

  •  Overall crime is down 36%
  •  Domestic burglary is down 54%
  •  All vehicle-related thefts down 57%
  •  All household crime down 36%
  •  All BCS violence down 41%
  •  All personal crime down 36%

Labour are attacking what they consider to be David Cameron’s “do nothing” approach and point out that it will not protect law-abiding families. The Tories, for their part, have even dismissed Labour’s investment in knife scanners as a “gimmick”.

The Conservatives have opposed new powers for local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour including fly-tipping, abandoned cars, and fixed penalties for litter. And they voted to water down ASBOs, trying to reduce the minimum time they should apply from two years to three months.

Labour say that the Tories record on crime from 1979 to 1997 speaks for itself. Under the Conservatives, Labour claim that crime doubled; violent crime rose by 168%; the number of convictions fell by a third; and the chance of being a victim of violent crime trebled and being a victim of burglary more than doubled.

The Labour Party also say that the Lib Dems are soft on crime and ASB. They also claim that the Lib Dems have repeatedly tried to block Labour’s tough measures to crack down on crime and ASB and would deprive the police and local authorities of the powers to take on the vandals and the bullies.

The Lib Dems voted against the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which established parenting contracts to encourage positive behaviour, gave local authorities greater powers to tackle fly tipping, and introduced dispersal orders to help remove intimidation and anti-social behaviour from our streets.  It also gave powers to close crack houses.