Letter to Councillor Byatt

Dear Councillor Byatt,

I am writing on behalf of the Bridport and District Labour Party following your resignation from the Labour Party, and now it would seem your intention to vote with the Conservative Party. Taking our information from the press release following your resignation, it would seem that your reasons for doing so are, firstly you have lost faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead the Labour Party. Secondly, you say you have lost faith in ‘the direction’ of the Labour Party and you are of the opinion that the Conservatives have ‘ambition and vision’.

We raise these points given that three wards in Weymouth are within the top ten in the West Country for child poverty, and increasing numbers of local workers are subject to zero hour contracts. Of course you will be aware of such matters given you sit on the South West Provincial Council alongside the Leader of the Conservative Party, where you discuss such matters as terms and conditions of workers with I might add, Trade Unions. These facts are compounded by the fact that you also sit on the Economic Growth and Scrutiny Committee, so you must be aware of the ‘direction’ of the Conservative Party which is to undermine the Trade Union Movement, thus allowing the use of short term contacts and zero hour agreements to prosper. A matter of which I am sure the Trade Unions will have expressed their displeasure at any meetings you have attended.

However, given your position that the Conservatives have the ‘vision’ for the future, we must now assume that you are very much in favour of the privatisation and deregulation of the National Health Service. As has been reported in the local press in Bournemouth, a NHS provider has now given the shortage of funds for the NHS as the reason for creating a private medical section to run alongside the NHS provider. The charges as reported are for £40 for a ten minute telephone consultation with a doctor, £80 for twenty minutes and £145 for a forty minute face to face consultation. Here, as a member of the Conservative Party we must now assume you support such a development, and it would be interesting to have your views regarding not only the increasing privatisation of the NHS, but the increasing public funds being allocated to fund such organisations as Virgin Health.

Of course, as with any political party, there are, and always will be divisions and internal struggles. But it goes without saying that we are appalled that you are using the excuse of the leadership of the Labour Party to defect to the Conservatives. In this respect we can only assume you have always been a Tory, and you probably revel in the fact that so many children in Dorset are subjected to not only poverty, but to the demise and destruction of the NHS.

Richard Nicholls.

Chair Bridport and District Labour Party

TTIP

TTIP – THE TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP – EU/US

CETA – COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC AND TRADE AGREEMENT – EU/CANADA

TTIP – a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US. Up until now negotiations have been held mainly in secret until last year, when a draft copy of a document was leaked. In principle, TTIP is intended to remove multi-level regulation currently in place for trade between Europe and the US The Agreement will cover such areas as health and safety, privacy, the environment, and property rights amongst others. It is also expected that the provision of education, postal services, energy and water will all be opened up to US companies. It is also considered a real possibility that if TTIP becomes a reality, it will mean for example that a US company could sue a European government if it felt it was being treated unfairly, and as such would be entitled to financial compensation. In fact this is now a reality in that Philip Morris has sued the Uruguay and Australian governments re their anti-smoking legislation and a Swedish energy company has taken legal action against Germany for phasing out its nuclear power programme. In terms of challenging a company’s claim for compensation, a Tribunal judges on the matter. But again, presumably under the guise of confidentiality, the Tribunal is held in secret, and there is no right of appeal as to its decision. In this respect, it can be genuinely argued that international corporations are taking over the world.

As such, this is little more than an extension of the World Trade Agreement in support of the concept of an economic free trade globalised world as perceived and driven by the US. However, it must be said that the present Tory government is claiming that it has reached an understanding that the NHS will not be subject to any such conditions under TTIP. However, such a claim must be taken with caution. For example, will this understanding simply apply to doctors and nurses, and not to the ancillary workers that constitute part of the NHS. Here I refer to the porters and office staff that are to the best of my knowledge, still employed by the NHS.

Given these examples it will in my opinion also increase the ability of private corporations not only to sue member states over windfall taxes or exceptional profits, but the use of taxation as a policy instrument. This in effect will undermine any government considering a Keynsian approach to their economy. Such criteria will also apply to trade unions if it could be shown that a labour dispute has a detrimental impact on a company’s profits. Such a dilemma now faces many trade unionists if for example they take unofficial action. In effect, if an individual can be identified as leading an unofficial action, they can be sued by a private company for compensation for loss of trade. Given such a possible scenario it is a real possibility that worker’s rights could also come under attack if a company for example could show that a European Directive such as the Working Time Directive was directly having an adverse effect on their profits. Here what must also be taken into consideration is the decline in trade union membership, and the increasing reliance on European Directives to protect workers’ rights.

Here whilst it can be shown that there has been a slight increase in trade union membership in the UK, in the expanding private sector, trade union membership has now declined to 13.9%. In the Public Sector, whilst membership is higher, it only accounts for 54.8% of those employed. Interestingly, those employed in professional occupations are more likely to belong to a trade union, and today such workers account for 37% of all trade union members. The only bright side to such statistics is that women today now constitute 55% of trade union membership, up from 45% in 1995.

However, discussions concerning TTIP now continue, but the secrecy remains. Here, although MEPs are now allowed access to the TTIP documents that cover the secret trade talks under discussion, under the rules of confidentiality, they can only have access to the papers, and only allowed to take with them a pencil and paper. No electronic devices including laptops and phones are permitted. As to the matters under discussion, given the involvement of the US, workers’ rights will certainly have been discussed. As such, this could mean the demise of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the protection for Agency and Part-time workers, as well as a possible end of the Working Time Directive. Here, given that trade union membership, especially within the private sector is only 13.9%, the consequences for the other 87% of the private sector workers could be dire to say the very least. Therefore, we need to ensure that not only workers, but the population in general, know not only what is going on behind their backs, but the consequences that workers will face if we do nothing. In this respect, and in respect of the local Labour Party, I am looking for ideas as to how we not only get TTIP into the public arena, but what should be the content of a local Labour Party leaflet that we can distribute. Also should we include any information that is available with regard to CETA, or would that complicate an already complex situation.

Richard Nicholls

Resolutions submitted to Labour South West Regional Conference

Organisation/CLP – Unison
Subject – Trade Union Bill

Conference believes the Conservative government’s Trade Union Bill demonstrates a clear intent to silence the voice of working people through a transparently partisan attack on trade unions and their historic link with the Labour party, regardless of the evidence and in contempt of conventions on party funding.
Conference condemns the attacks on unions’ political funds as a shabby attempt to undermine their public campaigning voice and the traditional relationship between many unions and Labour.
Conference believes that the right to strike is under threat and draconian measures seeking the names of pickets and restrictions on social media usage are a fundamental attack on human rights and on the right of protest for all citizens in a civil society.
Conference is concerned that allowing the use of agency workers to break strike action will lead to untrained staff carrying out work, potentially leading to unsafe workplaces and services. Conference notes that many councils and NHS Trusts in the South West already over rely on agency workers due to an inability to recruit staff – In 2014 NHS Trusts in the South West spent £59 million on agency workers, up from £12 million in 2010.
32 NHS Trusts (17 from the South West) have recently written to Matthew Hancock MP, Cabinet Office Minister and Paymaster General, to voice their concerns regards the compulsory ending of Check-Off arrangements and the wider negative consequences of this Bill at a time of extreme pressure for the NHS. They recognise that facility time arrangements for local union reps and the deductions of subscriptions through payroll are rightly matters between employers and unions and are the basis for good industrial relations.
Conference agrees with these Trusts that it is counter-productive for the government to stop or restrict these arrangements.
Conference calls on the Labour party in the South West of England to:
1) Work with the trade unions to campaign against the Bill;
2) Request that Labour party members lobby their local councillors and MPs;
3) Request that Labour groups on councils oppose the measures in the Bill and promote the value of good local industrial relations.

Organisation/CLP – South West Wiltshire
Subject – Housing

In view of the housing crisis in the South West, some form of surcharge should be levied on empty and second homes; this surcharge should be specifically put toward Local Authority building programs aimed at providing affordable social and affordable local housing for rent.

Owners of second homes should pay full Council Tax rather than the current 50% rate. The existing planning laws which allow the building of more second home should be amended to discourage the building of more while the housing crisis exists.

Empty private homes which are unoccupied for longer than 3 months should have a local surcharge applied.

Organisation/CLP – Central Devon CLP
Subject – Austerity

Central Devon residents are disproportionately affected by austerity. The Labour Party is the natural alternative in rural areas and we must encourage more residents to approach us:

Central Devon Concerns –

Housing – house prices are high and wages are low, so families are leaving their communities. The Government’s Right to Buy further diminishes social housing stock and new home-to-buy does not help low income families. This will have long-term negative effects for future generations.

Employment – job cuts (cross sector) have reduced household incomes. The lack of housing limits access to employment. Cuts to bus services (plus costly tickets and unreliability) severely affect the ability to work. The economic benefits of tourism are jeopardised by the effects of cuts to Rangers and infrastructure at Dartmoor National Park.

Broadband – reliable broadband is rarely available across Central Devon. This means:
1. Businesses cannot compete
2. Educational attainment is lower
3. Correct healthcare is harder to access
4. Social groups are difficult to contact
5. Accessing essential services (e.g. banking) is limited

Health – Health inequalities are compounded by local hospital closures, shrinking budgets, CCGs in debt and GP shortages.

Communities – All these issues prevent Central Devon’s communities from fully contributing to economic growth, from forging strong networks and gaining access to essential services and opportunities.
The difficulties go beyond farming; Central Devon has escalating social, physical and economic isolation for all its residents. It’s the Labour Party’s determination to help by making our progressive practices and views available and relevant to all.

Organisation/CLP – Taunton CLP
Subject – Tax Credits

This conference deplores the government’s relentless attack on our social security system, which is an attack on the well being of the majority of the UK population who rely on it at some time in their lives, an attack that none of our five Somerset MPs opposed.

In particular conference condemns the cruelty and deception perpetrated by this government through the rhetoric of their ‘national living wage’ and the lie that this will replace tax credits on which so many households in the South West rely to make ends meet.

We support the view that tax-credits should not be used by unscrupulous employers to bolster their profits. We are also aware that many small and medium-size enterprise employers in the region provide jobs in a context of tight profit margins, making it extremely difficult to offer wages adequate to cover the South West’s crippling housing, energy and other essential costs.

We challenge the government to genuinely address the problem of in-work poverty by
a. Adopting the standard National Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation
b. To require all employers to substantiate claims that this is unaffordable
c. To adopt Labour’s plan to provide genuine support to SME employers to pay their employees a genuine living wage and
d. To adjust tax credits only as and when individuals’ wages increase or decrease.

This is how a party for working people would promote self-reliance and self-respect.

Organisation/CLP – Co-operative Party
Subject – Navitus Bay Offshore Wind Park

Conference regrets and opposes the Government’s decision not to proceed with the Navitus Bay offshore wind park, between Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight.

Had this been approved, Dorset would have been playing its part in supplying innovative sustainable energy that would have reduced the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

We believe the creation of jobs, work and prestige would also have had a great benefit for the Dorset community plus worthwhile employment for the local workforce and economic environment.

The loss of this vital initiative will be felt for many years.

Therefore, Conference calls on Labour and Co-operative Party MPs to request the Government to reconsider their decision regarding the Navitus Bay scheme.

Organisation/CLP – Bristol West CLP
Subject – Fracking

As part of Bristol’s Green City 2015, Bristol West requests that action be taken to urge the Mayor to make Bristol a Frack-Free City and urge all surrounding Local Authorities in the South West to follow suit.

Following the U-turn by the Government on the protection of Britain’s environment and Labour’s commitment to stop shale gas extraction going ahead until there is a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, there are still genuine and legitimate environmental concerns over shale gas.
We request Labour South West to publicise this widely and include it in our portfolio of green and environmental policies for the Region

Organisation/CLP – USDAW
Subject – Sunday Trading

This conference condemns the decision to include proposals that will lead to the extension of Sunday trading in the Cities & Local Government Devolution Bill at second reading on 14th October 2015 as a betrayal of a pre-election commitment by David Cameron whose office wrote in April that “we have no current plans to relax the Sunday Trading laws”.

Conference recognises the overwhelming evidence that longer Sunday opening by large stores will not lead to increased spending or more jobs, instead causing closures of smaller stores which are relied on by communities, especially people who do not have a car.

Conference notes that respondents from the South West to USDAW’s survey of staff in large stores were overwhelmingly against extending Sunday Trading, with many already under pressure to work more Sundays than they wish.

Conference further notes that retail is the second largest sector in the South West with the proposals depriving the 253,600 people working in retail of precious family time and also that longer Sunday opening hours will lead to more staff in transport, distribution, catering and security being required to work on Sundays.

Conference acknowledges that over half of council Chief Executives recognise that their council will be pressured to allow longer Sunday opening if neighbouring authorities do so.

Conference therefore calls on Labour MPs and Councillors in the South West to reject the Government’s proposal for devolution of Sunday opening hours as ‘fake devolution’ which will lead to longer Sunday opening, thus harming families and communities.

Organisation/CLP – GMB Wales and South West
Subject – Voter Registration and its impact on Parliamentary boundaries

The GMB/This conference condemns the gerrymandering that is taking place by this Tory Government, with regards to the changes being made to the way individuals register to vote, and the unacceptable way that these changes will be used to reduce the number of Parliamentary Constituencies across the South West.

It is clear that these changes have one objective and one objective only, and that is to carve up the Parliamentary seats to reduce the opportunities for opposition parties including the Labour Party, to win overall control of Parliament in the future.

This is an affront to our basic principles of social justice and fairness and we as a Party, working with like-minded groups across the South West, should make the general public aware of this sleight of hand, and campaign to stop this anti-democratic practice from taking place. We should also campaign to get members of the public to check that they are on the register, to get them to register to vote, and to vote Labour in next May’s Elections.

Organisation/CLP – SERA
Subject – Transport

Conference resolves that the national budget for Public Transport must be increased to provide more effective, efficient and affordable public transport in the UK and recognises the benefit to the economy through reduction of the cost of congestion (£4.3B in 2012), the benefit to society giving more social inclusion and better public health with CO2 and NO emissions reduced.

The current budget is one of the lowest in the EU in one of the most densely populate countries. An increased budget would also provide for public ownership of the rail network and services.

Organisation/CLP – GMB Southern
Subject – Bus Companies

GMB -This Conference deplores the actions taken by bus companies in the South West in cancelling some bus routes, especially in the rural areas where a bus is often the only means of transport for many pensioners and disabled who are bus pass holders. Conference asks the South West Labour Party to do all in its power to halt the demise in services to many communities in the South West.

Total – 10 Resolutions Submitted