Posts Tagged ‘austerity’

Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey. 28th June 2014

The Independent Living Fund, ILF, was introduced in 1988 to provide financial support to disabled people with high support needs, including those with severe learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, and a variety of other conditions.

Around 18,000 people relied on the ILF, mainly using the average of £300 a week it provided to employ personal assistants or carers to enable them to live independently, enabling some to work and pursue careers. It was administered independently from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who provided the funding.

The ILF scheme was closed to new applicants in 2010 and the responsibility for providing support in England was passed to local authorities with the ILF ending on 30th June 2015.

There were various problems with the ILF, with regional variations, but the primary reason behind the changes was probably to cut costs. Although the government promised to provide funding to the local authorities for a transitional period, this was around 13% less than under the ILF, and the money, given to cash-strapped authorities already subject to swingeing cuts was not ring-fenced, and so likely to be appropriated for other purposes.

Local authorities were also not given any clear instructions or advice on how to proceed and there were great variations between local authorities in the support that was provided. A survey a year after the end of the scheme showed extreme differences, with some authorities providing similar levels of support to the ILF, but others operating at much reduced levels, creating the real hardship that protests such as this on Saturday 28th June 2014 campaigned against. The loss of ILF was indeed a disaster for many disabled people.

DPAC and others involved in the protest had managed to keep the details hidden from the police, perhaps because it is more difficult for able-bodied police working as undercover officers to infiltrate disabled groups. UK Uncut has provided a diversion with a protest outside Boots on Victoria St when DPAC and Occupy London supporters moved on to the green area in front of Westminster Abbey.

The protesters had hoped for some support from Westminster Abbey authorities as many Christians had called the government’s actions immoral. But they had picked the wrong place, and the Dean of Westminster refused even to talk to the protesters, calling on the police to get rid of them. Labour MP John McDonnell tried without success to phone the Dean who refused to take his call or to phone back.

The weather too was against the protesters, with rain falling steadily, and for once a police officer showed some quick thinking, moving to stand in the middle of the main tent the protesters were attempting to erect, without which there was simply not enough shelter for a lengthy occupation.

I was unsure whether I wanted to go inside the area or not when I arrived, and soon police were surrounding the fairly low wall stopping people from climbing over. But I was able to take pictures from outside and move around freely – and to go home when I decided there seemed to be little point in staying.

Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF
UK Uncut ‘Boot Out Boots’

Six years ago: 30 May 2015

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

May 30th, 2015 was one of those days where I travelled around London stopping off for various reasons en-route. As always on such occasions I give thanks to the GLC for their efforts which resulted in the London-wide travel card before they were sadly eliminated by Mrs Thatcher, leaving the city largely rudderless for a crucial 15 years when it fell behind other cities in the world – except of course for the financial City of London which further cemented its reputation as the corruption capital of the world.

London is very much a world city, and my first event, outside the Daily Mail offices in Kensington reflected this, with protest by Filipino health workers over their coverage of the case of Victorino Chua, a nurse found guilty of murdering two patients and injuring others. The newspaper used the case to insult Filipino NHS workers who have for years formed a vital part of the NHS. When I came round in intensive care in 2003 it was to see a Filipino nurse who greatly impressed me with his care and attentiveness over the next few days.

It had taken around an hour for me to get to Kensington, and the journey across London to Peckham Rye was around another 50 minutes. I was there not for a protest but for the proposed Peckham Coal Line, an elevated linear urban park whose proponents compared in extremely misleading publicity to New York’s ‘High Line’ walk. And while the public were invited to walk the Coal Line, we were largely unable to do so as it is still an active part of the railway network – and one I took a train along after following around its length and back on existing local roads and paths.

Despite that it was an interesting walk, including a visit to the roof of the multi-storey car park and the Derek Jarman memorial garden. Part of the proposed walk is already open to the public as a small nature reserve, cleared beside the railway line for a massive inner-ring road – part of the proposed London Ringways motorway scheme which was fortunately abandoned after the terrible impact of building its earliest sections including the A40(M) Westway in Notting Hill became clear.

A train from Peckham Rye station took me along the route of the Coal Line to Queen’s Road Peckham and then on to London Bridge, and the Underground to Waterloo where I met with UK Uncut who were to go to an undisclosed location for some direct action. This turned out to be Westminster Bridge, where the protesters blocked the road.

The then unrolled a large yellow banner and began to fill in the slogan that had been marked out on it with black paint. After some parading around on the bridge with it, they then lowered it over the upstream side of the bridge and lit a couple of smoke flares. I’d run down across the bridge and a little along the embankment in front of St Thomas’s Hospital to take pictures of the banner drop.

The banner drop was really on the wrong side of the bridge for photographs and it seemed something of an anti-climax. It was hard to read the banner and its message ‘£12 bn more cuts £120 bn tax dodged – Austerity is a lie’ ” was perhaps a little understated. I think may of those present had expected something rather more direct, both in message and action. I went on with many of them to join another protest in Parliament Square which was just coming to an end, against government plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act.

It was then a short walk to Trafalgar Square, where on the anniversary of the 1967 declaration of Biafran independence, Biafrans were calling on the UK government for support in getting back the country which they claim was taken away from them by the Berlin Conference in 1884 and incorporated into Southern Nigeria. They say Biafra was successor of the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation. As well as backing the call for independence the protest also remembered those who died in the Nigerian-Biafran War.

In the main body of the square, striking National Gallery staff and supporters were holding a rally after PCS rep Candy Udwin was sacked for her trade union activities against the plans to privatise gallery staff.

At the end of the rally, people moved towards the Sainsbury Wing, where security is already run by a private company and exhibitions guarded by outsourced staff. Police blocked the doors to stop them entering, and they sat down to hold a further rally blocking the gallery.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers
Biafrans demand independence
UK Uncut Art Protest
Walking the Coal Line
Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise

End Workfare & more – 3rd March 2012

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Workfare is a controversial policy first begun in the UK in the 1990s by the Conservative government of John Major, although it developed from earlier schemes which put active pressure on claimants to seek work. Under various different programmes and names workfare continued under New Labour, but it was under the Tory-led coalition in 2011-2 that it came into widespread use.

Workfare is used to describe schemes where in order to receive unemployment benefit people have to undertake unpaid work, either in the commercial or public sector or for charities. In 2011 the coalition government announced that those who had failed to find jobs after being unemployed for some time would have to work unpaid for 30 hours a week for six months, setting up a number of schemes to this end.

THe proponents of ‘workfare’ say that those forced to take part in these schemes benefit from the experience or working and that it will prepare them for paid work and that the experience will make it easier for them to find employment. They say it isn’t unfair to ask people to do something in exchange for the benefits they receive.

Academic studies by the DWP of international workfare schemes had shown that these claims were unsound. There was little evidence that workfare increased the chances of finding work, and that it might even reduce this, firstly because if people were on workfare they had less time to look for jobs, but also because workfare placements seldom provided the kind of skills and experience that potential employers were looking for.

Trade unions and others point out that every person on workfare actually cuts out a job that would otherwise be carried out by a paid employee – so there are fewer jobs for those seeking employment. Workfare is largely a subsidy to employers, supplying them with free labour – essentially a form of slave labour. Workfare schemes – whether in the private sector or public or charity work – fail to provide any of the employment status and protection that employees or workers receive.

Strong negative reactions to these schemes – such as those demonstrated by the Boycott Welfare protest in Oxford St, London I photographed on Saturday 3rd March 2012 – led to many companies withdrawing from the scheme, and others ending talks with the government about taking part in it. According to Wikipedia, the campaign group ‘Boycott Welfare’ ‘very successful in making companies and charities pull out of “workfare”.’ By August 2016, “more than 50 organisations have ended their involvement in workfare, because of negative publicity.”

But workfare still continues, and as Boycott Welfare write on their web site, “Workfare forms a key tool of ‘compliance’ with the regime of Universal Credit, and is enforced via sanctions.” As well as Universal Credit, workfare also continues under the government’s Sector-Based Work Academies, Work and Health Programme and Youth Obligation schemes.


Also on the same day I photographed other events. Firstly the Million Women Rise March, a women-only march through the centre of London against domestic abuse, rape and commercial sexual exploitation and for the prevention of abuse and support and protection for women. I was shocked to learn from a member of one of the more active women campaigning groups that has been the among the leaders in previous celebrations around International Women’s Day and had taken part in previous years that they had been told they were not welcome on the march, though I think they have taken part in more recent years.

I left that march as it went down Oxford St on its way to a rally at Trafalgar Square and took the tube to St Paul’s where Greeks were protesting in solidarity with students and workers in Greece against the austerity measures being imposed as a part of the Eurozone rescue package for the country. They had planned to protest at the Occupy London camp, but that had been cleared a few days previously, but some of the occupiers had returned to hold a general meeting on the St Paul’s Cathedral steps.

More on these events from Saturday 3rd March on My London Diary:
Greeks Protest At St Paul’s
Million Women Rise March
Boycott Workfare – Oxford St


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Ten Years Ago – 2011

Friday, January 29th, 2021

On Saturday 29th January 2011 several hundred people, “many of them Egyptians living in the UK from differing political & ideological backgrounds held a peaceful but noisy protest

to show our solidarity & support of our fellow Egyptians in our beloved country, who decided on making Tuesday 25/01/2011 a day of protests & demonstrations in Egypt against the unfair, tyrant, oppressive & corrupt Egyptian regime that has been ruling our country for decades.”

Protest flyer quoted on ‘My London Diary’

The ‘Arab Spring’ of protests had begun in Tunisia after street-trade Mohamed Bouazizi’s set himself on fire and died on 17 December 2010 leading to protests and the overthowing of the government on 14 January 2011. In January there were protests in Oman, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and in Egypt, where on 25 January thousands flocked to Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Hopes were then running high that the peaceful protests which had been met with suppression and brutality by the regime would succeed in achieving their “justified goal of a democratic, free & civil nation capable of ensuring a dignified, honourable & non-discriminatory life for all Egyptians.” But now we know that despite their early success things have not turned out well in the longer term.

A second group came to join the protest outside the Egyptian Embassy, but Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain who were calling in on their way to protest outside the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane against “two years Fascist Rule” by the Hasina Government in Bangladesh were told very firmly that the embassy protest – like the Egyptian revolution – was to be entirely non-sectarian and that they were not welcome, and had to protest a hundred yards or so down the street. Theirs, unlike that at the embassy, was a strictly segegrated protest, with the women kept at a distance and few even holding flags.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir is an Islamist group calling for the establishment of a Muslim caliphate, and in 2012, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which shares similar aims won elections to become the largest group in the Egyptian parliament and their candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected as president. The following year there were protests against Morsi who after widepread unrest was deposed by a military coup in July 2013, led by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi who became president. He remains in charge of an authoritarian miltary regime using “imprisonment, torture, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, forced disappearances and sexual violence against its critics” and running rigged elections.

A rather larger protest was taking place further east in London with thousands of students, teachers, parents and others marching peacefully in the latest demonstration to defend education and the public sector. The demonstration, backed by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts was one of two national marches today, with another taking place in Manchester.

The protest was carefully policed following some incidents, particularly at the Conservative HQ on Millbank at a previous march in November 2010, but the police appeared for once to be trying to avoid provocation, and their were few incidents on the actual march, though I think later a smaller group of protesters went on to protest on Oxford St where there were some clashes with police and most of the fairly small number of arrests were made.

As always with such a large protest with around 5-10,000 people stretched out over half a mile or more of streets, its hard to know when and where any incidents are likely to occur, though some are more predictable. Obviously there were going to be some fireworks at Downing St – and in particular on this event the lighting of quite a few smoke flares, so I was there when this took place.

But I’ve also always wanted to document events as a whole, rather than concentrate on the more photogenic and controversial aspects. So I often – if not usually – find myself for much of the time away from most of the other photographers covering protests for the press, though still trying to cover the key aspects.

In November I’d missed much of the action outside the Tory HQ, arriving rather late on, but this time I’d anticipated correctly that the police would be making sure that it was very well protected against any possible trouble. As in November I spent quite a lot of time photographing protesters as they went through Parliament Square, and by the time the last of them arrived at the end of the march at Tate Britain the rally there had ended. It was a convenient location for me, just a short walk across Vauxhall Bridge to catch my train home.

More at:
No Fees, No Cuts! Student March
Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution
Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I hadn’t expected much of the official report into the Grenfell fire, but was still shocked when details of it were released that is was so clear and determined an attempt to shift blame onto the London Fire Brigade. Monumental scapegoating is no way to get at the truth, and hindsight is always cheap.

Had the LFB known what people in the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council responsible for the cladding and the failure to properly maintain the building knew – and that the complaints by residents about fire safety had been ignored – or worse, they could be blamed for incorrect advice. But the council had deliberately hidden the truth about the building.

The Tory government too had played its part, cutting what it described as “red tape” over building regulations and allowing private companies to carry out essential safety inspections at cut price, which at best meant cutting corners and at worst simply not doing the job.

It was Boris Johnson as London Mayor who made sweeping cuts to the LFB, severely diminishing their capability to deal with fires such as this. Despite the number of high rise properties in London the service had to call on Surrey for an engine capable of dealing with a building of this height. Firefighters protested on the streets against the cuts to their capabilities driven by a Tory government and the Mayor.

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

You can read the comments of an experienced and now retired fire-fighter on the “Stay Put” policy, who states he has attended “dozens upon dozens of fires in high rise residential buildings.” These buildings are designed to contain any fire within one flat, and would normally burn themselves out even without the fire brigade turning up. It didn’t work at Grenfell mainly becuase the building had been covered by cladding which some have described as “like petrol“. But the LFB didn’t know that. SteveDude68’s post includes a telling photograph of a serious high-rise fire he was in command of tackling in Bow in July 2018, “much more serious at the outset (than Grenfell) but extinguished within 20 minutes. ” Flames and a huge plume of black smoke pour out of the windows of the one flat, but nothing from the rest of the tower. Contrast this with the pictures of Grenfell.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to get at the truth about the fire – and of course it didn’t. Architects for Social Housing released their report The Truth about Grenfell Tower around 5 weeks after the disaster, and little has changed since then. After a similar fire in Japan, those responsible were in court just over a month later.

I’ll end with a quote from a comment today from the Facebook group Grenfell – The truth is out there :

Please remember the names of those directly responsible for what happened:
RYDON
ARCONIC
EXOVA
CEP
KCTMO
Please remember that the residents warned the KCTMO for years about their concerns.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Shutdown Knife Crime

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Operation Shutdown is a campaign to end the deaths from knife and gun crime on our streets, which have been rising over the last few years. Most of those in the campaign are people who have suffered the pain of losing a relative – brother, son, nephew, uncle – or friend to knife crime.

The great majority of the victims are young men, in their teens or twenties, and although many are black what they virtually all have in common is that they come from working class families mainly living in deprived areas.

Almost certainly the biggest driver behind the increase in deaths has been austerity, with the huge cuts this has forced councils to make in youth services and other vital support for families. Some of the violence on the streets is certainly gang-related, often concerned with drugs, but those killed are often people on the periphery or innocent bystanders.

It would be impossible not to empathise with the suffering of mothers, fathers and other relatives as they talk about their loss, but I don’t always feel that some of the measures they suggest would do anything to curb the growth of knife crime. I have very little faith in their idea that the government’s emergency committee COBRA considering the problem would have any real impact, and it could well worsen the situation.

Of course there are things that they call for that would help. Restoring the cuts in vital community services is an obvious need, and reversing the cuts in police numbers could help too, though perhaps only if this led to more sensitive and informed community policing.

We need also to look at ways to reduce the power and influence of gangs, which would almost certainly include an evidence-led reform of our laws about drugs, something which succesive governments have resisted.

After a rally opposive Downing St, Operation Shutdown marched to Westminster Bridge, where they presented wreaths to a police officer and hold a silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, killed outside Parliament by terrorists before going on to block the bridge and hold a further rally.

More at Knife crime Operation Shutdown


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.