Tuesday, June 17, 2014

London news round-up

 Outrage at anti-homeless spikes

THE INSTALLATION of ground spikes in places where homeless people have been sleeping in some parts of London has sparked outrage throughout the social media.
Hundreds of people are losing their homes through cuts in benefits, rising rents, the bedroom tax and problems paying mortgages, through divorce, through mental illness and other causes.
And the sight of sleeping bags on pavements in central London has returned and is increasing rapidly. Homeless people seek sheltered doorways and other spots out of the wind and rain to try to sleep.
But this has prompted those in up-market areas to install the blunt spikes in the nooks and doorways to prevent homeless people sleeping there.
Photographs of metal studs on the doorsteps of a luxury flat building on Southwark Bridge Road in central London spurred an “anti-homeless spikes” hashtag campaign by Ethical Pioneer Twitter page.
An anonymous resident of the residential complex told the  Daily Telegraph : “There was a homeless man asleep there about six weeks ago. Then about two weeks ago all of a sudden studs were put up outside. I presume it is to deter homeless people from sleeping there.”
Crisis, a charity for homeless people, immediately issued a statement of condemnation.
“It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st century Britain.
“Yet over the last three years rough sleeping has risen steeply across the country and by a massive 75 per cent in London.
“Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives,” said Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Crisis.
“They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes,” she added.
Home Secretary Theresa May had a different view. She tweeted  “Proud of our British designers who've managed to make practical anti-homeless spikes into a thing of beauty.”

 RMT backs Taxi protest

THE TRANSPORT union RMT backed a massive protest by thousands of London cabbies on Wednesday 11th June.
It centred around Trafalgar Square from 2pm onwards, aiming to gridlock the capital, as organisations representing the trade unite in defiance of measures being driven through by Mayor Boris Johnson which amount to an all-out assault on the industry.
RMT backed the protest, under the banner “Cabbies against Boris”, which has been mobilised against the many improper and unlawful decisions imposed on the taxi trade by Transport for London and the Mayor.
These include the improper London Taxi Age limit and failure to enforce Private Hire Law (including the recent issues with Uber the mini cab booking app) and a host of other damaging decisions.
The Mayor of London was due to answer questions in the London Assembly at 10am on the same day.
In evidence to the Mayor, taxi organisations have exposed the nonsense of the London Taxi Age Limit and the entirely bogus arguments about the impact that scrapping the older vehicles has on emissions and pollution in London. Cabbies against Boris has also drawn attention to the vested interests driving the policy and the fact that a similar scheme in South Wales had to be withdrawn as the consultation was found to be loaded.
The latest undermining of the Private Hire Laws by apps such as Uber is just another attempt to casualise and weaken the professional and safe licensed taxi trade and the long-established regulations around the right to ply for hire, coming after the exposure of the illegal ranks around London and the drive to destroy the airport services.
Huge and wealthy multi-national corporations like Google are now trying to use their financial clout to bully their way into areas that have been governed by Private Hire Laws in London for decades and which have delivered safe, reliable and efficient services for Londoners down the years.

  Kew News
by our Gardening Correspondent

ON MONDAY unions representing workers at Kew Gardens in west London and local Tory MP Zac Goldsmith handed in a 100,000 signature petition at Downing Street opposing huge job cuts at Kew Gardens.
The gardens are not just an agreeable facility for the well-heeled constituents of the millionaire MP. As former Director Sir Ghillean Prance said: “The scientific work of Kew is vital for the future of biodiversity and for climate change studies.”
It is an important scientific research centre maintaining the world’s premier plant and fungal collections, including 30,000 living plants, one billion seeds and the DNA of 20 per cent of the world’s plant species.
Speaking on behalf of the scientists working there Prospect negotiator Julie Flanagan said: “Kew has already lost approximately 50 posts, vacancies are not being filled and management is planning the loss of a further 50-70 posts. Cutting staff reduces Kew’s capacity to fulfill its statutory obligations, to carry out its leading science and conservation, and to generate its own revenue”.
The job cuts come after a steep reduction in Kew’s public funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs first announced in 2010 and imposed year-on-year ever since.

PCS fights passport office cuts

THE CIVIL service union PCS has threatened industrial action if job cuts that have caused the current passport backlogs are not addressed.
A letter landing on Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh’s desk this morning states the union attributes the current crisis to “major job cuts and office closures during the past five years”, as well as the increasing use of private companies.
It comes as the union is preparing to hold a consultative ballot of all its quarter of a million civil and public service members with a view to taking part in joint union action over pay, starting with a one-day strike in July.
The passports letter points out 22 interview offices and one application processing centre have closed in recent years and 315 staff, one tenth of the workforce, have lost their jobs. It also notes staff are battling a backlog of almost half a million cases.
The union says its warnings about the damage cuts would do have been ignored and blames senior officials for a “lack of forward thinking”, adding: “We do not accept that the current problems can solely be down to unusual demand.”
The union also complains it was not consulted on the redeployment of workers to clear the backlogs, including 25 per cent of the staff who work on fraud prevention and investigation.

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