The man who famously cornered a senior politician in a sandwich shop, now has his sights on the Commonwealth Games 2014 sponsors Atos.
Sean Clerkin and around 20 of the Citizens United group of campaigners, occupied the 2014 Games offices in Albion Street, Glasgow today (Tuesday 27 November 2012). They called for Atos, a global IT company which provided consulting and technology services for the recent Olympics, to be removed as a sponsor of the Commonwealth Games 2014.
”This company is the same one that assess whether people are fit to work or to claim sickness or invalidity benefits,’ said spokesman Sean.
One of the protesters claimed Atos had only ten doctors to cover the North East of England and Scotland to make all the assessments. ‘They don’t have a clue,’ he said. ‘And they are not qualified to assess anyone with a mental health problem.’
Citizens United claim Atos has a 7 year contract worth more than £1 billion. ‘This is happening while the people of Glasgow are suffering and are being victimised by the same company and are being treated in a shocking and inhuman way during the assessments.’
One retired civil servant in the protest said: ‘Atos is involved in assessing if civil servants are fit to work or not after they’ve been off sick. If a person is declared unfit to work and applies for disability allowance, the same company turns round and assesses they are fit to work and therefore not entitled to any allowance.’
The Commonwealth Games 2014 senior press officer, Matthew Williams, said later: ‘We are very proud to have global IT experts Atos as part of Glasgow 2014′s sponsor family. The company has demonstrated unwavering commitment to driving forward the Paralympic movement by providing dedicated practical support to athletes for the last ten years. We are confident in the positive role Atos will play in helping us deliver an athlete centred and sports focused Commonwealth Games.”
Citizens United has struck again. The group has protested, consistently for several years, about bad banking practices. Today they marched into the Glasgow offices of the Bank of England, and stood and delivered their message to the stunned staff for fully half an hour till police arrived and invited the protesters to leave. Which they did.
The peaceful demonstration was the 15th the group has engineered since October 2010. They called for bankers to be called to account and, with the current ’libor’ scandal, insist the top bankers should be prosecuted.
‘We call them banksters, not bankers’ said spokesman Sean Clerkin. ‘They should be prosecuted. The libor rates fixing cartel is a disgrace. This has affected everyone in this country. Small businesses are paying more to borrow, householders are paying more for mortgages. Ordinary workers are having to take cuts in rates or be paid off. All senior bankers should be subjected to the law as we are. They should be charged with fraud. If found guilty, they should be sent to prison.’
A comment was requested from the Bank of England but at the time of putting this story on line, no one had responded. On following up the request, a recorded message at the Bank’s number said all operators were busy and invited the caller to try again later.
Inspector Derek Forsyth of Strathclyde Police was the lead officer of eight who attended the demonstration. After the event he requested that Citizens United inform the police in advance of any future protests so that the appropriate number of officers could be deployed, saving police resources and time.
The group is the same one which confronted former Scottish Labour Party leader Ian Gray in Central Station to ask what he was going to do about bankers then, in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections. In trying to avoid them he ran out of the station but was cornered by them in a sandwich shop.
People against the Bankers
outside RBS Gordon Street,
Wednesday 8 February 2012
Have your say. All welcome.
Info from: 07948010959
The Tollcross Leisure Centre could become one of the first major facilities to be turned into a ‘local legacy’ of the Commonwealth Games, if Accord Centre users’ wishes come true.
The users’ group has been attending the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock on a daily basis because they are families caring for someone with special needs such as Autism, Downs Syndrome and other complex conditions.
The East End centre is to be demolished and the regular users dispersed across the city. But a group of about 30 families have said they were promised ‘like for like’ facilities when told the centre was to be closed. This week more than 150 people campaigned on their behalf in the nearby Forge Shopping Centre because they consider what they’ve been offered in place of the Accord facilities is not good enough for the vulnerable users’ needs. ‘This is to draw attention to what is happening,’ said a spokesman for Citzens United, one of the campaigning groups.
Glasgow City Council officials and senior personnel from the Scottish Government discussed the Tollcross ‘legacy’ possibility this week.
Said Grace Harrigan, one of the leaders of the Accord Centre Action Group: ‘Some of us visited a Lifestyle Centre in Cambuslang to see what South Lanarkshire offered its vulnerable community members. I wept when I saw it. It was everything we could wish for. There was a swimming pool, gyms, film room, cafe, art room and facilities for people with special needs like our sons and daughters. But it was also open to the public in a way that was safe for the vulnerable users but integrated with the general public.’
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: ‘We have been working on reforms to our learning disability service for well over three years now and the closure to the Accord Centre has to be seen as part of those reforms. The closure of the Accord centre is in line with Scottish Government’s policy. The majority of carers actually support a move away from the Accord Centre and some people have already gone to alternative accommodation.’ He added: ‘The changes being implemented will see service users continue to receive appropriate and tailored levels of support while also providing greater scope and flexibility for individuals to follow their interests and aspirations.’
Later the City Council spokesperson confirmed the meeting with the Scottish Government. He said: ”David Crawford, the council’s executive director of Social Work Services, met with the Scottish Government and representatives of the minority of carers who are not content to move to the Bambury Centre. The carers, who previously insisted on a like-for-like facility, have now raised the possibility of using the community facilities at Tollcross Leisure Centre. It is exceptionally helpful that the carers have changed their position and now agree with the Council and the Scottish Government that a community facility is an acceptable alternative to the Accord Centre. A substantial amount of work needs to be done on this proposal and we are seeking clarity from the Scottish Government on what exactly is proposed.’
A comment was awaited from the Scottish Government as this report was activated on this website.
TOLLCROSS LEISURE FACILITIES
Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life have undertaken a £14 million revamp of Tollcross Glasgow Club premises to prepare for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The investment will produce two 50 metre swimming pools, one of the biggest gyms in Glasgow with more than 1000 pieces of equipment, a refurbished games hall, new dance studio and a range of function spaces for competitive and community health and fitness events.
During the Games it will host swimming events and, subsequently, major international championships and it will ‘meet the needs of the local community.’ says Glasgow Life website. The work will take about 14 months to complete and has started with the completion of an additional car park. The ‘wet side’ facilities will close to the public on Sunday 23 October 2011. The rest of the building remains open until mid December 2011. The re-newed complex is seheduled to reopen in the spring of 2013.
Citizens United managed to have their tuppence worth in the Inland Revenue offices in Cochrane Street, Glasgow this week. Around 20 Citz United walked into the premises and demonstrated against the Revenue’s failure to chase corporate tax evaders and avoiders while the humble tax payer takes the strain. Work was stopped for about one hour before the peaceful demonstrators left after police were called.
Some of the group had come from Fife representing the Black Triangle organisation which fights for the welfare and wellbeing of disabled people. Said Anne Martin who has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a walking frame: ‘I used to get home care which paid for someone to keep my house clean because I cannot do that myself. But that allowance has been stopped. If the Government chased some of the multi-millionaires who avoid paying the taxes they should, then allowances such as that one would not have to be cut.’
Louise McCleary who is registered blind said: ‘We are the scape goats. If the Government collected the corporate taxes they should – and even increased them a little – none of the cuts affecting people like me would be necessary.’
Catherine Lockhart who was accompanying her father Peter who is in a wheelchair, added: ‘I think it is very unfair the way disabled people are being treated. People who don’t have to live with a disability daily, don’t understand how hard it is. There are extra costs. It is often difficult if not impossible to get into shops or public places and there is only one hotel chain where someone like my father can get in easily.’
Citizens United leader Sean Clerkin told this website: ‘We consider the Scottish Government has a mandate to stop tax evasion. There is also around £200m lying in the Treasury offices in London earmarked for Scotland through fossil fuel levies. That money could be used to avoid the hardship of the cuts being suffered by disabled people and ordinary citizens who pay their taxes. If tax evasion and avoidance were tackled there would be no need for ordinary folk to bear the brunt of the government cuts.’
The group’s demonstration was part of a European wide series of events to highlight a ‘Robin Hood’ tax being considered by the European Council in advance of the November G20 summit. Said Oxfam Scotland’s campaign manager, Malcolm Fleming: ‘A Robin Hood Tax is about fairness. It aims to tax those who have created economic hardship so that they can help repair some of the damage they’ve done.’
A response to the sit-in was requested from the Inland Revenue, but at the time of writing, had not been received by the website.
Later an insider told this website that most of the people working in the office which the Citz United invaded, sympathised with the demonstrators’ cause.
The day before he was elected First Minister for a second term, Alex Salmond sat with Glasgow families in the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock to hear, first hand, their concerns about its demolition. In an easy and interested manner, he talked to many of the 50-60 people there. And he listened closely to what they were saying.
The uninspiring building was to be flattened and used as a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. But those who use the place – people with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, autism and other special needs and their families – have protested loudly and brought a temporary halt to the proceedings. They had understood the facility would be replaced ‘like for like’. Instead they had been offered space in an existing community centre which was not suitable for the special needs of the folk who used the Accord Centre on a daily basis.
Said Grace Harrigan, whose 25-year-old son Craig Anderson has Down’s Syndrome: ‘I believe Glasgow City Council thought we would not put up a fight. They thought we were young mums they could bully. But 120 people use the Accord Centre and we are part of a citywide carers network.’ She said the carers had made many approaches to their local Councillors. ‘They did not even phone back or email us back. The two MSPs stopped answering our emails.’ Explaining that the area has been, traditionally, a Labour stronghold, the local centre users and carers were very disappointed by this lack of response from elected representatives. ‘After all, these were the people we voted for,’ she commented.
Having once met Billy McAllister, an SNP Councillor for a different part of the city, she contacted him in desperation. ‘At last, someone seemed to be listening,’ said Grace.
About the same time, one of their supporting groups – Citizens United – which had challenged Iain Gray on such cuts and caused him to run out of Central Station – took up their cause in a face-to-face meeting they were given with Alex Salmon during the election campaign. ‘He told us that he, personally, would look into the situation as soon as the election was over,’ said Citizens United leader Sean Clerkin. ‘And he’s kept his word. I think the Labour-led Glasgow City Council will have to giveway to these demands and give these families a ‘like for like’ centre. If they don’t they will be breaking up a community of the most vulnerable people.’
Carers from Riddrie who were part of the support network for the Accord Centre told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We know we’ve got to stick together or we’d get nowhere.’ Ina Ross and her son Graham look after another son, Stephen who is 37 and has Down’s Syndrome. ‘The Accord Centre is a life-saver for us. He considers coming here is going to his work. With all the talk of closing it, he’s frightened he won’t get back to his work,’ said Ina.
Another family whose 32-year-old son, Paul, has been attending the Accord Centre since he was 19, said the knock-on effect of the proposed closure had been noticeable in his behaviour. ‘It has been shocking. He’s swearing and behaving badly. He is clearly very upset,’ said dad Andrew.
Helen McCourt explained that the community centre she’d been told her 28 year old daughter Laura would attend was in Easterhouse. ‘I don’t drive so it would take me two buses to get there. She would be taken there, given tea and toast and then have nowhere to go and nothing to do. She has Down’s Syndrome. I need to know she’ll be safe and she wouldn’t be in that environment. In the Accord Centre she has lots of things to do and friends and people she knows.’
When Alex Salmond arrived he was shown round the Centre by manager Vivienne Ferguson. Then he met the families. One of the first people he spoke to was wheelchair bound Joseph Loughran who is 24. ‘Did you vote SNP,’ questioned the soon-to-be First Minister. ‘Yes!’ was the resounding reply. Joseph’s parents Helen and Joe said that a community centre was not a suitable place for Joseph to go to because it was open to the public and that made him vulnerable. ‘He has many complex needs. They can be met in the Accord Centre. He knows the place and feels confident here. We know he’s safe here in a caring community,’ said Joe.
Several of the regular users of the Accord Centre spoke up for themselves directly to Alex Salmond. Cheryl McArthur (32) told him: ‘I don’t want to go to a community centre. All my friends are here. And I’d love to come here five days a week.’
Laura McLauchlan (27) said: ‘I come here three days a week and would like to come five days.’
When the conversation turned to establishing what, exactly, the Accord Centre families had been promised, Alex Salmond asked for minutes of meetings. Quickly scanning them he pointed out that a ‘like for like’ centre was described ‘if possible.’ Said Mr Salmond: ‘Those are weasel words. The intention is clear.’
Promising to follow up the meeting, he left after almost two hours of discussion.
Later his office issued a formal statement: ‘During the election campaign I met many people who benefit from the Accord Centre. They put a good case to me for the future of the facility. They told me that a commitment had been made to them by Glasgow City Council some years ago, that if the centre had to go to make way for the Commonwealth Games as part of the local authority’s programme of modernisation, then they would be offered a like-for-like replacement. I was asked to come and see the centre so that I could understand why those who benefit from the services it provides believe that the alternative they are being offered is not appropriate. Today I was proud to meet staff, carers and service users as well as local people campaigning to save the centre. I think it is an important service for the community and I will continue to urge Glasgow City Council to ensure it is re-housed in suitable premises.’
Glasgow City Council is preparing a detailed response to the issues raised by the families who are fighting for the Accord Centre for publication on this website. Their spokesman said that 22 of the registered users of the Accord Centre had agreed to move to a Centre in Riddrie and were due to start on Monday 23 May.
In advance of the Budget, and of the Scottish Parliament elections, CITIZENS UNITED shut down Barclay’s bank in Argyle Street, Glasgow on Tuesday 22 March in protest at the swingeing cuts they anticipate.
A group of eight people entered the bank and began their peaceful demonstration by holding up posters saying ‘Bin Barclay’s Banker Bonuses’.
Their spokesman pointed out in a loud voice: ‘There would be no public service cuts if tax avoidance, tax evasion and bankers’ grotesque bonuses were not allowed. They would pay for all the public services that the ordinary voter is going to have to pay for. It will be the sick and the poor who will suffer. Not Bob Diamond, Barclay’s chief executive, who received a £9.5 million bonus.’
After police intervention, the group left the bank premises and proceeded to speak out on the pavement in front. A sizeable crowd gathered and applauded Sean Clerkin, the group’s orator. One man shook his hand afterwards and said: ‘Well put!’
One of the group, Letitia MacGillivray who was due to celebrate her 80th birthday, declared: ‘I worked in the National Health Service all my life. I nursed my parents and my husband. I want to see something done to end people’s suffering.’In similar vein, former shop steward, Charles MacPherson told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘In my opinion the high heid bankers taking the bonuses should be in prison. They are like the Mafia, but without the guns.’Said Sean Clerkin afterwards: ‘It took only eight people to close this bank for an hour. Any group can do what CITIZENS UNITED did if they feel as strongly. We will be asking questions of the politicians standing for election. This is a very serious issue. If the rich were taxed, the poor would not suffer. If tax evasion and tax avoidance was addressed there would be £140 billion more in the public purse. As it is, community centres will close, disabled people will have mobility allowances taken away, cancer patients will have support dramatically cut and vital services will be done away with. People need to remember this when they cast their vote in May.’
Later, Barclay’s Bank commented the ‘short’ demonstration forced temporary closure of the branch and apologised to customers for any inconvenience.
The Argyle Street Barclays opened on 30th November 2010. Their B Bothwell Street branch opened in July 2008. ‘They are part of a UK wide programme of investment to make Barclays branches the go-to bank on the high street,’ said the spokesman.
He added: ‘ Barclays complies with taxation laws in the UK and in all the countries where we do business. We are one of the UK’s largest taxpayers and the financial services industry as a whole is the single largest tax contributor to HM Revenue and Customs every year.
‘In 2009, Barclays paid over £2bn in taxes to HMRC and we have contributed around £12.5bn of taxes to HMRC in the last 6 years (2004 to 2009).
‘We support, and have signed up to, the UK Government’s tax Code of Practice”.
The spokesman said: ‘We are sensitive to public opinion on the subject of pay. Barclays recognises the need to pay its employees responsibly. In a global market for talent we pay for performance, rewarding success not failure.”