A campaign to highlight the real legacy of Margaret Thatcher will demonstrate across the road from the ATOS office in Corunna House, Cadogan Street, in Glasgow’s city centre at the time of her funeral tomorrow (Wednesday 17 April) at 11.45am.
The organisers invite anyone supportive of their view of her legacy to join them. ‘The legacy of Thatcherism is the bedroom tax of today,’ said organiser Sean Clerkin. ‘And ATOS being used by the Department of Work and Pensions to put people through the degrading screening to take them off benefits they are entitled to, is part of that unspeakable legacy.’
Thursday 7 March 2013
For almost two hours today, people spoke in Gordon Street, Glasgow using a megaphone. No one was arrested. Last week, when exactly the same public protest was being made - about Atos, a sponsor of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games – two people were arrested after a heavy squad of police officers ‘kettled’ them.
‘We want the charges dropped,’ said Sean Clerkin, one of the speakers last week and today. ‘They were doing nothing wrong. They were simply speaking with a megaphone. I’ve lodged a formal complaint with the Chief Constable and understand it is being investigated.’
Today’s public gathering attracted a crowd which averaged between 40 and 50 people at any one time.
Said Paul McKenna, another speaker: ‘It is vital we defend our right of free speech. We are calling for charges against the Anti-cuts activists – the Atos 2 – to be dropped. We’ll be outside the Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday 22 March to support them and let the public know what is happening.’
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.”
Controversial issues from asbestos legislation to increased factoring fees and from the proposed 2018 sports village at Sighthill to the dampness in the winget houses at Carntyne will all be on the agenda at the next meeting of Glasgow Home Owners’ and Tenants’ Campaign.
Said Chairman, Sean Clerkin: ‘We want to emphasise that any resident or tenant in the city is welcome, especially if they are in GHA property or homes factored by GHA.’
The regular monthly meeting will be held in the Jurys Inn, Jamaica Street at 7pm on Thursday 27 September.
By any measure, it was an extraordinary meeting in Sighthill’s KATS centre on Tuesday 11 September.
One woman in the audience of around 100 agitated people, was warned for belligerently interrupting and was eventually ejected from the room by two police officers. Glasgow City Council’s Leader, Gordon Matheson faced the angry crowd, fenced off awkward questions but answered others. And MSP Bob Doris missed a certain football match when he was asked, at short notice, to chair the rumbustious meeting where he did an adept job at holding the jackets.
At stake is the future of two high rise blocks which are earmarked for demolition in the newly announced £250million redevelopment of the area. The plan was announced suddenly on Friday 7 September by Glasgow City Council as part of their pitch to win the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
The Pinkston flats are home to around 400 households where people say they were promised the buildings would be refurbished. With the sudden announcement of demolition instead, they are angry and distressed especially as there was no prior warning or consultation.
‘I’ve lived in Sighthill for 35 years,’ said one pensioner. ‘Where will I go?’ This question was echoed by others. The unfairness on home owners planning for promised refurbishment but being suddenly presented with demolition, was also voiced. ‘What are the promises being made here tonight, worth, if previous promises have been broken,’ said another resident. The future of the primary schools and of the St Rollox church was also raised. The schools are to be merged into one new combined campus with the local nursery and the church remains on site in the plan.
But as a long-time local resident, Anne Marie Sinclair, pointed out: ‘I’m happy for £250 million to be invested in regenerating Sighthill. But I wonder when the plans were actually made – and I don’t think it was overnight last week.’
When Councillor Matheson (Labour Group Leader) and local Councillor Bailie Phil Greene (SNP) clashed, one irate local person said: ‘This is about us and our community. It shouldn’t be a bunfight between politicians.’
Councillor Matheson explained that the £250 million plan was only announced last week because both the Scottish Cabinet and the Executive of Glasgow City Council had just approved Sighthill as a location for the 2018 athletes’ village that week. ‘We made it public so as not to lead you local residents up the garden path.’ But he did not give an answer to the question raised by Community Council Chair, Elaine Ellis: ‘Was demolition of the flats a stipulation for approval of funding?’
The GHA (Glasgow Housing Association) stated they had started individual consultations to find out who wants to stay and who would be interested in the 135-140 new houses being built with back and front doors. It was anticipated those houses would be on site by July or August of next year.
Sean Clerkin a housing and community activist who had fought alongside the community to retain the Pinkston blocks said: ‘The local people should be involved in the decision making process. The two tower blocks should stay and be refurbished as promised. But what is happening is local people are being told ‘this is what will happen.’ Instead they should be asked: ‘What do you want to happen?’ ‘ Later he added: ‘This is a policy of gentrification. Only middle class, middle income people will be able to afford the rents. People who’ve lived here all their lives will be dispersed to the four corners of the city. And how can you get 400 families who are currently in the hi flats into the 150 houses for rent in this new plan?’
An incandescent Bailie Phil Greene told the meeting that the least the City Council could have done was consult Sighthill’s elected representatives such as himself. ‘I’m on the education committee but it was through a letter from the schools to parents about the plans to demolish the schools that I found out.’
At the end of the meeting MSP Patricia Ferguson said she’d arranged to meet Martin Armstrong, Chief Executive of GHA first thing in the morning. ‘This could be a fantastic opportunity for Sighhill but there are real concerns which have to be discussed with residents, GHA, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. The number of social rented houses has to be looked at. How many local people want to remain here has to be established before things can move forward.’
She urged residents to attend the meetings being set up by GHA. ‘Only then can we begin to tailor the plan to suit the people. We can do it; but we are all going to have to work hard at it.’
She emphasised: ‘This is a SIGHTHILL project. Not a GHA/Glasgow City Council/ Scottish Government project. I’m with you all the way on this, I promise – and I don’t break my promises.’
by Steven Dinnie
Two sets of protesters targeted Alistair Darling during his appearance at Edinburgh International Book Festival on Friday 24 August.
Citizens United Against Cuts made their stand within earshot of ex-Chancellor Darling while he was in public conversation with journalist James Naughtie about his latest book. The other protest, by pro-Scottish national campaigners was staged outside the venue in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.
Police and site security were jumpy, but did not intervene in either case. Alistair Darling’s new book describes his time as Labour Chancellor during the financial meltdown. He is also the face of the Better Together pro-union campaign.
In a politically-charged evening, Citizens United Against Cuts, who have previously occupied various banks, including RBS and Band of England’s offices in Glasgow, disrupted the second half of Alistair Darling’s question and answer session. While the group’s leader, Sean Clerkin, loudly stated their case in the festival’s main courtyard, other members of the group held banners with slogans saying: “Close tax avoidance loopholes” and “Banksters must be prosecuted”.
Citizens United were thwarted in their original plan to gain entry to the session to challenge Alistair Darling directly. However, people exiting the event said the noise could be heard by Mr Darling inside. Despite repeated invitations to talk with the protestors, Mr. Darling did not do so. Bemused members of the public watched the protest, some cheering encouragement. others shouting retorts.
The other protest group had an ‘Abominable NO man’, as well as a very long banner. Mr. Darling declined to comment on either protest.
Members of Citizens United Against the Cuts said they were fighting for justice for ordinary people, who have been wronged by the bankers. They commented that “a casino banking culture is being propagated with a loss of benefits for working class people and bonuses only to rich bankers and politicians.” Members claimed they wanted to bring banks to justice by being charged with fraud.
Alistair Darling was at Festival to promote his book ‘Back From the Brink – 1,000 days at Number 11.’ The discussion with James Naughtie was in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) sponsored tent. Several high-profile political guests were in attendance, including ministers of the Scottish Parliament. Sean Clerkin criticised the event for being sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland. He pointed out that RBS is likely to be taken to court in the US in a continuation of the Libor interest fixing scandal. He also lambasted Alistair Darling’s book in which the former Chancellor describes saving Britain from economic collapse. The protesters wanted to alert Mr. Darling to the suffering of citizens because of cuts implemented on his watch in government and continued by the current Coalition administration.
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.
A small band of protestors succeeded in having a Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Gordon Street, closed for a short time on Wednesday 8 February.
They said that bankers’ bonuses were paid for through benefits to the poor and disabled being cut.
Said lead campaigner Sean Clerkin: ‘ Bankers’ bonuses are leading to serious inequality in society. To pay for those bonuses, day centres in Glasgow are being cut. The people who use those centres are the poor and vulnerable. The bottom line is, the poorest and the most vulnerable in society are paying for the top bankers’ bonuses. It is financial rape.’
He said the protests would continue until something was done to rectify the situation.
When a request was made to the bank in Gordon Street, Glasgow, for a comment this website was told to ‘write to us.’
A major survey will be carried out on Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) factored and owned properties to check how effective re-cladding and re-roofing work has been.
A recent high level meeting with Government officials, GHA and the Glasgow Home Owners and Tenants Campaign agreed that such a survey should be carried out.
There have been many complaints from tenants and home owners as evidenced by this website. Re-roofing and overcladding work, once completed, has led to problems of dampness in particular, claim many householders.
A GHA spokesman said: ‘Two independent surveys have been carried out already. The last, by the Building Research Establishment, concluded that dampness found in a very small number of homes was caused by heating and ventilation issues and NOT because of the overcladding work. However, we are co-operating fully with the Scottish Government on a further sample survey and will address any issues identified.’
On behalf of the Home Owners and Tenants Campaign, Sean Clerkin said: ‘This shows that persistence pays. We’ve been campaigning for a survey for more than two years. It is the best possible deal for Glasgow home owners and tenants.’
He commented that had Ian Gray not run away from the Campaign people who lobbied him in Central Station, they would not have gone to Alex Salmond during the election campaign. ‘The First Minister is to be praised. He’s kept his word. Not many politicians do. He said during the campaign when he met us that he would support a survey of the overcladding and re-roofing work if he should be re-elected. And he’s done exactly that.’
Allegations that workers and tenants were in contact with asbestos which was disturbed during re-furbishment work by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) contractors, are being investigated by this website.
Said Glasgow City Councillor, Billy McAllister: ‘I’m checking this out. If it is true, it is very serious and not an issue that can be ignored.’ He later confirmed he had spoken to individuals who were able to confirm the allegations but were not able to do so publicly.
Local MSP Bob Doris also told this website: ‘I have been representing a number of constituents in relation to how Glasgow Housing Association has conducted asbestos management in their properties during improvement works recently. These constituents do not wish to be named and have asked that their confidentiality is respected. The cases all relate to a specific area of Maryhill. To date, my constituents have not been satisfied by the responses from GHA. As a result, I intend making the new Scottish Housing Minister, Keith Brown, aware of these concerns with a view to the possibility of an external review of GHA’s procedures for asbestos management. I believe it would also be appropriate to make the Health and Safety Executive aware of these matters. My preference is to work constructively with GHA to improve their asbestos management and provide my constituents with the reassurance they need. I have already conveyed my concerns direct to the GHA on a number of occasions.’
The area where this is alleged to have happened is in the Summerston district of Maryhill. Some of those affected would appear to have been sworn to silence with a £200,000 agreement.
Work on fitting new kitchens and bathrooms took place in the area some time ago.
But Sean Clerkin, chair of Glasgow Home Owners’ Campaign said: ‘If anyone, anywhere in the city, thinks they may have been exposed to asbestos during refurbishment work, we want to hear from you!’ The number to phone is: 07948 010959.
GHA spokesperson said: “The health and safety of our tenants, factored homeowners and staff is an absolute priority and we have rigorous asbestos safety measures in place. All appropriate measures are taken to remove any risk of customers and staff being exposed to asbestos where it is present and likely to be disturbed by improvement works. As long as it is not disturbed or broken, asbestos is not a danger and this is the reason GHA always takes great care to ensure health and safety risk assessments and method statements are submitted to us, where required, before any work is carried out.
‘If asbestos work is required in a home, the work is carried out by fully-trained professionals using the proper safety equipment. The Health and Safety Executive recently inspected our asbestos removal procedures and confirmed they worked well. We are happy to work with any elected member to address any outstanding concerns they may have over our safety procedures.’
It is ironic these allegations surface in the week when Scottish Government legislation to safeguard people whose health has been affected by asbestos, comes into force.