Voices for Change in Glasgow North West held an excellent hustings in Drumchapel Community Centre on Thursday 26 April.
Seasoned trade unionists and community campaigners, the organisers had the event well managed with chairwoman Kate Walker keeping everyone, politely, in order.
An audience of more than 30 challenged the candidates on issues such as personalisation and support for people with learning disabilities. Personalisation is the new programme which assesses how much funding an individual with care needs requires and they decide how they will allocate that.
Each prospective candidate – or party representative – was given a few minutes to state their case then the audience piled in with their reflective questions.
First up was Stuart Maskell of the UKIP. He was honest about his lack of experience in social care service issues and was appreciative of being invited to the hustings. He recommended seeing the film The Iron Lady. ‘It isn’t about a Prime Minister, it is about a woman with dementia. Alzheimer’s is expected to affect 1 million residents of the UK by 2022 – only ten years from now,’ he said. ‘That is a worrying problem.’
John Docherty of the SNP explained his background of the Fire Service for 30 years and now his work for an SNP MSP. ‘We will work across the sectors,’ he promised. He took notes of various situations raised by individuals in the audience and said he would follow through on finding out what could be done in each person’s circumstances.
Judith Fisher for the Scottish Labour Party agreed Personalisation was a ‘huge change,’ but added: ‘We believe it is a fairer system.’ She also mentioned the party’s plan for more child care hours and for the creation of jobs alongside the existing successful apprentice scheme.
Spokesperson for the Scottish Socialist Party, Sandra Webster, pointed out that carers save the government an estimated £10 million a year. ‘But they are still only being paid lip service,’ she added.
Ronnie Stevenson who is a candidate in his own ward of Langside was from the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition. ‘People should have care according to their needs,’ he contended. ‘But that is not happening. I’ve seen social workers in tears because they are not allowed to give the service care they know that individual needs. They have been told – here is how much can be spent – and that’s all they’re getting!’
He also warned that if people think it is hard just now with the cuts it will get very much worse in the next two or three years. ‘That’s why the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition wants to get more people into Councils across Scotland. We don’t want any more cuts.’
Most of the audience had first hand experience of cuts in social services. Said one woman who works closely with the social work department: ‘A man I know, with learning difficulties has had his budget cut from £78,000 a year to £44,000. He can’t go out anywhere now and just sits watching tv.’
A support worker with 50 people on his list, told the meeting that every one of the people he knows who has completed the process to personalisation has had massive cuts in their funding. ‘I think they started with services users with learning disabilities first, because they would meet less resistance from them. It is very unfair expecting a person who has reading and writing difficulties to fill in a self assessment form of many pages. That person, and those who care for them, are getting very stressed.’ He also questioned whether anyone in the city had qualified for 100% personalisation package. ‘It is a terrible process,’ he commented.
Alan Gow who was a Voices for Change host at the top table, moved into the audience to make his personal statement: ‘There is no proper engagement with citizens and carers. There has to be proper discussion and decent, moral involvement to ensure carers are genuine partners in care. They are not, right now.’ He said plans were made ‘behind the scenes,’ Followed by a one day ‘consultation,’ in a ‘fancy hotel room’ then it was ‘all over.’ He continued: ‘The choice is take this or that and it is said with a smile. But what the people are really saying is don’t cut my budget, that’s my wages. The political parties are not listening!’ he concluded forcefully to loud applause from the audience.
There has been absolutely NO risk of asbestos in work done recently in the Walkinshaw Street area of the city’s East End.
That is what both Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and the national Health and Safety Executive emphasise. But local residents are still upset and unwilling to accept the reassurances offered.
Refuse chutes are being removed from inside the four storey blocks. On the top level a patch of ceiling has been removed to facilitate the extraction of the head of the chute. Where work has been completed, that area has been plastered over. When this website reporter visited the site on Monday 29 August, four blocks still had the patch open and unplastered, revealing ragged edges on what might have been plasterboard. (see photograph) The fragmenting of the ceiling materials leaves local people fearful that asbestos particles in the artex ceiling coating may have been released.
The GHA spokesman said: ‘We can reassure all residents there was absolutely no asbestos risk during the removal of the refuse chutes. The contractor carried out a full risk assessment ahead of starting the work. The work carried out, complied fully with all health and safety regulations. The Health and Safety Executive also visited the site and was satisfied the work was being carried out safely. Since concerns have been raised with us, we are now writing to residents to reassure them they have no reason for concern during any of the work. The chute area was closed off to residents for a short time when the specialists were on site. Stringent air sampling tests were also carried out before and after the work and there was found to be no risk.’
Local resident John Couper who has been a steel erector and worked in Sellafield among other places where contamination is carefully monitored, said: ‘Asbestos dust is like a microscopic fish hook which, if breathed in, can hook into your lungs and never go away. It might be years later before it shows up.’
His neighbour Bobby McWilliams releated how he saw workmen with an unmarked van pulling a closed container in the area. ‘There was nothing untoward about that. There are workmen here a lot. I saw them removed sheeting and took a photograph of the mess they left on the floor. Later I saw one of them use a domestic type vacuum to hoover up a lot of dust.’
A pilot scheme, which preceded the work done on the bulk of the buildings, was observed by Jim White. ‘I thought they were very slow, only doing one landing a day. But if they were extracting asbestos they would have been slow because they were taking time to do a specialist job.’
Said Community Council Chairman, John Henderson, who chaired a local residents’ meeting on June 30: ‘My wife has a lung condition COPD. I’ve had to take her to stay with our daughter for six days while this work went on. We got fifteen minutes notice of the work starting.. Quite apart from the dust and stoor I am really concerned because the ceiling in these buildings is artex. That has an asbestos element. There was no mention of asbestos at the public meeting. The whole thing is unreal. And should not have happened. We should have been told what the outcome was of the tests in the pilot study and if there was nothing to worry about that should have been stated then. As it was, asbestos was never mentioned.’
An active trade unionist who has often seen contaminated material being disposed of in regulation red bags in an industrial setting, Mr Henderson said: ‘ I saw a red bag with a lot of stuff in it being carried out of my close by a man wearing a heavy respiratory mask. The contractor told me the next day that the asbestos removers were working ahead of his workforce.’
A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: ‘After being contacted by a local resident, HSE inspectors carried out a site visit to the Walkinshaw Street flats on 24 August. During this visit, Inspectors were satisfied that there was a safe system of work in place for the removal of asbestos.’
But Mr Henderson concluded: ‘I would like to see the details of the test results, which company did them and when the samples were taken and where they were taken from. I’m not letting this go.’
A coalition of socialist parties and groups which is preparing to contest the forthcoming general election is to hold an inaugural rally in Langside Halls.
The Scottish Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (STUSC) will announce its slate of candidates at the meeting on March 31 at 7.30pm. The UK-wide organisation includes Bob Crow, General Secretary of railworkers’ union RMT, Jane Godrich, National Secretary of the PCS civil servants’ union, Solidarity, International Socialists and Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
The coalition has a number of candidates in place for the general election. Veteran campaigner and co-convenor of Solidarity, Tommy Sheridan, is standing in Glasgow South-West. Angela McCormack of the SWP will be vying for Glasgow North, while Solidarity’s Graham Campbell will stand for Glasgow North-East on the STUSC ticket.
Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow Unison, is standing in Glasgow South.
STUSC says British people face a ‘ruling class offensive’ and offers a ‘clear left-wing alternative to policies of public sector cuts, privatisation, militarism and environmental degradation’.
Philip Stott, STUSC spokesman, said the coalition is standing in 50 seats across the UK, 10 of them in Scotland, to ‘ensure voters have an alternative to the business parties’.
Voters would look at those mainstream parties with a ‘strong mood of lesser evilism in mind’, said Philip, adding that he hoped that not only would STUSC have an impact in May 2010, but ‘would look to deepen its support base and aim for the Scottish parliamentary elections’ in 2011.