Wednesday, 14 September 2011

News and Events: Prisoners Education, Record Fair, Good Banking & New US Embassy.


As the prison population rises as a result of the decisions on the Courts on those found guilty of criminal behaviour in the August riots, the whole question of whether prisons work in terms of turning prisoners lives round or simply hardens criminal and anti-social attitudes is rising up the political agenda.  Because prisons concentrate on basic skills education, the need for the Prisoners Education Trust grows ever more important. The Trust funds prisoners to do distance learning courses all the way up degree level. Its South London Supporters Group’s latest funding event is:

Nigel Pascoe QC
'Merely Players'
An Advocate's Look At Shakespeare
23 September, 6.30pm
Garden Hall, St Mary's Church,
Wimbledon, SW19 7BP.

To find out more, email

My wife Ann, who used to be Director of the Trust, is a member of the Supporters’ Group.


I will be selling second-hand classical music records

Sunday 25 September from 9.15am
Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon


In the light of the long timetable proposed by the ConDem Government for banking reform, it is good at last to see the beginnings of an organised lobby for good banking. Brought together by the New Economics Foundation and Compass the Good Banking Forum represents more than 60 UK organisations, ranging from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, to Manchester Business School, Oxfam and Unite. They want a new banking system that serves the economy, society and the environment.

The forum plans to educate the public about the reality of how banks work, while promoting alternatives and mobilising public pressure for reforms through seminars, reports and online campaigns.

Established as an open public forum, the initiative emerged from The Good Banking Summit, convened in May by NEF and Compass, and was launched during an event at Westminster on 13 July 2011.

A report from the summit, titled Good Banking: Why we need a bigger public debate on financial reform, states that the root causes of the economic crisis have not been dealt with sufficiently.

“The real needs of all sections of society and business could be better met if we localised banking, renewed community banking, improved access to good credit for local business, established more co-operatives and mutuals, and lessened the concentration of power in the banking system,” says NEF campaigner Ruth Potts.

Practical, positive solutions include a People’s Post Bank run through the Post Office network, and transforming Royal Bank of Scotland into a Royal Bank of Sustainability to fund the transformation of infrastructure that is necessary for a low-carbon future.

More information on and

And my suggestion? The public do not need to wait for the ConDem reforms or the outcome of lobbying, they can take practical steps to send a clear message of anger with the commercial banks by switch their bank accounts retail/investment banks to the Co-operative Bank or mutual building societies like Nationwide.


The US State Department is currently running a public exhibition of its plans to build the new US Embassy on Nine Elms Lane. In its favour the State Department and the developer of the land around it have agreed to a green walkway from Vauxhall through the site right up to and around the Embassy including a water area which the public will be free to walk and relax in. And it looks like it will be state of the art in respect of solar power and CHP electricity generation and water recycling.

The worrying aspects are actually outside the control of the either the US or the developer. They want a road running down the whole stretch of the railway from Nine Elms Lane/Wandsworth Rd past the Covent Garden Market site and beyond the Embassy and developer's sites. This makes abolsute sense because without it all traffic for the combined devlopment will have to come into and off Nine Elms Lane.

It appears the Market Authority may not be in favour of the road or the green corridor. auxhall Cross. The green corridor will support the Embassy's desire to encourage people to walk or use public transport to get to it rather than use cars, incluidng the 600 odd staff. If there truely was a master plan for the area then Wandsworth and Lambeth Councils and the Mayor of London would require all parties to contribute to the green corridor and the through road along the railway line.

The State Department would like to see a pedestrian bridge across the river to the Tate Britain side. This would encourage people to walk to it from Pimlico Station. It welcomes the proposed station on the Kennington extension line although of cousrse the lack of  link to Victoria Station mean s that people will not be able to get it from that direction .

The next stage of detailed planning application will be in October. The planning authority ios Wandsworth. Lambeth will also have its say and so Lambeth residents will need to make representations both to both Councils.


What Would Thomas Paine Think Of The New Corruption'?

It was very fitting in view of the growing evidence that the British political system is morally and economically corrupt that a plaque should be unveiled to Thomas Paine on 17 August  in Grantham, whose most famous daughter is Margaret ‘There is no such thing as society’ Thatcher.  

Paine, a customs and excise man, lived at the George Hotel from December 1762 until he was transferred to Alford in 1764. The site of the hotel is now occupied by the George Shopping Centre.

The political system that Paine argued against became known as ‘The Old Corruption’. Reading about the unveiling in the newsletter of the Thomas Paine Society reminded me about the comments I made about the state of democracy in 2004.

Unaccountable Power

On 8 October The Guardian published a letter by me in response to an article by Michael Meacher (Bring power back under control, October 6). I pointed out that he had missed one of the most important elements about what is wrong with the state of our political system, the unaccountable power wielded by arms' length agencies, quangos and regulators has created the 'New Corruption’. ‘Why bother to vote when national and local politicians no longer have any real power and control over affairs, as a result of the enormous power handed over to arms' length quangos, agencies and regulators; power that often is used so incompetently that as always it is the ordinary people who pay the price.

We are in an era of the ‘new corruption’, just as dishonest as the ‘old corruption’ that the late 18th- and early 19th-century radicals fought against  in their campaigns for Parliamentary reform and the extension of the suffrage. Except our 'New Corruption' can be described as Orwellian.The government has talked for years about local people being at the heart of the decision-making. Tell that to the communities which are having phone masts foisted on them, or their post offices closed, or being penalised for not agreeing to stock transfer.’

It was composed during the period of Labour Government under Tony Blair, ‘The Godfather’.

The Democratic Crisis

I also had posted on my general website reflections on the state of democracy in 2004.

‘British democracy appears to be in crisis: contempt for politicians, disengagement from the political process, low level of participation in elections. A wide range of arguments are put to explain this: political and media spin, hypocritical personal behaviours of politicians (sleeze), the perceived failure of local and central government to deliver on their promises in a way that people can see beneficially affects their lives, or riding rough-shod over widely held concerns. The anti-democratic British National Party has been able to obtain short-term electoral advantage, boosted by anti-asylum seeker and refugee rhetoric from leading mainstream politicians.

Low election turnouts are not a new phenomenon. The Holborn Conservatives bemoaned it when in 1937 six Labour Councillors were elected for the first time. This anecdote is a reminder that achieving high levels of local electoral participation has to be worked at. Where local political parties take their vote for granted, and/or do not work to convince people to vote, then turnouts remain low. If political parties reduce their own internal democracy and alienate members, they will not have enough people to make the face to face contact with electors that is an essential part of sustaining a culture of electoral and democratic involvement.

Reform To Reinvigorate Democracy

The Government considers that local government reform will reinvigorate democracy. It is debatable whether the implementation of its largely technical proposals will do so. Government policies about putting people at the heart of decision making are seen as empty rhetoric, as it continues to exert heavy central control over spending programmes such as New Deal for Communities and Neighbourhood Renewal, or imposes unpopular decisions like the expansion of Heathrow airport. While it recognises that regenerating deprived communities will take 15-20 years, it is impatient for results. It does not give people and organisations a chance to obtain results before forcing another set of reforms. The consensus about local regeneration and community well-being that might be achievable through Community Strategies and Local Strategic Partnerships could result in electors thinking that there is no need to vote, because voting for a particular political party is not going to radically alter the consensus.

Devolution in Scotland and Wales has not solved the problem of disengagement. The proposed devolution for English regions seems dubious in terms of any potential claimed for it for improving democratic engagement. No wonder it has been rejected in the referendums. What might begin to make a difference and enable people to engage is to require the establishment of neighbourhood governance structures or reduce the size of local authorities.

Electors cannot be criticised for thinking that voting is irrelevant when so many decisions seem to be out of the hands of elected politicians: the requirements of the European Community, the power of multi-nationals, and the devolution at arms-length of so many services to regulators and other unelected bodies. Nor can they be criticised for thinking that politicians often get too involved in issues largely irrelevant to the majority of people, like fox-hunting. The cautious approach to House of Lords reform reinforces this by missing the opportunity to develop a new equal relationship between the four nations, and a new approach to UK wide governance.

The Crisis's Deep Roots

The roots of the current crisis have been growing slowly over a number of decades. As the population sizes of Parliamentary constituencies and local authority wards have grown, it becomes more and more difficult for people to have regular personal contact with their MPs and councillors. The cumulative decline of engagement in democratically controlled organisations, like friendly societies, co-operatives and trade unions, has eroded people’s experience of democratic representation and participation. This is underpinned by a popular lack of historic understanding of the struggle to build democracy and the consequences of not rigorously defending and promoting democratic participation. The strength of evolving British democracy lay in mass involvement in its practice and in debates about its theory through mutual associations.

Commercially driven ‘consumerism’ makes people only think of themselves, and reject collective solutions. This has been reinforced by Governments seeing people as ‘consumers’, not as ‘citizens’ with a right to services, and by many mutuals downgrading democratic engagement.

Ebbs and Flows of Popular Engagement

Popular engagement in politics has had its historic ebbs and flows. It is difficult to tell whether we are in an ebb from which we can recover, or are spiralling downwards to an extent that it will be difficult to recover support for both representative and participatory democracy.

British historical experience suggests that the challenge of reversing political disengagement and strengthening both representative and participatory democracy cannot be left just to politicians. Democracy was built from below, and will need to be re-built from below. There will be an important role in this for practical organisation of a new 'associationism’. There is considerable scope for this within local communities linked to opportunities available through the Government agendas, even though these might be only short term. Networking and alliance building will be crucial.

All advances on the road to democracy were pioneered by people with a minority perspective, whether political radicals or motivated by faith. Such groups need to be nurtured and funded to play their role in creative questioning and suggesting new solutions and approaches.’

7 Years On

Am I being too pessimistic in thinking that things have only got worse in the last 7 years? August’s riots with their extensive criminality and madness suggests that a large section of society has actually become nihilistic with no adherence to any social values apart from pure selfishness and an amoral ignoring of the effect of looting and arson on other people’s lives. So corruption at the top and corruption at the bottom.

I wonder what Tom Paine would be writing if he was alive today?

The plaque can be seen on:


The Fight For Planning Control

When the ConDem Government was elected it said it would put a ban on backlands development; to its credit it did. But it is now set out to scrap planning controls in favour of presumed development. The current debate about this concentrates on the growing opposition from organisations about the potential damaging effect on the Green Belt and the countryside. Yet the effects will be potentially catastrophic in urban areas. If the plans go through it will be the end of influence of residents on development proposals and open the flood gates for unsympathetic and unwanted developments. It is pandering to the profits that developers can make regardless of the needs of local communities of all types. So much for ConDem ‘Localism’ giving power back to the people. This is an issue that should unite both rural and urban communities and lobby organisations.

Because of the corrupting nature of Section 106 monies and the weak position objectors to developments have under the existing planning rules, developers are able to run rings round local authorities. Far from further weakening the controls over development, much tighter rules are needed and a lot more safeguards.

National Planning Policy Framework 
The proposals were published in July in a draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) designed to replace all planning policy statements (PPSs) and planning policy guidance (PPGs) and ministerial planning circulars that currently shape local planning. The Urban Forum Briefing says that some of the key proposals are being taken forward by the Localism Bill and that the final version of the NPPF will be a statutory document.
The briefing summarises the main features of the NPPF as:
1.    Fewer rules about what can be built, where, and how
2.    A presumption in favour of sustainable development
3.    The local plan becomes (even) more important
4.    Supports a growth agenda
5.    Introduces a duty to cooperate
6.    Replaces targets for development with incentives
7.    Supports neighbourhood planning and sets out expectations on consultation with
       communities by local authorities and developers.
Key and Alarming Elements

Some key and alarming elements in the Framework include:
  • Local authorities should not produce supplementary planning documents unless this can "help bring forward sustainable development at an accelerated rate, and must not be used to add financial burdens on development."
  • The "policy burden is to be minimised to help ensure landowners and developers get a "reasonable return 
  • The presumption should be in favour of development, which it describes as a "golden thread running through both plan making and decision making".  
  • "Decision-takers at every level should assume that the default answer to development proposals is "yes", except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in this Framework."  
  • Councils will generally be required to give planning permission to all developments where "the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date." 
  • A New Homes Bonus will be a national incentive to house building for home ownerhsip, where the Government will match fund increases in Council Tax revenue raised through new homes being built.  
  • Proposals of developers who demonstrate good engagement with affected communities in designing developments should be looked on more favourably. 
Sops To The Critics
As a sop to their critics the ConDem Localism Bill: 
·    proposes that a "meaningful proportion" of money raised through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which is to replace Section 106 charges levied on developers to pay for infrastructure, local services and environmental enhancements, must be put back into the neighbourhood, and placed in the control of neighbourhoods.
·    will enable parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums to write a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NPD) for their area, providing the framework for development for the next ten years. In some circumstances they can also identify ‘Local Green Space’ to protect green areas of particular importance to the community.
·     will establish a system of Development Orders (NDOs)  granting planning permission for specific types of development in a particular area, without needing a standard planning application, with the NDOs having to have the approval of the community through a local referendum, and being assessed by an independent examiner to check it is in line with national and local planning policies.
The achilles heel of these superfically welcome proposals is that Councils will be expected to pay the costs of independent examinations and referenda, at a time when the ConDem Government requires them to make massive cuts in their spending. It will also be very expensive for communities to develop Neighbourhood Plans.
While the Framework suggests that local authorities need to encourage more public engagement by developers before they submit a planning application and support them in this, there is to be no requirement on them to do so, unless they are required to by law.
The National Planning Policy Framework is being consulted on until 17 October.

The full Urban Forum briefing can be seen on:    

The Fight for Control Over Development
There has been a long struggle over trying to gain community control over what land is used for. It includes the fight against enclosures from the 16th C, the Diggers in the English Revolution, the development of the ideas of Thomas Spence in Newcastle for parishes to own all the land, the land nationalisation campaigns in the second half of the 19thC, the garden city movement, the introduction of the first Town & Country Planning Act in 1910 under John Burns, Battersea’s MP in his capacity of Local Government Minister, and the anti-developer fights in the 1970s in places like Coin Street. 

A common thread in all these campaigns has been the value people place on green environments. All over the country ten of thousands of people are engaged in green environment projects. It is not in developers interests to have to provide open spaces; that is why the width of the Thames Walk planning requirement is so narrow.

‘In the 19th and 20th centuries many of London's natural habitats were lost to housing, industrialisation, transport infrastructure and neglect.  More recently efforts are being made to restore what has been lost.’ So says the British Library announcing its sixth Shared Learning Project on the restoration of green London. Beginning in January 2012 it will be looking into the restoration and creation of green spaces and the effects on both wildlife and people.  The work will be undertaken with a team of members from U3As  in the Greater London Region.

‘A book was published recently suggesting that urban children are suffering from 'nature deficit disorder' and that this lack of engagement with the natural world should be of concern to all of us. The restoration and creation of natural habitats benefits not only the wildlife of our city but also the human population.’

Given the emphasis on growth, the presumption in favour of development and home ownership in the Framework, can local communities use the powers in the Localism Bill to ensure their opportunities to prevent the development of land which could be greened will be allowed? I think the conclusion has to be with great difficulty and possibly only in well organised well-off communities.

Looking Back 10 Years 
Back in 2001 when I was Policy Development Officer for bassac, the national association of Settlements and Social Action Centres, now merged with the Development Trusts Association as Locality, the Labour Government started a Planning Review. I worked on bassac’s submission.  
We argued that the planning system needs to be radically reformed into a tool for developing sustainable communities. If community participation in planning decisions was not strengthened then confidence in getting involved in urban and rural and neighbourhood renewal will be undermined.

Government's Positive Views

At the beginning of the Review the then Secretary of State considered that:
·          the planning system of the future must engage communities, and contribute to people feeling connected with the process of government
·          the system is a key lever to help create a decent society and quality of life
·          past planning mistakes contributed to the break-up and decay of communities
·          there ‘can be no question of allowing commercial interests to run rough shod over legitimate environmental concerns.’
·           he had ‘no doubts about the right of the community to express their views about decisions which affect them.’

These were very welcome but as the Review proceeded these positions were water down and the necessary strengthening was not including in Labour’s subsequent planning reforms.

Key Points Still Pertinent Today

A decade on the key points made by bassac seem even more pertinent a decade on include: 
·          Many communities are fed up with the way developers and property owners continually reshape the built environment in their neighbourhoods adversely affecting the quality of life of residents, and with large regeneration schemes that provide no benefit to neighbouring communities.
·          Communities often feel their wishes and interests are ignored in the planning system. This is why planning issues are often a catalyst for community action.
·           The community is, however, the weakest player in the current planning system. This is partly due to the limited rights to make representations, and the lack of a right to put in a community appeal against a planning approval. It is also due to the lack of a system of neighbourhood governance structures that would enable the different interest groups within the community to have a strong voice in deciding planning applications.
Victory for Developers

The ConDem proposals are a victory for the development and business lobbies. Back in 2001 business lobbying, as articulated by the Confederation of British Industries, was calling for planning officers and councillors on planning committees to have a better understanding of business, including economics and finance of developments. It suggested compulsory training in planning and business development for newly-elected councillors. In other words they should be ‘taught’ top be more sympathetic to developers.

The CBI’s views then did not reflect the fact that business is no more homogeneous than ‘the community’. The thrust of most of its then proposals would have benefitted developers and large businesses rather than local based businesses, especially the needs of local shopkeepers whose economic viability can often be undermined by the developments of large developers and businesses. In the last decade we have seen how their ability to manipulate the planning system has enabled the onward march of the supermarkets at the expense of small businesses in town centres and on high streets.

Bassac pointed out that often developers and businesses from outside a local authority area are seen to parachute in with proposals that have not been thought through in terms of their impact on the local area and community.
·          Some developers may have been slowly working over a number of years building up their land bank in the area, forcing out local businesses, creating boarded up buildings, and contributing to the cycle of dereliction, and then bring forward a development proposal which has not been worked on with the local community. Bitter planning disputes have resulted.
·          The imbalance in rights means that a lot of communities feel that proposals they are opposed to are forced upon them, and that their areas is changed bit by bit in a direction that they do not agree with. 
And what did we propose?

·           There should be a requirement on applicants of all planning proposals of a certain size to use community participation methods to enable local people to influence the outcome.
·           Neighbourhood governance structures should be established with the right to use the Citizens Jury approach to questioning local residents, community, voluntary and business organisations, the applicants, the planning officials and other involved agencies about the scheme.
·          Local planning authorities should be required to take into account the findings that emerge and the recommendations of the neighbourhood governance structure.  
Pre-Planning Discussions
Developers already have a major advantage in the current system, namely the secrecy of pre-application discussion undertaken behind closed doors, with planning officers becoming involved in shaping an application, so that often it is a foregone conclusion that they will recommend its acceptance to the Planning Committee. This leaves them open to accusations of personal compromise, and of compromising public consultation. Ten years ago bassac proposed that if  pre-application discussion is sought by an applicant it should be subject to public announcement, the availability of the ideas to public scrutiny and the opportunity for the public to discuss the ideas with the developer and Planning Officers. Absence of such a requirement will act against confidence in the Government's commitment on the role of community involvement.

Planning Aid 

The Planning Aid system has been an important resource for communities concerned about planning. However, it is dependent on the volunteer capacities of planners. There are few organisations like Waterloo Community Development Group whose sole function is planning.  There are a range of multi-purpose service and project organisations which already work in the field of community involvement which could take on a specialist planning role as well. Many advice service organisations could also take on a planning brief, alongside their existing specialist areas such as welfare benefits, employment, and education. This would enable volunteer planners to concentrate on helping in those areas where no specialist organisations exist. There should be funding specifically to ensure that every community has access to a planning aid service.
Community Right of Appeal
Finally we argued that as a last safeguard to community interests, community organisations should have the right of appeal against planning applications that they have opposed.

Neighbours Right of Appeal 
Ten years on I would add a further safeguard, especially given my own personal experience with the inadequacies of planning decision making in respect of the effect of development proposals next door to my previous home in Mitcham.

Neighbours whose views have been rejected when a Council approves a planning application should have an automatic right of appeal, and that the Inspectorate should be required to positively approach neighbours when an applicant appeals against rejection of an application.

See also my blog on Neighbourhood Planning 6 March 2011.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Its been quiet on the blog front since May because of moving house. I have managed to produce one issue of History & Social Action Newsletter (No. 42), but have decided ffor a while to put items that would be in future issues on the Blog and will review in the light of readers feedback. As usual most of the events are in London but there are also ones in Barnsley, Brighton, Chesterfield, Letchworth, Salford, and the North East.
To 18 September. George Orwell Festival. Letchworth Garden City and the nearby village of Wallington in Hertfordshire. Full details

Saturday 10 September 10am. Leaflet & protest at Tory council leader Ravi Govindia's "Let's Talk" meeting. Meet outside Waitrose, 66/67 Southside (former Arndale) Shopping Centre. Garrat Lane/Wandsworth High St.

Saturday 10 September. 12-4pm. Sunderland Carnival Against the Cuts. Mowbray Park, Sunderland.

Saturday 10 September. 2pm. First Wigan Diggers' Festival. Old Pear Tree, Frog Lane, Wigan WN1. Celebrating the life, ideas and actions of Wiganer and Diggers' leader Gerrard Winstanley on the 335th anniversary of his death. The event is free and is preceded by an outdoor lunchtime 'action' (12.30pm outside Wigan Unite Office, Hallgate, 'bring your own spades and hoes'). Further details from, tel 07724 139278.

Tuesday, 13 September. 5.30pm. Northern Public Services Alliance meeting. North Tyneside PSA, Wallsend People’s Centre.
Wednesday 14 & Thursday 15 September. 8am-8pm. Public Consultation – New American Embassy Nine Elms. Unit 1-5 Ponton Road Nine Elms. A consultant team will be available to respond to any questions, concerns or comments.

Wednesday 14 September. 5.30pm. Northern Public Services Alliance meeting. Durham PSA, County Hall, Committee Room 1A.

Wednesday 14 September. 7pm. Meeting to establish the Friends of Stockwell War Memorial. Stockwell Resource Centre in Studley Road, London, SW4. The organisers Naomi Klein and Sheila Dartnell have a petition in support of improving the memorial on
Further details on

Thursday 15 & Saturday 17 September. One Nine Elms: Public exhibition. Ground Floor, Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms. See News Section. For further details see: SE11 Lurker on

Thursday 15 September. 7.30pm. Vauxhall Gardens. A History. Kennington Bookshop sponsored talk and discussion with co-author David Coke of the new book on the history of Vauxhall Gardens. Tommyfield Pub, Kennington Cross. Tickets £3 from Kennington Bookshop or by ringing 020 7735 5505. Special price for the night £39.99 instead of £55.

Thursday 15 September. Updates on legislation going through Parliament. 9.30am-noon. MEA House, Newcastle. Unison will be hosting this free informal briefing session for voluntary and community groups on three of the main bills currently going through Parliament: the Welfare Reform Bill, the Localism Bill and the Health and Social Care Bill. To find out more visit Comment: What a good idea.

Friday 16 September. Separation & Silence: Wandsworth Prison. Start of exhibition coinciding with the Prion’s 160th Anniversary. The exhibition is organised with the Prison Museum and will be accompanied by talks and other public events. Wandsworth Museum, 38 West Hill, London, SW18. See

Friday 16 September. De Morgan Centre Re-opens alongside Wandsworth Museum. This was delayed from July. Further details about this important Arts & Crafts collection can be seen on
Saturday 17 September. 11am. Stall & leafleting at Doddington Estate where the eviction of the family of the young man charged with rioting is threatened. Meet outside 'Tesco Metro', 275-277 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, SW11. Organised by Wandsworth Against the Cuts.

Saturday 17 September. 12-3.30pm. Independent Working Class Education Meeting. Chesterfield Labour Club, Unity House, 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40. It will share developments in reviving the tradition of
Independent Working Class Education [please bring your materials/ideas and resources], and to develop the themes for our Conference at Northern College
Barnsley on 12 November. To find out more and to confirm you can be there please email Keith Venables

Saturday 17 September. 1-6pm. Larkhall Park, Courland. Stockwell Festival. Organised by Stockwell Partnership & Oasis Play in Larkhall Park, Oasis Nature Garden, Go Kart track and Adventure Playground. Further details from Anna Godsiff:

Monday 19 to Friday 23 September. 10am-4pm. Ashes & Diamonds Exhibition. Hurst House, WEA Centre, Abercrombie Street, Chesterfield. Official opening Monday at 12.30pm. It is a tribute to the mining industry and those who fought to defend it. It also aims to raise awareness and debate on relevant issues for today, from the ongoing theft from the Mineworkers Pension fund to the loss of all Britain’s once great industries. Created by Darren Coffield.

Tuesday 20 September. 'Raymond Williams and Robert Tressell in Hastings: Celebrating 50 years of The Long Revolution and the centenary of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. Conference. University of Brighton in Hastings. Further details

Tuesday 20 September. 5.30pm. Northern Public Services Alliance meeting. Newcastle PSA, Unison Regional Office.

Tuesday 20 September. 6-8pm. Quaker Care for the Poor. Quaker History Lecture. Quaker Centre, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1.
Heidi Snow PhD, of Principia College, Illinois, will examine The Society of Friends' attitude towards the poor in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This attitude differed significantly from that of other denominations. The talk examines that perspective, and how it affected Quaker treatment of the poor in the Lake District during the years of William Wordsworth's youth and young adulthood, a time when he had much contact with Friends. The talk focuses on Quaker writings on the topic and on the Meeting House records of Colthouse (pictured above) and Kendal during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Refreshments available in the Quaker Centre from 6pm for a 6.30pm start.

Tuesday 20 September. 7-9pm. The future for Trade Union education. Speakers former MP Harry Barnes and Bob Heath, both tutors on Derbyshire NUM’s day release course. Part of Ashes & Diamonds exhibition in Chesterfield – see above.

Wednesday 21 September. Northern Public Services Alliance meeting. Sunderland PSA, Civic Centre, Sunderland.

Wednesday 21 September. 6.30pm. Lobby Wandsworth Council meeting on the eviction and the riots. Meet at Wandsworth Town Hall main gate, junction Wandsworth High and Fairfield Sts, SW18. Organised by Wandsworth Against The Cuts.

Wednesday 21 September. 7-9pm. Tyneside Première of Debtocracy. Fundraising film showing. Salsa café, 89 Westgate Road, Newcastle. NE1. Details on: The Peoples Bookshop, Durham will also be holding a stall at the event:

Friday 30 September. Deadline for submission of papers and panel proposals for 'Landscapes & Environments'. BSECS 41st Annual Conference. 4-6 January 2012, Oxford. The organisers state: ‘We would thus particularly welcome proposals for panels and papers that address eighteenth-century uses of, and attitudes to, landscapes and environments of all kinds, throughout the long eighteenth century and in any part of the world. These might include, but will not be confined to: changes in the landscape (including urban landscapes) and environment; climate and weather (for example ‘the great storm’ of 1703); ‘greening’ the eighteenth century; landscape gardening; enclosure; pastoral; the picturesque; sacred landscapes; ruins and archaeology; representations of the landscape; and meanings and significance given to landscapes and environments, in all fields from history to the arts, literature, and philosophy. To submit a proposal please visit

Friday 30 September. 'Whose history is it anyway? 'Public' history in perspective'. Deadline for call for papers. Multi-disciplinary conference at University of Central Lancashire June 2012, to explore issues of public engagement in history. Proposals (250 words) are invited for single papers or panels on themes such as 'History, heritage and class', 'Institutionalised history and heritage' and Family/community history and heritage'. These should be submitted to; further details available from the same email address.


Saturday 1 October. Lambeth Archives Annual Open Day. Always an interesting day. Full details go to

Saturday 1 October: International conference against cuts and privatisation. London. Full details on:

Saturday 1 October: 10am-6pm and Sunday 2 October: 10am-5pm. Black History Live Seminars and Workshops. Wembley Stadium. Admission - Tickets £6 (under 14's have FREE admission when accompanied by a full paying adult). Includes: visit the Arctic with Dwayne Fields, Caribbean and African Language links with Dr Morgan Dalphinis Linguist, Reflections with Victor Richards, readings by for Haitian child slave Jean-Robert Cadet (‘My Stone of Hope’) and former Black Panther Robert King (‘A Cry from the Bottom of the Heap’), advice from Gangsline on how communities can help in the battle against gang crime, the Black Police Association talking about policing in a modern, diverse Britain, and the challenges and opportunities it represents, plus music, a play and talks about Mary Seacole, and The BBC4 documentary Tales from the Front Room followed by discussion with Dr Michael McMillan, editor of the book that inspired the film. There also be a showing of the film African Superheroes, Caribbean Family History Group on how to trace your family history, Black Cultural Archives exploring its Ansel Wong collection. Plus lots more; health and beauty, diabities management, the history of black hair, hair care, media training, AND becoming a DJ. Full details on

Tuesday 4 October. 7-9pm. Start of ten week Socialist Theatre course run by the WEA. Working Class Movement Library, Salford. Brecht, Augusto Boal, 7:84, Unity Theatre, Dario Fo, Agitprop and other important aspects of the Socialist Theatre tradition. Further information from tutor Tom Mclennan, or 0771 684 8894.

Wednesday 5 October. 2-4pm. Localism Bill and big society; what does it mean for Newcastle? Central Square, Newcastle. What will the new rights and powers being introduced by the Localism Bill mean for voluntary and community groups in Newcastle? This NCVS event will be an opportunity for you to have your say and to listen to views from national charity Urban Forum and Newcastle City Council. To find out more visit Comment: such events need to be held all over the country. For further details of Urban Forum activities see:

8 October. 11am. Labour/Co-operative Conference on Co-operative Councils. Exeter Labour Party Hall, 26b Clifton Hill, Exeter. Keynote speaker Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council, telling us about how Lambeth became a Co-operative Council. Workshops will look at different aspects of what this can mean for services, e.g. housing, community services, social services, etc., followed by feedback and the organisers hope to have responses from South West Labour Groups. Conference is sponsored by Devon Labour Party and the South West Co-operative Party Council. More details on :
Comment: My West Country readers should be aware that Steve Reed will give arosy picture of the initiative. Many Lambeth activists have yet to see any real substance. My historical review of mutual and co-operative action in Lambeth is available as a PDF on request at

Wednesday 12 October. 6.15 for 6.30pm. What was Beatrice Webb Thinking and Why Should We Still Care? The Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2. Organised by Smith Institute, Webb Memorial Trust, LSE and New Statesman. Launch of the Institute’s new report ‘Beatrice Webb: Her Quest for a Fairer Society' by Michael Ward (Research Fellow, The Smith Institute). Michael is a friend and acquaintance of many of my readers. Tackling poverty and inequality is at the heart of progressive politics. But what can history tell us about the struggle for a fairer society, and where does the work of Beatrice Webb, the founder of LSE and advocate of the welfare state, fit in? What lessons can we draw from Beatrice’s landmark Minority Report in 1909 on destitution and the Poor Law? After a century of anti-poverty policies have we achieved all that the Webbs had hoped for and what more could have been done to improve people’s livelihoods and life chances? The event will debate these and related concerns about poverty in the UK. Following an opening talk by Michael there will be a panel discussion and question and answer session. Panelists include Stephen Timms MP (Shadow Employment Minister), David Piachaud (Professor of Social Administration, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE), and Jonathan Derbyshire (Culture Editor, New Statesman). To confirm you would like to attend please email:

Friday 14 – Sunday 16 October. History of Youth and Community Conference. Speakers include Gillian Darley, author of Villages of Vision, on historical attempts to develop planned community; and Nigel Todd on the first 100 years of the Workers’ Education Association. To mark the 100th Centenary of the National Association of Girls’ Clubs (now UK Youth) there will be a symposium on the history of youth work with girls and young women. Plus workshops covering an enormous range of topics linked to the history of youth work, adult education and community work. I am discussing leading a Workshop with the organisers. For further details contact Tracey Hodgson See also:


South London Line Through Brixton To Be Closed. The South London Line through Wandsworth Rd and Brixton are to be closed. To support the petition against this please visit

A fair deal for the voluntary and community sector? – guidance to councils. Eric Pickles, the Local Communities Minister, has published guidance for councils on “how to protect voluntary and community groups from disproportionate cuts to their funding". He has also replaced 56 pages of prescriptive statutory guidance on local priorities introduced by the previous government with one page of guidelines on how to achieve best value in their area. To find out more visit  and

Right to work protest against Wandsworth’s threat to evict family of alleged rioter. ‘The truth is it was a very peaceful protest. It became less so when the police headed towards the crowd with a video camera as they gathered to have their picture taken by a photographer from the Wandsworth Guardian. It was a completely unnecessary and a highly provocative move. The police then harassed and generally intimidated those present. What started as a protest over an eviction outside the leader of Wandsworth Council house turned into an issue of freedom of speech in post riot Britain.’ So starts the posting on Further details on: See September Events blog posting for details of continuing activities on the eviction and the cuts in Wandsworth.

Damn or fear it, the truth is that it’s an insurrection. This is the title of John Pilger’s New Statesmen article on 18 August.

The North East and The Recession. This summer VONNE, the North East Region umbrella group for the community and voluntary sector in partnership with National Council of Voluntary Service undertook the fifth survey in its continued monitoring of the impact of the economic downturn on the regions’s third sector. The trends that emerged are pretty negative – there has been a steady rise in the numbers of charities reporting a decrease in funding, losing staff and drawing on reserves to keep services going. Almost half (49%) of respondents said they plan to lose a service this year; a fifth say they will or may close; a third say they plan to merge their organisation. It is estimated that north east charities have lost £3.5 million of funding in the last six months alone, and 257 jobs have been lost. To read the full report visit

Top Ten US Labor Day Songs. The top ten US Labor Day songs compiled by Peter Rothberg for The Nation on 4 September has been circulated by the US LabourStart trade union website: Pete Seeger, “Solidarity Forever”, John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”, Billy Bragg, “There is Power in a Union”, Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons”, Joan Baez and Mimi Farina, “Bread and Roses”, Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”, Woody Guthrie, “Union Burying Ground”, Phil Ochs, “The Ballad of Joe Hill”, Bruce Springsteen, “Youngstown”, The Rolling Stones, “Salt of the Earth”. Rothberg apologises for not including ‘Which Side Are You On’,’ but I just couldn’t bear to knock out any of the eventual finalists. I also feel terrible about not including anything by The Clash or John Mellencamp and thought Johnny Paycheck’s classic ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ deserved mention.’ For world trade union news see: . LabourStart UK is at

Working-class Movement Library Fundraising Appeal. Reduced financial support from Salford Council means that the Working Class Movement Library needs to raise £80,000 this year (and every year) to keep the Library running. The founders Ruth and Eddie Frow, who my family knew, began the Library in their own home, driven by the belief that working people should remember and value their own history. They rescued countless items which would have been lost. In these turbulent times that history has never been more relevant - and its survival will depend on the generosity of our supporters. More information at The Guardian covered the story on 7 September:

What Are Social Democratic Principles? John Veit-Wilson, who I used to know when we were both on the Child Poverty Action Group National Executive in the early 1970s, and whom I have met again on work trips up the Tyneside, has drawn attention to a booklet of social democratic principles and values, produced as part of a members' induction pack by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. John stresses that it is an example of what can be done by a successful party speaking openly and honestly about such sometimes sensitive and contentious matters to its members and the public, and not just in terms of electorally-influenced policies. ‘Perhaps it could offer some ideas for those concerned with the renewal of the Labour Party in these troubled times.’ The text can be seen on:

‘Public and Private Spaces in the Early Modern World (1485-1700)’. A one-day postgraduate conference. My University (Sheffield) organised a one-day postgraduate conference. I could not go. The very wide range of papers included the following that look of particular interest: Kristen Klebba (University of Cambridge) ‘Parochial authority and civic green space in London, 1605-1720.’ Catherine Hunt (Bristol University) ‘The public, the private and the wearing of gloves.’ Michael Hetherington (University of Cambridge) ‘Talking cobblers: natural reason, common sense, and the public audience for poetry in the 1580s and 1590s.’ Further details can be obtained from ( or

Charlie Andrews, Newcastle Missionary to India. Anglo Sikh Heritage organised a talk by Sohan Singh of the Newcastle Sikh Temple on 8 September Newcastle City Library about Charlie Andrews, the Anglican Missionary born in Newcastle, who was active in India in the first half of the 20th Century. He was a close friend of Gandhi and before Charlie died, Gandhi's first choice for President of an Indian Republic. He did a lot of good work in the slums of Monkwearmouth and other places in the North East before he left for India. There are 16 biographies of Andrews, and as an example of what people in the know think of him, here is a quote from T. Sher Singh: ‘You and I have been taught about William Wilberforce who helped abolish the idea of slavery. Well, I believe that the history books should also similarly sing about Charles Freer Andrews because he helped abolish the idea of Indentured Labor, which was then as much of a plague as slavery had been (and to a large extent continued to be in some parts of the world).’ (

Black History Calender. 100 Black Men of London has started a black history calendar on its website. Anyone can summit dates for inclusion. See

Fundraising Event for SCAT charity. My musician friend Fred Scott is organising a gig at Fairfield Halls in Croydon at lunch time on 3 April in support of the bone cancer SCAT. He intends to include a Samuel Coleridge-Taylor piece. Further details nearer the date. SCAT's website is