Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Ramsay’

We need a fair pay revolution to re-balance the economy

01/11/2014, 10:55:58 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

The UK needs a wages-led recovery. According to poverty campaigners and researchers at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the cost of living has gone up by 28% in the last six years, while wages have only gone up by 9%.

This cost of living crisis means bills are rising, often debts too, as many households fight a daily battle to make ends meet, with less and less cloth to cut from each month.

Following the global financial crash, food costs have soared in the UK   with price rises, since the recession started in 2007, ranging from 24%-55%, according to government figures.

Of course, it’s not tough for everybody right now. Statistics from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) show top chief executives earned 45 times the average wage back in 1998, now it is a massive 185 times as much. Such companies’ appear to be able to afford to pay the Living Wage.

It is a false economy for the current government to sit back and stomach low pay, as small disposable income levels suck demand out of our economy, with less money to spend in retail. As Kevin Slocombe of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) told me: ‘The TUC as well as countless economists believe a wages-led recovery is the only logical financial show in town.

“What we need is a new government, with an agenda for change. In May 2015, we have the ballot. We need a Labour government committed to national renewal and regeneration, with well-costed and convincing plans to re-balance the economy.”

Meanwhile, anti-politics messages resonate in a vacuum from the likes of UKIP, with trust in politicians and politics at an all-time low. A MORI survey in 2011 showed startling figures, of only 14% of the public believing politicians to tell the truth. 80% – that’s four in every five people – actively said politicians do not tell the truth.


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Tory cuts are gutting policing

11/09/2014, 06:44:53 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

After four years of this dreadful Tory and Lib Dem Coalition, savage austerity cuts have seen hundreds of frontline staff being laid off across police forces, leaving the firm impression of a government hell bent on small state governance at any cost to society and our safety.

Appearing to value the privatisation of the police, probation and even prison service over keeping law and order, statistics are often hard to believe however, due to their notorious unreliability; yet inside sources from with the police report a toxic mix of the lowest number of police officers per capita, with the second highest crime rate in Europe.

In about 1970, crimes reported hit one million and kept rising. At the time this was seen as staggeringly high. By 2005 it reached 5,800,000. In 2006 it reached 6,200,000.

Meanwhile a government minister said recently that crime was going down – that it had been going down year by year for 14 years!

On top of the rising crime is the number of offences not even being recorded by police – credit card fraud for example is not being recorded. Rape is known to be under-reported.

The Home Office was not forthcoming on official statistics re reported crime and police numbers, despite recent written requests in recent years by a researcher colleague of mine, nor have they sent any replies or acknowledgements even. What are they trying to hide?

Additionally, the criminal justice system does not appear to be ‘joined up.’  Courts are thought to not be taking ‘decisive or constructive action’ in dealing with persistent offenders, according to one former police officer.

The UK has the second highest crime rate in Europe. In terms of recorded crimes of violence, the UK wins top place in Europe as having the worst record. Much of this is drink related. Domestic violence appears to also be on the rise, as well as rape, child abuse and human trafficking.

Hampshire police have reportedly had their budget cut by £52 million per annum. They have had to close 14 police stations. Only very large stations are open to the public at night – such as Southampton Central.


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Selection round-up

09/06/2013, 04:51:21 PM

We’ve looked at results in City of Chester and Weaver Vale, but there were four other results in yesterday:

Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington) won on the second ballot, beating Unison official Angela Rayner followed by Josie Teublet and local councillor Andrew Simcock.

Born and bred in the constituency and a local councillor since 1997, Smith is now executive member for finance on Manchester City Council and was the local favourite to win.

His first electoral success in the constituency came as a ten year-old schoolboy in a mock election at Old Moat Primary School in Withington (he won).

Despite being at the Labourish end of the Liberal Democrats, current MP John Leech is something of a hate figure among Labour campaigners locally, having first defeated former government deputy chief whip, Keith Bradley, back in 2005, by claiming the Labour government was set to close Withington Hospital (it wasn’t).

Lucy Powell ran Leech close in 2010, but this time the Lib Dems will pay for being in government, with Smith’s task in overturning Leech’s small 1,894 majority seemingly a cake walk.

Karin Smyth (Bristol South), a local NHS manager, inherits a 4,734 majority from former Treasury minister Dawn Primarolo who is retiring in 2015 after serving her current term as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. She beat Uncut columnist Amanda Ramsay into second place.

Although the seat saw a sharp 10 per cent drop in Labour’s vote in 2010, it split evenly between the second placed Lib Dems and third placed Tories making it a much safer bet for Smyth in future.

Todd Foreman (NE Somerset) has a harder task in overturning the 4,914 majority of Tory curiosity Jacob Rees-Mogg. Yet the US-born solicitor is also a Westminster City Councillor, so will relish a challenge in ‘enemy’ territory.

Finally councillor Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) has been selected to fight Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems Simon Hughes.

Coyle, the director of policy at campaign group Disability Alliance beat a strong field which included Gavin Edwards, Stephanie Cryan, Prem Goyal and Richard Livingstone.

Hughes had an 8,530 majority in 2015.

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“The Spirit of ’45” shows us there is an alternative

26/03/2013, 10:41:54 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

On Sunday I had the pleasure of watching Ken Loach’s new film The Spirit of ’45. It’s still on at cinemas across the UK and the DVD comes out on 15 April. If you do one thing this Easter weekend, it should be to see this film.

Combining archive footage and interviews with current and historic figures, we hear first-hand what life was like back then, socially and politically. The grim living conditions of the slums and unaffordable health care, with medicine and doctors out of the question for many.

Focusing on the pre-war enemies of poverty and unemployment, this documentary also points to the social changes the second world war heralded, like the whole scale need for women in the work force.

This was the beginning of a change in the order of things. Before the war everything in Britain was ‘run by rich people for rich people’, as one interviewee points out but the general election of 1945 saw Labour win a landslide majority and used this electoral might to introduce the welfare state, nationalise key industries and guarantee full employment.

A confident and ambitious Labour party brought in our much loved NHS, an ambitious housing programme, nationalised the rail system, water and energy and delivered full employment to the nation.

With energy and water bills sky high now and rail travel in the UK usually more expensive than flying to foreign lands (nearly £200 to get to London from Bristol return) Labour’s next government needs to show a similar boldness and confidence to that of the spirit of ’45.

In the face of war torn and indebted post-world war Britain, Labour had the determination and vision to take on huge infrastructure projects that have become the cornerstones of our modern British society. This is a film about the triumph of optimism over cynicism, hope over greed, collectivism over the self-obsession of the individual, that erosive Thatcherite philosophy.

Resonating with current policy debates, attacks on the welfare state, mammoth cuts, the privatisation of healthcare and threats to the NHS, this documentary explores the creation and development of social welfare institutions in the UK by the Labour government after the second world war.


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Today Ed Miliband started to re-frame the economic debate

14/02/2013, 05:22:58 PM

by Dan McCurry

Thank god Ed Miliband has finally got a handle on our economic offer. Today he laid out a new narrative built around a “living standards” message with some good policy detail in the 10p tax pledge. He previewed the new approach at PMQs on Wednesday where he said that come the 2015 election, people will be asking “Am I better off now than I was 5 years ago?”

It’s about time, we really need this new, sharper approach.

On Tuesday night, I was speaking at an event by Pragmatic Radicalism where a number of people presented ideas for Labour economic policy and the audience voted for their favourite. My pitch was this:

“Even though we are right and they are wrong, we acknowledge that the Conservative party have a far more coherent economic policy than Labour. I believe that an economic policy of massive intervention, with massive stimulus, through massive infrastructure spending, should be presented with massive confidence by a leadership who will then stand their ground and defend their policy.”

Whenever I get up to speak at these kinds of events, I naturally imagine that my thoughts will be received with the kind of rapturous joy they deserve. Ahead of this event, my fantasy included the image of Amanda Ramsay in full Grecian toga, sprinkling rose petals in my path, as I stepped down from the podium to a roar of applause.

In fact my pitch provoked the question, “how will we afford it?” I had to patiently explain to these ignoramus’ that the £400 billion of quantitative easing was wasted on government bonds when it could have been spent of building schools and hospitals. We should be campaigning that future QE be spent on tangible investments in the real economy rather than delivered as helicopter cash to the banks and pension funds.

This policy response is difficult because people don’t understand where money comes from. Conversely, the Tory policy response is simple. Reduce the debt.


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Bristol needs a better deal for buses

30/01/2013, 03:57:42 PM

Last week Amanda Ramsay won the “top of the policies” vote at Pragmatic Radicalism’s top of the policies event in Bristol, chaired by Maria Eagle MP, shadow transport secretary. The winning proposal was for a “Better Deal on the Buses”, to bring buses under a new regulatory framework

People like me who live in Bristol would like to be able to leave our front doors, walk just a few minutes to a bus stop and easily reach work, meetings, job interviews, the main shopping areas, visit friends or just explore the outskirts of the city. That’s what Londoners enjoy, so why can’t we in Bristol?

I want to see cities like Bristol negotiating better deals with the likes of First Group, to deliver more routes, better reliability and lower prices.

It’s time to use the powers granted to metropolitan cities like Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol by the last Labour government, to regulate fares, routes, frequency of services and improve customer relations.

Private bus operators outside London enjoy a whopping £2 billion a year in tax payers’ money, but in Bristol it’s often cheaper when two or more people are travelling to take a taxi than to ride a bus. It causes traffic congestion, more dangers for cyclists and a weaker bus system itself, as customers vote with their feet and often only freedom pass users are passengers, meaning no income stream.


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We must keep fighting the NHS reforms

19/12/2012, 04:51:46 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

I met with some very interesting campaigners last week in the west country, inspiring me with their tales of victory in overturning moves to privatise eight Stroud NHS community hospitals and health services (including 3,000 nurses and other health workers).

I was at their celebratory social and picked the brains of one of the campaigners, which should help me with my work. The lawyer was there who made their case possible. See for more information.

It is a tale of not accepting the hardships this government is trying to inflict on all who rely on the NHS for free health and social care services whenever they need them, not just now but until the day we all die.

In less than five years this government’s health reforms will no doubt see charges introduced for a GP appointment, maybe even charges to stay in hospital overnight. Yet I cannot recall anyone mentioning this to me on doorstep campaigning for the Labour party, or in social or family circles. People are either unaware of what lies ahead or maybe feel they cannot change things that are already in motion, I really don’t know.

My guess is most people really do not have a clue about these changes, about to become much worse when the government ushers in secondary legislation on competition, licensing and pricing. A clever but insidious way of detaching the marketisation of the NHS from the act itself: it is very difficult to over turn secondary legislation.


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Where is the tax justice in our economy?

10/12/2012, 01:28:03 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

When it comes to the economy, George Osborne has failed this country on all levels. He’s failed on debt reduction, on deficit reduction and failed to bring growth or jobs. The price we pay is cuts to our services, employment rights and employment prospects.

The Autumn financial statement poured more cold water on Keynesian hopes, eager for a “do something government,” not a laissez-faire-do-nothing-but-cut-government. Yet in the morass of commentary and analysis since the chancellor sat down last Wednesday, I am still asking myself: why is it acceptable that tax payers end-up subsidising low wages by means of tax credits, housing benefit and all manner of other fiscal instruments to supplement people on poverty pay?

I ask this not because the recipients don’t deserve the help they need to make ends meet, of course they do, but they are only necessary because employers and companies are not paying adequate salaries and wages in the first place.

Someone who has the gumption to start a company and create jobs should be congratulated and supported but without a mandatory living wage, companies are allowed to let profit win over decency in how they pay their staff.

Low pay is forcing people into the arms of the nanny state; to house, feed, clothe and pay for transport to get themselves to work, let alone heat their homes.

Where’s the fairness in that?


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An insider’s view of the Bristol mayoral election

26/11/2012, 07:00:31 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

Defeat in the mayoral campaign is hard to take. Labour fought a clean campaign, but lost to a so called “independent” candidate”, George Ferguson, a colourful local business man (famed for wearing red trousers) who stood on a seemingly contrived non-party political platform, despite being a Lib Dem member until August of this year.

We’re all entitled to change our minds in life, of course, but Ferguson made much of rubbishing the Labour party, our manifesto pledges and party politics itself; despite being a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and councillor. He ran a distinctly anti-Labour campaign, especially in the final week, presumably because Labour had the momentum and were perceived as the odds on favourite to win.

I’ve covered the mayoral debate all year, initially looking at the ten cities where there were May referenda, in terms of analysing the terrain and outcomes. Back in the spring one Labour MP told me: “Tories recognise that mayoral elections can turn into personality-driven/anti-politics contests, it’s a desperate attempt to undermine Labour in the core cities.”

This has certainly proved the case in Bristol. Ferguson joined the fray with an already established city and media presence, with face and name recognition amongst the chattering classes, city and regional journalists.

The prime minister said he wants a “Boris in every city” – a reference to London mayor Boris Johnson. But other cities fought hard against a Tory-led government, seen as trying to destabilise Labour dominance in metropolitan cities. The likes of Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham were having nothing to do with it.

Bristol may well have its own Boris now, after all Ferguson literally launched his campaign in a circus, but what next?


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The runners and riders for Bristol North West

23/11/2012, 10:20:53 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

The recent controversy over the Rotherham shortlisting shone a very critical spotlight on the candidate selection process within the Labour party, but no such drama is reported from the current contest in Bristol North West, which concludes this weekend. The three hopefuls are Simon Bowkett, Keir Dhillon and Darren Jones.

The search to find Bristol North West’s next prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) started amidst a long mayoral campaign that gripped Bristol Labour party for five and a half months. Disappointing election results from last week still hang heavy in the air, so lifting members’ morale will be one of the keys to success in 2015, maintaining a match fit team, capable of turning around a 3,274 Tory majority.

Currently represented by Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, one of the beneficiaries of Lord Ashcroft’s millions, back in the pre-2010 general election, Bristol North West saw Labour slip to third place back then.

Former Conservative Party deputy chairman, Ashcroft has recently become the new co-owner of Northcliffe Media, the regional publishing arm of the Daily Mail group, which publishes Bristol’s evening paper, the Post; worrying for local representatives and candidates, keen to have their voices heard through the local press.

On the recent elections Simon Bowkett has this to say: “Last week’s Parliamentary by-election results were very encouraging – a similar swing in 2015 would see Bristol North West return to Labour. Yet the disappointment of the mayoral election shows we can take nothing for granted in Bristol.”

An Exeter Councillor for nine years, Simon works in the voluntary sector. His campaign buzz word has been very much “community”: “Our turnout was very low in core areas and we have much work to do to re-engage with those communities, to build relationships. My background in community development will enable me to lead on this work, to move voters to being supporters, and supporters to being members and activists,” he promises.


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