Momentum South Birmingham newsletter 02 01 2018

Welcome to the latest Momentum South Birmingham newsletter – your unmissable weekly digest of all the interesting things going on politically in our area and beyond.

Welcome to the first edition of 2018. With the local elections just 4 months away you won’t be surprised to hear that campaigning is kicking off in many wards already and MSB members will be out in force. We were also out in force this morning for campaigning on rail fares across many stations on our patch – check out our social media to see some pictures of Labour members braving the cold to talk to the public about the issue and argue for renationalisation!

We have our first branch meeting of the year this Sunday and it looks like it’s going to be a busy one- we are planning on having a couple of speakers and it will be great to touch base and start talking about our plans for the upcoming year.

Also please don’t forget to cast your NEC ballot if you haven’t already – full details below!

Enjoy this week’s edition and if there is content you want featuring in future editions do drop us a line.

Next KONPB meeting – Jan 3rd
Keep Our NHS Public Birmingham do a huge amount of brilliant work and a number of Momentum activists are already involved in meetings and activity, but they are always in need of more help. For those who are interested in supporting and/or joining KONP and contributing to campaigns their contact details are btuchcc@hotmail.com.

Currently KONPB have campaigns on the proposed NHS “Transformation” plans (cuts and privatisation) in Brum/Solihull and Black Country; the privately-financed Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick (PFI/2) and have recently set up a ‘Mental Health Interest Group’, which is planning to do some more work on the mental health arrangements for young people 0-25 years in Birmingham – currently ‘red risk’.
Meetings are 1st Wednesday of every month (except August), so people can drop in any time at The Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5SN at 7:30pm. The next meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday the 3rd January.

They have also established a bank account if you want to make either regular (by standing order) or ‘one-off’ donations the money will be put to good use. KONP’s bank details, should you wish to make a bank transfer/set up a standing order (monthly or annually) the Co-Op Bank account number is 65823280 and the sort code is 08- 92-99. Please get involved in, and support, KONPB in any way you can!

Next MSB branch meeting: 7th January
Our first MSB meeting of the new year is this Sunday, the 7th January, 3pm, at the Highbury Pub in Stirchley (Dad’s Lane, Stirchley, Birmingham B13 8PQ).
Please join us to discuss many of the campaigns we are involved in and causes we are supporting and also the forthcoming local elections – campaigning will be starting very soon. We are planning on having several speakers from ongoing campaigns and workers disputes.
We are also once again welcoming anyone from Yardley CLP who wishes to join us.
The usual rules apply – you are welcome to join us as long as you aren’t a supporter of a party that isn’t Labour – and if we have any votes you’ll need to be a Momentum member to participate 😊
Hope to see you there!

‘Knights of the Raj’ exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: until 7th Jan 2018

Birmingham is home to hundreds of so-called Indian restaurants. However, many are unaware that it is the Bangladeshi community that pioneered this industry, laying the foundations for Britain’s ‘curry culture’. Soul City Arts, working in partnership with Future Seed CIC, have captured the untold stories of those pioneers, tracing the origins of the Birmingham curry trade back to the 1940s. This three-month long exhibition features rare photographs, unique artefacts, videos, interactive displays and oral histories that tell the fascinating story of the much-loved British Curry.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of Birmingham and Britain’s Indian restaurants. The exhibition runs at BM&AG until the 7th Jan 2018. More details here.

BCC Budget consultation, 10th Jan 2018.
Every year Birmingham City Council consults the people of the city about what the budget priorities are for the coming year. This takes the form of public meetings and an online consultation which you can access here. Usually there are a number of public meetings but sadly there is only one this year, which is desperately disappointing when the cuts are as savage as they are. It’s on Wednesday 10 January 2018, 6.00pm to 8.00pm in the Council House Victoria Square Birmingham B1 1BB. More information can be found here.

Sparkhill campaigning afternoon for Nicky Brennan – weekend of 13th and 14th January
As you will no doubt have spotted in previous editions one of our hardest working members, Nicky Brennan, is standing in Sparkhill for Labour I the forcoming local elections. Her first big campaigning event are leafletting sessions on Saturday 13th and Sunday the 14th January, both at 1pm.
• Saturday – meeting at the junction of Witton Road and Stoney Lane B12 8AJ
• Sunday – meeting at the junction of Formans Road and Knowle Road B11 3AW
Any questions please drop sparkhilllabour@gmail.com a line!

MSB campaigns and social/fundraising committees joint meeting – 17th January
The next Stalls/Campaigning and Social/Fundraising meeting will be held at 11am on Wednesday 17th January in Loco Lounge in Kings Heath. The two committees have again decided to join forces! All are welcome. They would love to hear feedback and suggestions for the year ahead as if it’s anything like the last couple of years it’s going to be another busy one!

Next MSB Book Club, 23rd Jan 2018
The MSB Book Club is now meeting (nearly) every month – they are having December off! However, the next meeting is already organised and it will be The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist on 23rd January 2018, at The Loco Lounge Kings Heath High Street, with a 7.30pm start.

BTUC meeting, Thurs 1st Feb: “The future of work in an age of rapid technological change – and how workers can take control of it.”

Technology is not a neutral force that can only go one way with the question being simply who benefits financially from the results of technological innovation. Values are embedded in technology and choices – and therefore the exercise of power is made at every point. The key questions therefore are can workers control the design of technology and the purposes for which it is designed? Does automation have to lead to the destruction of all jobs; the skilled, the useful as well as the boring, the degrading and the useless?
With these questions in mind, Hilary Wainwight will explore the options facing the labour movement over automation. She will draw on her experience of the Lucas Aerospace workers alternative plan for socially useful production, to suggest that with the prospect of a radical Labour Government committed to economic democracy, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the labour movement to wrest control over the future design and direction of technology from capital and subject it to democratic control to meet social need. Through this we could realise William Morris’ dream of ‘useful labour rather than useless toil’. But this will involve radical changes in the trade union movement so that it becomes an agent of social transformation rather than a defender of an increasingly precarious status quo. Hilary will open a discussion of what these changes might be.
The meeting is Thursday 1st Feb, 7:30pm, Committee Rooms 3+4, Council House, Victoria Square, B11BB.

Unison launch of their manifesto for Birmingham City Council elections, 9th Feb

Unison are holding an event to launch their manifesto for Birmingham City Council elections on Friday 9th February. The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward will join them for his responses to UNISON key asks of the Birmingham Labour manifesto. UNISON will also be sharing it’s calls for an Activist Council. Deputy Leader Cllr Brigid Jones will be speaking on Labour’s election strategy, and senior figures from UNISON – Regional Secretary Ravi Subramanian and Regional Head of Local Government Claire Campbell will be making contributions too. For more details and to reserve your spot click here.

Northfield constituency dates for your diary
• Northfield CLP all-member meeting, Friday 2nd February, from 7pm at Northfield Quaker Meeting House.

Edgbaston constituency dates for your diary
• Quinton ward meeting – 10th Jan, 7.15pm Quinborne Centre, Ridgacre Road, Quinton
• Edgbaston ward local election campaigning: 13th Jan, 10am, full details to be confirmed.
• Edgbaston ward meeting: Tues 16th Jan or 23rd Jan (we’ve been given both dates and will try and confirm as soon as possible) @ 7pm, Edgbaston Community Centre 40 Woodview Drive, Birmingham, B15 2HU. The plan is to couple the meeting with a social event where members can swap unwanted Christmas presents and as a ‘meet the new candidates meeting’.
• Harborne branch meeting: Thursday January 18th 2018, 7pm to 8:30pm at the Quinborne Centre, Ridgacre Road.

Hall Green constituency dates for your diary
• Sparkhill campaigning, weekend of 13th and 14th January – details above.

Selly Oak constituency dates for your diary
• Nothing in the diary this week!

NEC elections
Following Labour Party Conference in Brighton there will now be all member elections for three additional CLP representatives on the National Executive Committee.
Momentum nationally will be campaigning for the following candidates, all of whom are supported by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, fully support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and will campaign for a socialist Labour Government:
• Yasmine Dar – Yasmine is a councillor in Moston, Manchester, ran for selection in the Manchester Gorton by-election and is a qualified social worker.
• Rachel Garnham – Rachel is a member of the Nation Policy Forum and CLP secretary for Mid Bedfordshire.
• Jon Lansman – Jon is a co-founder of Momentum, chair of the National Coordinating Group and previously worked for Michael Meacher MP
The ballot will be distributed to party members via email and post and will close on 12th Jan.

Momentum South Birmingham standing orders
From our Treasurer Cheryl Hedges:
“The Labour Party and Trade Unions don’t have the big backers of the Conservatives. This has the advantage that we are a responsive and campaigning organisation. However there is a down side, and that is we often subsidise the work of Momentum from our own pockets. Contributions are always generous at meetings, however most of this money goes to cover the cost of room hire. I think we have at least 100 supporters of MSB and if everyone gave just £1 per month it would mean a big difference in our ability to campaign, buy Momentum and Labour Party merchandise, publish leaflets and support other activists. We have made contributions to local campaigns such as the striking bin workers and KONP. We would like to continue this activity. If you would like to make a regular donation or even just a one off then please do.”
Bank: Lloyds, Kings Heath
Sort code: 30 94 74
Account number: 27819460
Labour Lives
One thing that many Labour Party members in Birmingham will testify is that information is hard to come by. Members just aren’t told what is going on and that is deliberate and longstanding. Fortunately organisations like MSB are there to keep the West Midlands Regional Office on their toes, and there are plenty of others ensuring members are kept in the loop. Labour Lives performs an excellent job in keeping party members informed – they are definitely worth a follow if you’re on Twitter. They find out some extremely interesting tidbits on a virtually daily basis…………

MSB campaigns and stalls committee
Our recently re-elected stalls co-ordinator Chris Kuriata is always on the lookout for new people to join her committee. Stalls and campaigning have been crucial to the development of the group. You might even get your picture taken with John McDonnell! Email Chriskuriata@live.co.uk for more info.

School cuts
The NUT have set up a school cuts website providing information on what is going on and the likely effects. You can email your MP through the website, it only takes a minute. Please click here. Since the New Year a number of parents groups have sprung up across the country to fight for more funding for our schools. It is an important development that parents have started to organise because Governments cross parents at their peril. Please visit their website.

New to the Labour Party?
Many of us are fairly new to the party and it can be quite an intimidating environment with labyrinthine rules and procedures that are at times baffling – with all the different abbreviations and structures it can be like learning a new language! Momentum Sheffield (who look almost as amazing as MSB…..) have produced a very helpful guide for newcomers that explains the structures, rules, terms and puts things in day-to-day language. It’s worth a read even if you are an experienced old hand! A link to the document is here.

Ward and CLP meetings
If you want the group to publicise upcoming local Labour Party activities and branch (ward)/CLP meetings to encourage attendance, please let us know either by emailing me direct or the group account below; our wonderful social media managers Lucy, Nicky, Ayden and Michael will do the rest!

 

https://www.facebook.com/momentumbirminghamsouth/

https://momentumsbham.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/@MomentumSBham/

MomentumbhamSouth@hotmail.com

http://www.leftwardtendency.co.uk/momentum-south-birmingham

http://www.leftwardtendency.co.uk/wall-of-fame

To join Momentum: https://join.peoplesmomentum.com/

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Rather than rolling over, they stood firm through thick and thin

Unite bin workers, took seven weeks of strike action throughout July and August in defiance of council plans to shed 120 refuse staff – 20 per cent of the workforce – and cut wages by up to £5,000 a year.

Councillor Lisa Trickett, BCC Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment ( Labour member for Moseley and Kings Heath), said:

 

‘None of the Grade 3 leading hands who are being made redundant need to lose their jobs with the council. Alternative Grade 3 posts, at the same salary in other parts of the council, are available for all those affected leading hands. No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay.’

 

Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett  rebutted:

 

‘The council claims alternative grade-three jobs are available, but this is disingenuous. Most of those jobs are on fixed-termrather than permanent contracts – and many of them need ITskills, hardly suitable for the people whose jobs are being downgraded. It’s simply not the case that these workers can just switch to a different job to maintain their pay.’

 

On 15 August Unite reached an honourable agreement with Birmingham City Council lead by Leader Councillor John Clancy. The Council accepted the refuse workers’ case and restored the grade 3 jobs, which are responsible for the safety at the rear of the refuse vehicles. This agreement was reached via ACAS whose director Malcolm Boswell announced:

‘ACAS can confirm that an agreement was reached by Birmingham City Council and Unite the union on 15th August 2017 following discussions at ACAS. The terms of the agreement were made public by ACAS at the request of both parties in a press release agreed with both parties.’

Strike action was suspended and Unite members vigorously began a great clear up.

Talks were due to resume on 1 September. Instead meetings were cancelled .Interim Chief Executive Manzie confirmed that the Council issued back dated redundancy notices to the Unite members .The notices contained humiliating terms. Ms Manzie is a Government appointee ,paid around £180,000 per year plus expenses. Her last employer, Rotherham, incurred  around £160,000 annual expenses from her.

Manzie contended:

‘the Council has taken the view that in order to protect its legal and financial position it has needed to issue redundancy notices.’

It is suggested that there were equal pay problems which arise from the 15 August agreement. However no such problems were particularised and the suggestion was questioned  in the strongest possible terms by Unite.

Clancy faced a vote of no confidence, having been elected Leader by a single vote against his Blairite rival.  It must be remembered that Clancy oversaw some improvements in Council policy and services, including the construction of homes. He resigned.

Unite obtained a High Court injunction to prevent the redundancy notices taking effect. The Council was ordered to pay legal costs. The matter was listed for a full hearing on 27th November 2017

On 25th November 2017 the dispute was concluded  with an agreement under which with the honourable terms agreed in August were ratified, albeit in different terms:

*All 109 leading hands will retain their grade 3 status and salary

*The ‘leading hand’ title will be abolished and replaced by a new ‘Waste Reduction and Collection’ role (WRCO), retaining safety responsibilities as well as communications with residents

*Each refuse wagon will have a team of driver, at least one loader and a WRCO –  for  crew and public and public safety

*Guaranteed protection against redundancies and any role changes for at least 12 months from the start of implementation

*Any future changes to waste collection services will be agreed by a joint ‘Service Improvement Board established jointly between BCC and the unions

 

Howard Beckett led the dispute. He stated:

‘This deal secures the grade three posts and protects the pay of workers who faced losing thousands of pounds. It is a victory for common sense and a victory for the people of Birmingham who no longer need worry about the disruption of industrial action. This deal, which protects the livelihoods of hardworking refuse workers ,would not have been possible without the determination and solidarity of Unite members. Rather than rolling over, they stood firm through thick and thin to defend their jobs and the service they provide to the city of Birmingham. The stand that Birmingham’s refuse workers took and the victory they have secured should be an inspiration to others right across the trade union movement.’

The Council paid private contractors  to inefficiently deal with clear-up during the strike It paid unnecessary legal costs.  It made the Council unpopular. It diverted resources from fighting the Tories. The money wasted could have been used to save frontline services for the young and elderly.

Momentum is proud to have stood with the bin workers. Mosely and Kings Heath ward Labour Party passed a motion supporting the dispute and held a members’ collection. Hall Green CLP supported the bin workers. Birmingham TUC established a support committee. Unite branches gave generous donations. The success of the dispute is due to the intelligent refuse workers, their principled Unite leadership and the support of the Movement.

Islwyn Ffowc Elis

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

MSB officers statement on Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games bid

The members of Momentum South Birmingham voted unanimously on the 8th October to oppose Birmingham’s 2022 Commonwealth Games bid and actively campaign both within and outside of the Labour Party against it.

At a time when the city is suffering from eye-watering Tory austerity and many essential services are being outsourced and cut to the bone, the notion that we can spend something in the region of £180 million on what is little more than a vanity project is to MSB’s members, and will also to the people of Birmingham, seem extraordinary.

Sadly our Labour council has done very little over the last seven years to challenge both the narrative and reality of austerity and the impression that the effort expended on the bid rather than doing that leaves is that our city party’s leadership is increasingly out of touch with reality and has a skewed sense of priorities. Elite sport, however enjoyable, is not something that actually benefits most people.

There is little evidence that these projects fund real regeneration. Impressive-sounding numbers are plucked out of the sky about how much extra revenue they will generate for the city or region they are held in but it is never clear who that money will end up going to. Someone will almost certainly be making an awful lot from the Games but it won’t be working class people in Birmingham.

There is no evidence that sporting events of this sort increase participation across the board, which is surely the responsibility of the Council to prioritise. In fact after London 2012 the opposite appears to have been the case.

We’ve also seen time and again how projects of this sort are used to justify social cleansing and gentrification.

It is not difficult to imagine money being sucked out of other pots to fund costs as things develop, as was the case with the new Birmingham Library, which has ended up being an unsustainable white elephant. That was a vanity project of the previous Tory-led council and there is a grave danger of Birmingham Labour repeating the folly.

There are surely far better ways of spending £180 million and we urge Birmingham City Council to pull back from this error – if they choose not to do so we are happy to lead or participate in any campaign to persuade them to.

In solidarity

MSB.

Birmingham Labour’s chickens come home to roost

I’ve written a series of pieces over the last few weeks detailing numerous irregularities in selection meetings across the city for the 2018 local elections.

Matters came to a head on Wednesday the 19th September, just before Labour Party Conference, when several members of the party’s National Executive Committee personally intervened, following what I have been told were over 50 complaints (at least two of which involved demonstrable dishonesty), to seek the suspension of all selection meetings across the city pending a review of the process and to allow outstanding panel applications and appeals to be addressed.

(I’m given to understand that much of the concern centres around the Harborne and Handsworth selection meetings – readers will be aware that I have covered the rollercoaster ride in Harborne ward in some detail.)

Furthermore, the planned Birmingham Board AGM and ordinary meeting on Friday September the 22nd was called off.

The AGM itself was called off also at the insistence of the NEC, although it is still unclear whether they instructed the whole meeting be cancelled entirely. Having such an important meeting of the Board when so many members were likely to be away for Conference was wholly inappropriate in any case.

The AGM, which hasn’t been held for years (despite the clue being in the name regarding frequency), was called at 6 days notice despite the rules making it clear that 28 were required for such an important event in the Birmingham Labour calendar.

There were also several attempted changes to the composition of the Board that have come to light in the week leading up to the meeting, which were, shall we say, interesting, and appear designed to ensure certain outcomes in certain votes (and will warrant further investigation by someone with the time…..) The most important of these was thankfully blocked.

And of course, all of this is set against the backdrop of the continued turmoil in the Labour-controlled city council, with the Group leadership election last week (that ordinary Birmingham party members had no say in at all, depressingly, despite clearly being the best judge of these things).

So all in all it wasn’t a terrific few days for the Labour Party hierarchy across our fair city and region.

In this context the seriousness of the National Executive Committee’s intervention cannot be exaggerated. For the NEC to get involved and suspend the selection process in the largest metropolitan council in the country, and just before Conference, represents an absolutely devastating vote of no confidence in the functioning of the local party apparatus.

I am told that several very senior individuals locally were in an absolute state of panic following the move – one feels that after a couple of decades of being allowed to act with complete impunity they suddenly realise that the repeated stitch-ups, irregularities and manoeuvrings are catching up with them. Not before time.

For many party members locally the NEC’s move is a welcome one and the vindication of a longstanding and at times demoralising campaign to democratize the city and regional parties. It is no more than a start, but nevertheless hugely significant.

It is clear to any objective observer of Birmingham Labour party politics that there is a serious problem, that the sheer scale and diversity of the irregularities across the city in the last couple of months suggests it is a huge, systemic problem, and given the sovereign power of the NEC within the party’s structures it probably required NEC intervention to try and address that systemic problem.

All that said, the decision does itself potentially pose a few problems. There has been some commentary on social media suggesting that the timing is disastrous and it could really hurt the party locally in May 2018, with candidates potentially not being in position for some time. There have been numerous delays already and selections were meant to begin a year ago.

I would argue however that doing nothing, and allowing this farce to proceed, would have been far more damaging. An attempt to clean this up was always going to be messy, whenever it began (and in many areas of the country selection meetings have barely started anyway).

The reality is that the West Midlands and Birmingham Labour Parties are rotten from top to bottom. There is no democracy and members have virtually no say. The Birmingham Board, on paper the ‘Local Campaign Forum’ which according to the rules is supposed to control candidate selection, in reality simply rubber-stamps decisions made by paid (or formerly paid) officials and senior MPs elsewhere.

Board meetings are months apart and no reports are provided to members unless huge pressure is applied. Minutes are impossible to get hold of and those that are produced are ludicrously brief.

For example, at the Board meeting that was due to be held on the 22nd, the minutes were to be handed out at the meeting and not circulated by email beforehand!

Many local members are still entirely unaware of the Board’s existence and in the last year the composition mysteriously has shifted before meetings where crucial votes may have been lost by the Regional Office.

That until recently four (now three with the lifting in Hall Green) of the ten Birmingham CLPs are in ‘Special Measures’, some for over 20 years and with seemingly no plan in the remaining three to lift them out, was and is used to justify the most Kafkaesque regime imaginable in the whole city.

The lack of democracy has real-world effects. There is no way that a Birmingham Labour Party more responsive to members would have treated the refuse workers so disgracefully.

A more democratic, member-led party would not have produced such a meek response to savage Tory-imposed austerity.

And a West Midlands Regional Office with any life and vibrancy in it at all would not have run such a spectacularly inept, and at times repugnant, mayoral campaign (if I wanted to give out leaflets with the Cross of St. George on the front I’d have joined the National Front).

Because of this we have a Tory regional mayor in a region that should comfortably have returned the Labour candidate. A more democratic regional party would have actually provided us with a choice of candidates and allow most members to participate in that selection – thus providing us with a final candidate who we could actually get behind rather than ending up campaigning, half-heartedly, for a candidate most of us (whether on the right or left) didn’t want, in an election the people of the region didn’t want in the first place.

The hollowed-out West Midlands party structures are what you are left with after decades of only sporadically interrupted and disrupted Labour First and right-wing control. The effects have been a disaster and unless and until things are cleaned up we will face repeat after repeat of the Sion Simon campaign.

Returning to Birmingham, Momentum members and sympathisers in the North and South of the city, along with members of all wings who just want a democratic, vibrant party, voted and campaigned for a more just and democratic freeze date for members to participate in selection meetings. Members were expected to have joined over two years ago to participate in meetings this year. The “freeze date” was set literally at the month when all the new members started joining to support the first Corbyn leadership campaign – July 2015. It was so blatant it was almost embarrassing.

The national rule is 6 months.

All the protests and resolutions were ignored; when it finally came to the Board for consideration (which in itself took Herculean efforts I understand) it was voted down by what I have also been told was an unconstitutional secret ballot.

It took a personal intervention by Jeremy Corbyn at an NEC sub-committee meeting to shift the freeze date to about a year. Far from perfect, but the fact that the party leader felt it necessary to intervene himself to protect members’ rights, over the head of the local party leadership, showed that something was seriously awry, and that the intelligent individuals in the West Midlands Regional Office would surely know that they were now on notice.

The recent developments would suggest that if there was a debate in the WMRO, however, it was won by the “carry on stitching-everything-up and bludgeoning through regardless” brigade.

The attempt to ram the AGM on the 22nd through at such short notice, the tin ears around the freeze date and the unending, clumsy, cack-handed attempts to manipulate the 2018 selections suggests a local party bureaucracy used to doing what it wants with impunity and incapable of reflecting on the mood shift in the party across the region and the country.

Members with any involvement in trying to assert and extend party democracy locally, in however small a way, will know the stock response they have always received from the machine: sullen, ignorant, po-faced, dishonest, indifferent and unbending intransigence every step of the way. No room for compromise. No meeting anyone half way or ever giving any ground on anything. Every setback, however minor, for the WMRO met with another attempt to force through what they wanted by another, invariably even less democratic route. Witness all the selection meetings held in August after they “lost” the freeze date battle.

The selection process in Birmingham has become the site of a civil war that the West Midlands Regional Office started. This mess is owned by them.

MW

Monyhull and Druids Heath selection 

The attempts to manipulate the selection process in Birmingham for the 2018 local elections show no sign of abating.

Earlier in the year a plan was agreed by the Birmingham Board, in consultation with the NEC, for a significant number of wards and seats to have All Women Shortlists (AWS) in order to boost the number of women candidates and councillors, and to concurrently accelerate the outstanding and new applications of women members for the panel.

There have been persistent rumours of certain prominent (and always right-wing) individuals in the local party wanting to water the commitment for gender balance down in order to get their preferred candidates selected, and it is clear that the commitment to accelerate the applications of women applicants has not been kept. At the time of writing I’m aware of at least 5 women awaiting a decision, only one of whom has even been interviewed.

And in recent days a further development. A quick scan on the newly updated election section of the Birmingham Labour Party website reveals this juicy tidbit:

 


This seemingly innocuous piece of information marks an interesting and very significant shift. Druids Heath was up until very recently an AWS.

So why the change? Rumour has it that the West Midlands Regional Office (who have been coming up in these articles a fair bit haven’t they………) have decided to remove the AWS for a certain male individual’s benefit.

And on what authority did the change get made? The rules of the Birmingham Board state that the power over selections sits with the Birmingham Board, a body that hasn’t met since July and whose latest meeting, which was meant to be on the 8th September, was not for the first time, postponed until the 22nd. Who is calling the shots in between the rarer-than-hen’s-teeth Board meetings?

One wonders if the NEC will be happy with everything that is going on under their noses in the city……….

 

MW

The Birmingham Bin Strike continues

Refuse collectors in Birmingham have been forced into continuing industrial action following a treacherous u-turn by council leader John Clancy and his cabinet. Although the strike was originally called due to the council’s decision to sack over 100 grade 3 refuse workers, it was suspended after a deal was brokered between the council and Unite the Union, with John Clancy receiving high praise for his involvement.

Birmingham Binstagram

A fortnight later there is a different story. “Deal or no deal? There was no deal,” is what John Clancy sniggered as he spoke to the press. You would think that 100 job losses isn’t a laughing matter, but it’s easy to laugh when it’s not your job being cut. Howard Beckett, Unite the Union (Assistant General Secretary), stated that John Clancy has “declared war on the union,” accusing the council of committing “industrial sabotage.”


A South Birmingham Momentum member joined the picket line on Friday morning, speaking to one of the workers who had been sent a notice of redundancy. She heard the feeling of betrayal the workers felt about this u-turn from the council: “If I lose my job, I lose my house. Then what? Labour are supposed to be the party of the working class”. Those affected, who earn a maximum £23,000, must now choose between giving up their jobs or accepting a £5,000 pay cut. Birmingham City Council have already begun advertising jobs on the council website for Refuse Loaders in various depots across the city. These jobs are said to come with proper employment benefits such as holiday and sick pay, but this Labour Council has already been employing agency staff on zero hours contracts with no employment rights.


Many Labour Party members are rightly furious. “John (Clancy) owes his lucrative political career to the Labour Party,” said one disgruntled member. “He is selling the working-class down the river. He doesn’t represent me whatsoever. He doesn’t represent what the Labour Party stands for at all.”

ACAS have now officially confirmed that an agreement had been made on 15th August 2017 between BCC and Unite, and Unite have begun legal action to sue the council for breach of contract. It is not certain what the Council’s next move will be in this dispute but what is definite is John Clancy’s position as leader is increasing untenable. “Nobody will be losing their job” now almost sounds a desperate plea to hang onto his own position.

South Birmingham Momentum takes this opportunity to send messages of solidarity to the workers. We offer our 100% support in this battle to keep every single job, and in doing so, keeping our streets clean and our public safe. We have reported earlier on in the strike how unpleasant the job of a refuse worker can be, and have always been in full support of the earlier industrial action, taken partly because of the threats to grade-3 employment in the Waste Disposal Department of Birmingham City Council.

The curious case of the postponed selection meetings

The difficulty with reporting on the selection process in Birmingham Labour for the 2018 local elections is that in different areas democracy is being sidestepped in different ways.

  • So, in some wards meetings are forced through in August.
  • In some wards candidates are “accidentally” not informed about the meeting.
  • Certain applicants with empty activity diaries find it oddly easy to get approved for the panel.
  • Other applicants with far fuller activity diaries find it nigh on impossible to get a response to an email, let alone an interview for the panel.

We now have a new technique to add to the list – postpone the meeting.

The Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook selection meetings were due to be held on the 4th and 5th September but I’ve heard from several reliable sources that these meetings have been called off (with no new date agreed so far) at the insistence of the West Midlands Regional Office, who had in turn been urged to act by one of the candidates, currently a sitting councillor, who was not available on those dates. Those more familiar with the local minutiae can probably work out who that candidate is but suffice it to say they are known for having a bit of a volcanic temper.

There is something deeply problematic about a selection meeting being called off because one of the candidates decides they can’t make a given date outside of the traditional Summer holiday period, particularly when that candidate is a sitting councillor. It smacks of an abuse of incumbency.

There is also the small matter of the setting of a selection meeting being the decision of a CLP, not the Regional Office. Hall Green CLP, many of you may know, has recently come out of ‘Special Measures’ which means that it should, in theory, be able to make its own decisions about its own business.

But it would appear that certain individuals want to carry as if the lifting of ‘Special Measures’ never happened and the venerable tradition of Regional Office manipulation of selections in the area continues apace (both wards are considered rock solid Labour, you won’t be surprised to hear).

I’ve argued on these pages previously for delaying some of the selection meetings. But in Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook there is a real danger that if the delays continue then the candidates will be imposed – with the impositions being of individuals that would not have a prayer in an open, democratic selection meeting.

This is the fourth piece I’ve written in less than 3 weeks about these issues – I have a nasty feeling that there will be a lot more to come over the next few weeks. There is a serious problem becoming apparent and it is city-wide.

 

MW