Archives For July 2014

AltGen, a new co-operative dedicated to showing young people alternative ways of work as an option out of the unstable, unforgiving and broken jobs market, are re-invigorating the necessities of not just valued work, but social justice and equality.

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On Tuesday 22nd July, AltGen put on their first event – ‘Create Your Own Work.’ Places sold out, and rightly so, as AltGen position themselves at the beginning of a new movement of alternatives for the under-served young people of the UK. Their website reads:

“AltGen supports 18-29 year olds to set up workers co-operatives as a way of
reclaiming control over our work and creating a more equal and sustainable future.

“We are told time and time again we are the generation without a future.
For the first time ever we are inheriting an economic reality worse than our parents.

“Well every crisis creates opportunity and its time we turned this situation around!

“Lets stop competing and start collaborating. Lets come together and start creating an alternative future.
One where we are in control of our work, get paid to do what we love and have a positive social impact.”

‘Create Your Own Work’ allowed a space to discuss the problems of the current system and the desires we would have of a new one. Further than that, AltGen demonstrated their commitment to inspiring and motivating people’s ideas by bringing in experienced and valued speakers from co-operatives that have had a long and successful journey, to ones just starting out. With their help, audience members began to visualize and logically think about the steps needed to begin their own projects and co-operatives, turning ideas into attainable tasks.

AltGen are an inspiring and much needed idea, which offers young people the ability to regain their independence from a negligent economy and also allows them to fill their work with the moral guidelines the current system is so bereft of. Using the crisis of youth unemployment as an opportunity to build a better, collective alternative is a solid way out of the lonely, competitive rat race which has pulled society further apart.

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Be sure to keep up to date with AltGen’s work by visiting their site and signing up to their newsletter, or liking them on Facebook here.

Below we quote some of the sage advice offered up by one of the speakers, Siôn Whellans from Calverts, which gives us a glimpse into the working conditions and attitude to work there could be for more of us.

“We’re graphic designers and printers. My worker’s co-op was founded in 1977 at the beginning of the last big wave of new worker’s co-ops in this country. The people who set it up, I’m not a founding member – all the founding members have gone now, and they set it up because they were working for an arts organization which decided to close them down and they decided to set up a worker’s co-op, because they thought they could earn a living and do some good stuff.

“A lot of them were involved in political and social activity – the anti-apartheid movement, food, all sorts of things. But in those days the Internet was print and poster design and typesetting. But they set it up in a small way, none of them had any money, all of them were about 23/24. They borrowed a little bit of money, they semi-squatted a place until they could get a landlord to make an agreement with them. They started off with some desktop duplicators and [basic equipment] doing community newsletters and poster making and stuff like that. At the beginning, a lot of them were on the dole and they made the commitment that, as there were 7 of them, if half of them couldn’t get off the dole on some kind of wage after six months they’d stop, and then after a year everyone would stop.

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“They traded, they made a bit of money, they bought better equipment. It was always about getting better at what they did. And then they went out, took a deep breath and borrowed money from some capitalists and bought a printing press and really that’s the way the co-op started and it’s the way it’s always gone. We’ve moved three times, started off in Farringdon, did 15 years in Shoreditch to 12 years in Bethnal Green.

“At the moment we have 12 working members. We’re designing and producing website and print. We have decent wages. We have a 35 hour working week – you’re on time and a half after that. Our basic hourly rate is £17.65 an hour. We have six weeks holiday. We have paid sick leave. We have very good conditions.

“Our co—op is also hyper-equal, everybody gets the same rate if they’re in a full time qualified job at the co-op. We don’t have any bosses or line managers. We have no external shareholders. We’re a common ownership co-op – all the assets in the co-op are owned in common. When you come, you come with nothing. When you leave, you leave with nothing. It gets left in there and built up over the years, that’s the idea. It’s a great place to work.

“Part of why I’m here is because it’s important for a grown up co-op like ours to reconnect with it’s roots, we want to make bonds with the new generation but we also want to pass on what we’ve learned about how to do it well and get the things we want which I express as decent work, and there’s an International Labour Market definition of what decent work is, a culture of equality at work – absolute equality. Everyone is equal. The opportunity to develop ourselves, our skills, our capacity as human beings as well as workers and the opportunity to self-manage our working lives which is what we’ve done.”

Image: AltGen

Image: AltGen

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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So we’ve been offline for a little while for maintenance, hence a bumper edition of WWLLW, and a lot has been going….

1) Green Party proposes wealth tax

So let’s start this bumper edition with some news that makes sense and deals with the biggest problem of our times (and the most avoided by most of our politicians) – the wealth gap. The Green Party have proposed a wealth tax of around 2% on the assets of top earners. It would only affect the top 1% of the population (yeah, the 1% who currently have around a fifth of the wealth in the UK).

Presenting the radical new proposal, Natalie Bennett, the Green leader, said other political parties only offered minor tweaks to the UK’s failed economic system, instead of major changes to deal with inequality.

Although seen as a radical proposal, this is only seem through the prism of the last decade’s political discourse which has shied away from dealing with what is an extreme circumstance of widening inequality that systematically continues to funnel money from the poorest to the richest. Curbing the excesses of the rich has to play a part in any move towards a fairer society and we welcome this announcement.

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2) Two MPs to sue government on DRIP bill
 
An ‘artificial emergency’ was created in parliament in order to rush through a bill that infringes on the public’s privacy and allows greater surveillance. The Bill was designed as a response to the European Court of Justice ruling in April that the current practices in the UK, under the Data Retention Regulations Act of 2009, were illegal. 
 
The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill was agreed by all three major political parties and rushed through in a week. The urgency with which the bill was pushed through allowed no time for research, debate or opposition. 
 
Now, 2 MPs have begun an official fightback against the legality of the bill. 
 
Mr Davis and Mr Watson, backed by human rights charity Liberty, have written to the Home Office to give them seven days’ notice of their intention to apply for judicial review.

Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said: “The three party leaders struck a private deal to railroad through a controversial bill in a week. You cannot make good laws behind closed doors.

“The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act does not answer the concerns of many that the blanket retention of personal data is a breach of fundamental rights to privacy.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Company pulls out of workfare scheme, days after George Osbourne visits to publicise scheme

Byteback IT Solutions received a visit from chancellor George Osbourne earlier this month in an attempt to publicise the Help To Work programme the company had signed up to.

Image: Bristol Post

Image: Bristol Post

 

However, following the visit, Byteback were sent messages online about the detrimental effects and infamy of the Help To Work programme which forced the long-term unemployed to work for the payment of their benefits. Shortly after, Byteback IT Solutions announced they would be backing out of the scheme as they were not previously aware of the effects.

They made the announcement via their Facebook page, insisting that they had taken part with “the best of intentions”, but had come to the conclusion that “we were wrong to get involved with workfare.”

A company director explained: “We are a small community-serving business that wanted to help the local unemployed in our community to find work by offering our time and expertise to give jobseekers valuable work experience.”

An embarrassing event for Osbourne and the government. The workfare scheme has no place here. Despite the greatest protestations and attempts by our government to retain the secrecy of workfare employer names, judges have repeatedly ruled that the government must name the providers (though of course, that doesn’t mean they will). Thankfully, the shame of taking part in this scheme is one even the government can’t deny.

Read more about this story here.

4) Did you hear? The economy has fully recovered! We are at the 2008 peak! (Dies laughing)

From russelljonespersonal.com

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5) Malnutrition soars by 70% as doctors report an increase in illnesses associated with the Third World

The drive of cuts and austerity is seeing a 70% rise in malnutrition and illnesses associated with Third World countries, says a new hospital admissions report.

“People unable to feed themselves saw a staggering 6,686 admissions where malnutrition was the primary or secondary diagnosis during 2013/14.

“This is a rise of 71% from 3,899 in the year up to April 2010.

“Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre released today also revealed admissions for scarlet fever were up by 110% and cholera by a staggering 450% since 2010.

“Scurvy – a disease associated with pirates stuck at sea for long periods – has increased by 31% in England since 2010.

“This is caused by a lack of vitamin C and can be caused by a diet without enough fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Thousands of people are unable to feed themselves, and a million are in need of a food bank and will have skipped meals and cut back before they have reached there. This is a form of violence and torture inflicted on people in a place with a wealth of resources and a wealth of wealth hoarded for the decadence of a few at the cost of malnutrition, poverty and destitution for others.

Read more about this story here.

6) 200 strangers stop eviction of cancer patient from home

Tom Crawford, 63, posted a plea on YouTube calling for help for his peaceful protest against his eviction from the home he has lived in for 25 years, over a disputed mortgage.

The father of 3, who also suffers from prostate cancer, said in the video;

“Please come and help us, there will be a lovely cup of tea waiting for you.

“But don’t use violence, they are the ones who use violence. This is a war, for the people. It may only be a small bungalow, but it is my bungalow, my land, my home.”

More than 200 strangers from across the country came to Tom’s home in Nottingham on the day of the eviction. Some came from Wales and Newcastle and others were neighbours. Bailiffs were unable to enter the home.

Hundreds stand outside Tom Crawford's property Image: Daily Mail

Hundreds stand outside Tom Crawford’s property Image: Daily Mail

Following the event, Tom said:

“I can’t believe that people have come from all over the country to support me. It’s really overwhelming and I really didn’t expect it.

“This is something I feel very passionate about – I’ve been here more than 25 years and have brought three children up here. I’ve worked hard all my life.”

A great show of solidarity and an example of how we can fight back.

Read more about this story here.

7) Victory against sell-off of student loans

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Another fantastic victory won last week when Vince Cable, Business Secretary announced that plans to sell-off the student loan book have been stopped. This excellent triumph is in no small part down to the student movement that has fought heartily against it, despite the ignorance of media and politicians. This message was left on the Facebook Page:

“WE’VE WON!!! The government has dropped its plans to privatise the student loan book in an announcement made by Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills yesterday (July 21st).

“This government u-turn represents a major victory for the student movement. If the student loan book had have been sold off to private debt collectors there is no doubt that in a bid to maximise profits interest rates on repayments would have soared. To put it bluntly, privatising student loans would have been a retrospective hike in tuition fees.

“But students and graduates have shown that we won’t tolerate being burdened with even more debt without a fight.

“The Student Assembly Against Austerity (the student wing of the People’s Assembly) has been at the forefront of the campaign to #StopTheSellOff. Alongside hundreds of student activists across the country, we have organised national days and weeks of action involving more than 50 campuses which has resulted in over 76 MPs signing our Early Day Motion against the privatisation of student debt.

“With the General Election just around the corner and the student movement on the rise it is no surprise that the Lib Dems have decided to back off on their assault on students.

“Well done and congratulations to everyone who took part – all the banner drops, occupations, mass petitioning, stunts, protesting and lobbying together made a huge difference and proves once again that campaigning works!

“There are, however, many more fights ahead.

“There will be those who will want to revisit plans to privatise student loans in the future – we need to make sure they never succeed.

“As a result of the trebling of tuition fees, higher education in the UK is the most expensive in the whole of Europe and student debt is rocketing as a result. At the same time the slashing of EMA and savage cuts to education are hitting students hard.

“With a General Election just months away, now is the time for the student movement to step up our campaigning efforts and loudly raise our demands for free education – against all fees, cuts and debt. That is why The Student Assembly Against Austerity is joining a coalition of groups to organise a national student demonstration this autumn on Wednesday 19 November.

“Join the fight back – get active with the Student Assembly! If you would like to get involved in organising the national demonstration or would like to set up a Student Assembly on your campus get in touch with us today on info@thestudentassembly.org.uk”

Read more about this story here.

8) Wisborough Green fights off fracking

Even more to celebrate as a West Sussex town fights off the application of an energy company to explore for oil and gas near the village of Wisborough Green.

The proposals were met with over 2,500 objections with reasons such as the lead to controversial fracking in the area and noise pollution from lorries having to travel through the town 24 times a day.

Campaigners celebrate the decision to stop exploration for oil and gas Image: The Independent

Campaigners celebrate the decision to stop exploration for oil and gas Image: The Independent

The decision was announced on Monday 21st July.

“Andrew Jackson of Wisborough Green parish council said the villagers had felt that it was important to make a stand. “If this was to be allowed today, it sets a benchmark for all other villages like ourselves,” he said. It’s clear that earlier applications that have been approved have all had direct access to the major lorry routes. This one does not and it’s not an appropriate location.”

“Local landowners were so determined to stop the exploration that they launched a “legal blockade” against Celtique, informing it that it did not have permission to drill under their properties and that they would go to the courts if it proceeded as planned. A similar tactic was employed by campaigners in nearby Fernherst, which sits inside South Downs National Park.”

Read more about this story here.

Oh, and in other news Cameron did some reshuffle and let some women in as a desperate stab at portraying himself as some sort of feminist or lover of equality whilst overseeing (and completely congratulating via the allowance of IDS to remain in his post) welfare reforms that disproportionately affect women and particularly single mothers and also overseeing the widening of the pay gap which is now in some parts 13%.

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We also cannot ignore the odious war taking place right now. A war that has some innate commitment to the murder of children, which nothing can ever be worth. We are staring into the sickness of man, the amalgamation of fake moral justifications for selfishness, arms and suffering. The focus must be, as Jon Snow says, to resolve this, at any cost.

“Leaving Israel and beleaguered Gaza far below me, I lay back in my BA seat headed for London. I donned my headphones and listened to Bach’s heavenly violin concerto in E major, and wept, as I rarely have as an adult.

“I wept for two peoples with remarkable similarities. Two peoples of extraordinary gifts and ability. Two peoples living in an area far smaller than England, one of which besieges the other, both of which target each other’s civilians.

This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world. We fail as humankind if we do not devise a coming-together. Our leaders, as a vast priority, have to try and try again to use every mechanism in our rare animal capacity – our considerable intellects – to bring these peoples to resolution whatever the cost.”

Jon Snow, Channel 4

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply “rebranding” the assessment used to determine eligibility for ESA (the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)) by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published on Wednesday.

The Committee calls on the Government to undertake a fundamental redesign of the ESA end-to-end process to ensure that the main purpose of the benefit – helping claimants with health conditions and disabilities to move into employment where this is possible for them – is achieved. This will take some time, but the redesign should be completed before the new multi-provider contract is tendered, which is expected to be in 2018.

In the meantime, the Committee recommends a number of changes which should be made now, to help ensure that claimants receive an improved service, and that the outcomes for claimants are more appropriate.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Many people going through the ESA claims process are unhappy with the way they are treated and the decisions which are made about their fitness for work. The current provider of the WCA, Atos, has become a lightning rod for all the negativity around the ESA process and DWP and Atos have recently agreed to terminate the contract early.

“But it is DWP that makes the decision about a claimant’s eligibility for ESA – the face-to-face assessment is only one part of the process. Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the WCA on its own.”

“We are therefore calling for a number of changes which can be made to improve ESA in the short-term, while also recommending a longer-term, fundamental redesign of the whole process.”

“We hope that the new Minister for Disabled People, who was appointed last week, will respond positively to our constructive recommendations for improving the ESA process.”

One of the key issues which the Report identifies is that ESA is not achieving its purpose of helping people who could work in the short to medium term to move back into employment.

One of the reasons for this is that the outcomes of the ESA claims process are too simplistic. Claimants can be found “fit for work” and are then ineligible to claim ESA. Claimants found to have such limited functionality that that they cannot undertake any work-related activity are placed in the Support Group, where they are subject to no work-related conditionality. This leaves a large and disparate middle group of claimants who are not yet fit for work, and may even have a deteriorating condition, but who are required nonetheless to undertake activity which is meant to help them find work in the longer term. These claimants are placed in the Work-related Activity Group (WRAG). The WRAG covers too wide a spectrum of claimants with very different prognoses and employment support needs.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said:

“We welcome the findings of this report which highlights the many problems with the process used to assess applicants’ eligibility for ESA. Nearly half of people who are currently receiving ESA do so because of a mental health problem and we agree with the recommendation that the Work Capability Assessment needs to be urgently reformed in order to assess people fairly and accurately. The current assessment fails to take full account of the impact having a fluctuating condition such as a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work.

“The assessment process is just one small part of an entire system which is failing to provide people with the support they need. The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work, but they need tailored, personalised support to overcome the barriers they face – from their confidence and skills through to employers’ attitudes and the support available in the workplace. Many people are being forced to undertake activities in order to receive ESA, but rather than helping people back to work, this often creates immense anxiety and can damage their health, pushing them further from work.”

Redesigning the ESA process

The Committee recommends that the ESA redesign should aim to ensure that the process properly identifies claimants’ health barriers to employment and the particular support they need, so that the conditionality that they are subject to and the employment support they receive can be tailored more closely to their circumstances. For claimants in the WRAG, proper account needs to be taken of where they are on the spectrum of readiness for work, given the wide range of conditions and disabilities which the WRAG encompasses, and the different impacts these have on an individual claimant’s functional capacity.

The descriptors used in the WCA process should also be reviewed as part of the redesign, as concerns about their effectiveness, and the way they are applied, remain, despite the recent review commissioned by DWP.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

“ESA is not properly joined up with employment support because an individual’s health-related barriers to working are not being properly assessed as part of the process. We recommend that the Government reintroduces a separate assessment of these barriers, along the lines of the Work-focused Health-related Assessment – the WFHRA – which it suspended in 2010.”

Shorter term measures to improve ESA

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

“We know that the redesign can’t happen overnight, but the current system needs to be improved now, because it is clearly causing claimants considerable distress and anxiety.

“The re-letting of the contract provides an opportunity to address some of the problems. The new contract needs to set out robust and clear service standards on the quality and timeliness of assessments and the reports produced by the contractor, and for the way claimants are dealt with.”

“DWP has acknowledged that this will cost more money, but this is justified if the service provided by the new contractor is better. To ensure this is the case, DWP needs to rigorously monitor the service standards to ensure they are being met and to take immediate action, including imposing penalties, if they are not. This has not always happened with the Atos contract.”

“The changes we recommend include ensuring that, where possible, paper-based assessments are used to place people in the Support Group, rather than requiring them to go through a WCA, where their health condition or disability clearly has a severe impact on their capability to work. Unnecessary and too frequent reassessments should also be avoided.”

“DWP should also improve the way it communicates with claimants – at the moment, the letters that are sent to claimants are too technical and complex. They need to be in plain English and avoid using jargon. The terms “limited capability for work” and “limited capability for work-related activity”, which are currently used to categorise claimants, are too confusing and DWP needs to find more meaningful alternatives.”

The Committee recommends that DWP implements a number of other changes in the shorter-term to ensure better outcomes and an improved service for claimants. These include:

 

  • DWP taking overall responsibility for the end-to-end ESA claims process, including taking decisions on whether claimants need a face-to-face assessment, rather than this decision being made by the assessment provider.
  • DWP proactively seeking “supporting evidence” on the impact of a claimant’s condition or disability on their functional capacity, rather than leaving this primarily to claimants, who often have to pay for it. DWP should seek this evidence from the most appropriate health and other professionals, including social workers and occupational therapists, rather than relying so heavily on GPs.
  • The “descriptors” used to assess functional capability in the WCA being applied more sensitively.
  • Placing claimants with a prognosis of being unlikely to experience a change in their functional abilities in the longer-term, particularly those with progressive conditions, in the Support Group and not the WRAG.

Mandatory reconsideration and appeals

The Report also considers the impact of the introduction of mandatory reconsideration (MR) of ESA decisions, and the appeals process. MR has the potential to be beneficial, if it leads to fewer decisions being taken to appeal, and therefore reduces both stress for claimants and the cost to public funds.

However, the Committee calls on the Government to set a reasonable timescale for completing reconsiderations, rather than leaving it open-ended, and to end the current illogical situation of claimants being unable to claim ESA during the reconsideration period.

It is also important that both DWP and the assessment provider learn lessons from the feedback which the Tribunals Service now gives in the summary reasons for its decisions, so that more initial decisions are “right first time”.

 

Standby: Maintenance

kamsandhu —  July 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

Excuse us while we undertake some maintenance from 21/07 – 24/07. We will be back shortly. 
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Reclaim Our Future

kamsandhu —  July 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

They say nationalism grows when people start to think that their past is better than their future.

It is not hard to see why we romanticise a mythical past in this country right now – and why we have seen a rise in reactionary nationalism.

The millennial generation (roughly those born after 1982) are going to be the first generation we can think of that will be worse off than their parents.

The robbery of all our wealth by the bankers and politicians has left us divided and angry, blaming immigrants and poor people for joblessness, poverty, declining real wages, longer hours, insecure work and the many other trials that blight our daily lives now.

Our education is being privatised, sold off to religious groups and corporations through free schools. University is an expense that can never be paid back. It is no longer a place for learning, but a place to turn yourself into the ultimate economic unit.

The NHS, pensions and Welfare as we know it will probably not exist within a decade.

No one seems to be offering solutions, politicians are barely even lying any longer – they all say we face even worse times ahead.

But another future is possible!

Across the UK and the world people are living the change we want to see. Housing, energy, food, arts and all the other good things are being created in cooperatives and localities all over.

These are owned by the people who use them and created for the benefit of all, not just for the profit of a few. They help people provide more of what we need and work less.

There is hope through 3D printing, the internet, and other technology that if we keep it free and usable for all we can create another world directly, without any interference from above.

Resistance is occurring globally – from the slums of Rio, to the cities of China, from the streets of the UK, to the squares of Egypt. Too many places and too many people to count and standing up are saying ‘No More’.

For the first time in human history we can create a truly global change, no longer looking to just solving problems within our own borders. These are borders created in the mind, and used by the powerful to keep us divided.

We know any truly liberatory change will have to come for all us, or not at all.

If we work together, learn from the failures of the past, be prepared to make new mistakes, then we can imagine a better world and strive to make it happen.

We can reclaim our future.

Thomas Barlow

 

Our reporter Thomas Barlow is now a couple of weeks into his bike tour around the swing constituencies as he attempts to find out the feelings and opinions of MIddle England, and he has kindly sent us a few photos of the journey so far!

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Fracking could be happening anywhere within areas that cover 60% of the country.  Yet most of us barely know what it is.

In this article we cover some of the key questions about fracking, and the key claims made by those who support rolling it out in the UK.

It is important to note that the detail of this area is huge and cannot be adequately covered by us in one article, so please check the links – and if you feel like being involved in the government consultation that is ongoing now please check the links at the bottom.

What is fracking?

Fracking is currently being used as a blanket term for a lot of extreme energy extraction like coal bed methane – and underground coal gasification in some quarters, but we are going to refer to the new process called hydraulic fracturing.

It is important to make clear at this point that despite claims to the contrary this is not the same process that has been going on since 1974 in the UK.

In fact this process has only been done once in the UK – in Blackpool, where it caused a memorable earthquake.

What are the environmental concerns?

80% of the fossil fuels we know exist should remain in the ground if we can hope to stop catastrophic climate change.  We should not be trying to find more and coming up with new ways to get it out of the ground.

When the survival of the planet is at stake that should be all we need to know, but as there has been false bias given to the climate change deniers within the media, it is common for many people to be sceptical of climate change science.

Image: ASAP Science

Image: ASAP Science

Below, then, we look at the other potential effects of fracking.

What will be the local environmental effects?

It is likely there will be earthquakes caused by the Fracking drills as occurred in Blackpool.  Though engineers say these will be relatively minor (3-4 on the richter scale), it is enough to be concerned about.

In this context it is worth noting that the UK has 400 times the number of fault lines than the US where fracking has been done on an industrial scale. The UK is also far more densely populated.

There will be a massive increase in trucks and lorries in rural (and even urban) areas, numbering from 50 a day for each drill site.  The noise of that combined with the noise of the gas compressors – used on site to make the gas useable – can be deafeningly disruptive, to people and wildlife.

The compressor sound levels are equivalent to the constant sound of jumbo jets taking off, non-stop.

Lord Howell (George Osbourne’s father in law, of ‘desolate north’ fame believes fracking should only happen in the north – where no one votes Tory anyway – because of this.

“Spending time and money trying to bribe and cajole rural communities is a complete waste, as well as putting backs up and losing rural votes on a major scale. Villages and their environs where homes are worth a million will be unimpressed by £100k offers, and by assurances that ‘only’ two years of heavy truck traffic will disturb them. Those who have visited sites in America will also know that even after installation, the thump of compressors can be sensed up to two miles away, as well as the whiff of diesel from the compressor pump engines.”

Health Concerns

MedAct, an organisation of doctors, have expressed their concerns over the impacts of fracking on the health of communities.  In Pennsylvania, health professionals have recently been asked to not record people with having fracking related illnesses to hide the true numbers.

However records like the list of the 6000 harmed verified cases of fracking related illnesses have shown there are negative health impacts associated with fracking.

Water, Costs and Health

There will be considerable water loss locally.  Each drill uses 2-10 million litres of water, 30% is untreatable/poisoned and shipped off site.  Water is a precious resource and may be one to become scarce, even in the UK, in the future – the ramifications of which we will discuss later on.

Fracking companies in the US have been losing large amounts of money, and as it is a very expensive method of obtaining energy (we are going to need £33bn of investment to do it).  Also, we know that 5% of well casings (for the drill to go into the ground) fail immediately, and 50% fail over time.

How does this all affect health?

Disposal of poisoned water onto fields and into rivers has occurred surreptitiously and illegally to save money in the US.  Because of cheap and shoddy health and safety precautions, water has accidentally also leaked out of trucks and containers into the local environment.

The other place the water is disposed of is into empty drill wells.  Although it has been claimed (in treasonous but entirely typical act of lying to Parliament) that because the wells go 3000 metres down there is no contamination to ground water, this is false.  There are documented cases of this contamination occurring.

This contamination of the water supply has lead to clusters of unexpected illness that may be related to fracking, most recently in the case of Terry Greenwood’s death.

Regulating Fracking – Protecting Fracking

We are supposed to have a ‘gold standard’ of regulation in this country that will stop these things from happening.

However we were supposed to have a gold standard of regulation for the banks – and we all got robbed.  We were supposed to have a gold standard of food regulation – and we all ate horses. I assume the BBC and the NHS thought they had a gold standard regulation against paedophilia – and we got Jimmy Saville.

We have just changed regulation to ignore EU safety law and have decreased the Environment Agency budget by 10%These are not signs of gold standard regulation.

But if even if we are serious about regulation, accidents will happen.  Engineers thought Fukushima was impenetrable until a typhoon that no one could predict came their way.

Cheaper Bills!

This idea should be quickly dismissed.  Lord Browne (the head of Cuadrilla a fracking company) has clearly stated that fracking will not reduce energy bills, and Lord Sterne has dismissed it as baseless economics.

So why do we still hear this myth repeated?

Image: Climate Revolution

Image: Climate Revolution

Fracking and our liberties

The fracking industry has an interesting relationship to our government and that is affecting our rights in unexpected ways.

Lord Brown (de-facto perjurer), former head of BP implicated in the gulf oil spill disaster (renowned for his ‘cut, cut, cut’ philosophy) is the non executive advisor for energy for the government.

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He is also the chief executive for Cuadrilla, the fracking company leading the charge for UK shale gas.

We are about to sell off 60% of the mineral rights of the UK in licensing at the same time as we change laws to allow drilling under your house to go on without your permission.

The policing at Barton Moss protests was an exceptional example of police repression, not least because despite many hundreds of arrests being thrown out of court and daily videos of police brutality being posted, the police continued their tactics for months – suggesting influence from the top.

Image: Dragonfly1

Image: Dragonfly1

Jobs and costs

The cost for all of this brutal policing has been passed on to the taxpayer.  As will regulation and environmental protection.  As will the clean ups when they have to occur.

But this is all supposed to provide jobs, and lot of them.  A lot of us could live with all of the above for jobs.

According to the government’s AMEC report, there will 5,000 to 32,000 jobs created by fracking.  This will be over two decades, with a two year peak in about ten years. The jobs will be for skilled foreigners, some local truckers and security guards.

The work is temporary because once the drill is set up there is not much more work to be done.

Job Losses

Potential job losses include agriculture (from loss of water), brewery work (from increased expense of water), tourism (rural England and Blackpool will suffer heavily from noise and air pollution) and small business (businesses secured against houses will suffer).  Unfortunately we cannot put figures on these because no empirical research has been done – the governement has not included it in any reports.  It is plausible to assume though, that a lot a more jobs could be destroyed than created.

Houses prices may drop by around 25% near fracking sites, and houses may be hard to insure anywhere near a fracking site.  In the US insurers have walked away from insuring any houses within a two mile radius of a fracking site.

Boom Town Problems

Boom towns tend to see massive decreases in earnings in the long term (and average of $7,000 in the US).  We know this from the fact that Lancashire, South Wales and other places are scarred with the decline of a previous fossil fuel boom – Coal.

We haven’t recovered from that, but the fracking boom will last barely 2 years in a bad case scenario. Coal lasted well over 100 years.

The net loss to the economy hasn’t been calculated yet, because the government doesn’t want to know.  They even misrepresent their own figures to make them seem better.

Studies from Duke University suggest that the net loss will be considerably more than the very limited gains economically.

What about energy security?

It has been suggested that we don’t want to be relying on Russia for our gas.  Which is a fair point, we don’t.

At the moment we don’t rely on them for gas.  Our gas comes from Norway and Qatar.

It must be said though that we don’t want to rely on anyone for gas really – especially as the gas market is interdependent.  Which is fine.  Because if we stick to our climate targets we can reduce our dependence on foreign gas and oil by 62% by 2020.

By 2020 fracking will still be in it’s exploratory phase.

Image: Dragonfly1

Image: Dragonfly1

Is there enough gas to give us energy security?

According to Prof Robert Gatliff of the British Geological Society, the Weald Basin could be a ‘difficult play’ and at best only 10% of the gas found would be able to be fracked.  However that is unlikely.  A more likely scenario would be 1% of it according to Professor Andrew Aplin – Durham Universities head of petroleum studies.

This would produce enough energy for the UK’s entire consumption for 2 months.  In a best case scenario we will produce enough for 20 months.

The best case scenario is unlikely because of the ponzi scheme nature of fracking hype.  To get investors the companies massively oversell what is available.  They have had to reduce the estimate in California by 96%, and after 4 years in Poland they are about to stop production after having to reduce estimates by 90%.

Which makes it a pretty insecure investment and an insecure method for securing our energy future.

Energy Monopoly

The most insecure aspect of fracking is that it is part of the government’s dash for gas.  This will commit us to a gas future.  If the UK is locked into gas for the next 30 years because of fracking then we will also be locked into a monopoly of the big 6 energy companies.

These are the energy companies that have heightened prices (sometimes by as much as 20%) year on year.  If we don’t take energy provision out of their hands we will constantly be subject to their profiteering whims.

So what can we do?

In a general sense we can embrace the idea of the push for ‘A million climate jobs’.  Retrofitting houses, energy efficiency and producing renewables could save the planet, save cash and create long term sustainable jobs for everyone in the UK.

Paul Mobbs, like many environmentalists, suggest we are going to have to accept and create an economy that doesn’t grow, that in fact degrows, and we will have to work towards that.

Locally, groups have started creating their own energy cooperatives – putting power literally into the hands of communities, who save money and control their own energy future.

To stop fracking happening you can engage with this consultation, and you should most definitely write to your MP and local councillors.  They are often as clueless as the rest of us about fracking, and unaware it could be on their doorstep and out of their control very soon.

Also contact your local union branch and the TUC, and check out Frack Free and Frack Off for more information.

Also try and find out if you have a local group and if a fracking site is planned near you, your family or old friends.  You might be surprised.

Image: Telegraph

Image: Telegraph

Thomas Barlow 

 

Vox Political

This is from Tom Watson MP. If he’s right, it’s vitally important that you read the following and act on it:

Last Thursday there was a curious announcement in the Chamber of the House of Commons. At the session to announce future business, Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley said this:

“Monday 14th July — consideration of a Bill, followed by a motion to approve the first report from the Committee on Standards on the respect policy”

If you look on Parliament’s web site tonight, you will not see the name, nor the text of the Bill to be considered.

None of your elected backbench MPs have been told what Bill is to be debated on Monday. It’s Wednesday evening. Tomorrow, MPs are on a ‘one line whip’ ie they can return to their constituencies this evening.

Imagine how outrageous it would be, if tomorrow, the government were to announce emergency…

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Tomorrow over a million people will strike against public sector pay freezes. They deserve our support. Here’s why:

From Just Fair:

report published this week by Just Fair finds that the UK government is in breach of its legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of disabled people.

The report is the first comprehensive analysis of the extent to which the UK government is meeting its international obligations to realise the rights of disabled people in the austerity era. It examines the rights to independent living, work, social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living.

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Combining legal analysis with testimony-based evidence, the report concludes that government policies are compromising disabled people’s enjoyment of these fundamental rights, causing significant hardship.

The report – Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era – analyses the impact on disabled people of public austerity and the reform of social security.

Baroness Jane Campbell, crossbench peer and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Disability Group, says:

“It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights … I hope that this excellent report serves as a major wake-up call.”

 

The report highlights the support that is at risk for disabled, support which both threatens disabled people’s abilities to live independent lives and puts the UK government in breach of it’s obligation to protect, respect and fulfil the human rights of the disabled.

Aoife Nolan, Trustee of Just Fair and Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham, says:

“Following several years of progress in realising disabled people’s rights, through equality legislation and the welfare system, government policies are now compromising disabled people’s enjoyment of their human rights, reducing their autonomy and independence. Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the United Nations human rights framework.”

The report will now be submitted to the UN body that monitors implementation of human rights.

You can find out more and download it here.