Thursday, 30 July 2015

Are Ashton Jobcentre acting like NAZI's?

Events at the Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne, get murkier by the day. We understand that only last week a meeting took place in Ashton between P.C.S. union representatives and two invited activists who have been campaigning against the governments iniquitous sanctions regime outside Ashton Jobcentre, for the past 12 months. The meeting was initiated by Annette Wright, a union official of the P.C.S union and President of Manchester Trades Council, and Evan Pritchard, a lay branch official from the Greater Manchester Unite Community Union.

Although the P.C.S. union is officially committed to support initiatives that seek to undermine and expose the 'draconian sanctions regime that exists in Jobcentres', it seems that much of the time was taken up in admonishing Charlotte Hughes, a leading figure in the campaign.

Sources have told us that the P.C.S. area representative for Stockport and Tameside, who was present at the meeting, made it abundantly clear that he was vehemently against working with groups opposed to sanctions (contrary to P.C.S. union policy) and expressed the view that he had no sympathy with the plight of the unemployed or those who opposed sanctions.

Ms. Hughes, a 'hardworking' single-mother with four children, who runs a blog - 'The Poor Side of Life', a weekly diary of events outside Ashton Jobcentre - was asked to remove items from her blog concerning Ashton Jobcentre and the P.C.S. union. The irate Stockport P.C.S. official also demanded that she remove all references to Jobcentre Staff  "only doing their Job" as he insisted this had Nazi connotations!

Over the last 12 months, Ashton Jobcentre has repeatedly made petty complaints to the police in a vain attempt to get protesters arrested. The police indicated some time ago that they felt that this was a waste of police time as it was not unlawful to engage in peaceful protest. Despite this, the Jobcentre have persisted with their petty complaints and have even threatened protesters with an injunction.

Controversial review by Sam King

NOBODY has written about the Spanish Civil War quite like Paul Preston. He is the 'go to' historian in both English and Spanish.  Preston’s ‘The Spanish Civil War’ is already the definitive book for any antifascist who wants to understand the tragedy that was the fall of Spanish Republic. Throughout his substantial cannon of work he has eloquently portrayed the sacrifices that men and women from across the world made to fight Franco’s brutal fascist regime and the shadowy and sinister support he received from Hitler and Mussolini, that was criminally ignored by the rest of Europe.

‘The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain’ is Preston’s tour de force and possibly even surpasses his unparalleled biography of Franco to become his most important contribution to our understanding of 20th century Spain. As ever, Preston has sought to re tell the events, massacres and heroism through the eyes and memories of the lives of those who suffered most. The tragic tales of men and women who took up arms against a military machine that wanted to crush all vestiges of democracy, humanity and secularism.

The primary premise of this 700 page work is that Franco’s belief in a Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy resulted in a conscious and systematic attempt to eradicate all Republicans. Preston places the figure of murdered Republicans as high as 200,000 which certainly justifies his use of the term Holocaust. Franco’s fanaticism even allowed the Nazis to test drop their bombs on the Spanish people. To its shame, the outside world refused to come to their aid.

Over the many years that Preston has written on Spain, he was always drawn the conclusion that those that followed the ‘Popular Front’, an undertaking to defeat fascism before undertaking a revolution was the correct line.  Perhaps because of this Anarchists will enjoy this book the least as Preston makes it clear that the Anarchist CNT were as anti the Republic as the fascists, viewing it as a bourgeoisie government.  Their continual attempts to destabilise the Republic played right into the hands of the right wing.

A large section of the book is given over to Preston’s meticulous research, testament that he has laboured harder and more thoroughly than others that may draw their own or different conclusions. It is often said that in wars, the victors get to write the history. It is the case that of the Spanish Civil War, the victors’ have nothing palatable worth remembering, celebrating or commemorating.  Preston has often said that he has spent his life fighting Franco.  Those who continue to try and apologise for Franco now have their work really cut out as The Spanish Holocaust unquestionably delivers a blow to Franco’s reputation that it will be hard to overcome.

Company Check: Friends of Freedom Press

Current Companies House Record of Directors at Friends of Freedom Press:

Current Directors and Secretaries Current Officer Name Appointed Current/Dissolved Resigned Total

Name                                             Appointed

1.  Dr David Goodway               20-07-2015   1 0 1

2.  Mr Donald Rooum                17-12-2001   2 0 2

3.  Mr Ernest Rodker                  20-07-2015   3 0 3

4.  Mr Martin Howard                17-07-2015   1 0 1

5.  Mr Richard Parry                   20-02-2012   1 0 1

6.  Mr Stephen Charles Sorba   22-04-2002   4 0 4

7.  Ms Jayne Clementson           17-07-2015   1 0 1

8.  Ms Sonia Markham               21-01-1992   2 0 2

Current Secretary Name Appointed Current/Dissolved Resigned Total :

Mr Stephen Charles Sorba         22-04-2002   4 0 4

Local Elections in Manchester

Dear Editor,

I have started a petition to Parliament calling for all councillors to be elected at the same time, every time in ALL local elections.  If successful this would effect the local elections in every Greater Manchester borough.

This national Tory Government may or may not be thrown out at the next General Election. People can chose whether to keep the same party in power or to elect a different one - and that is how it should be!

The same thing does not happen with local councils across the region. Only one third of the councillors are elected each year, which means that people cannot simply elect another party to power - and that is wrong!

All-out local elections will encourage all-out campaigning and all the parties will have to campaign for every single vote - just as in national elections. There is always the danger in a properly functioning democracy of not having the right result in an election, but that is how it should be. No political party has any right to power. It is up to the party to convince the people to give it power through strong arguments and not through manipulating an out of date system!

The result must cease to be the foregone conclusion which it currently is, otherwise we will just continue to have the one-party state which, at present, exists in many local authorities - and a large dis-illusioned, non-participating, unengaged electorate which believes that voting is a waste of time, nothing ever changes and that politicians never listen!

Click this link to find out more & to sign the petition:
The vote should always have power to change politics. If the vote cannot do this, then it is worthless!

Kind regards
Carl Simmons
4 Castleton Court
Haughton Green
M34 7NX
Mobile: 07799730708

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

"Its all kicking off this week - Blacklist Support Group update 29 July 2015‏."

We are publishing below a recent briefing from the Blacklist Support Group:

"1. Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing - an opportunity for justice or potential cover up? 
Below are various press articles and comments from blacklisted workers, unions and other victims of undercover political policing in response to the start of the Pitchford inquiry 

Below is the initial response from Blacklist Support Group:
"The opening remarks from Lord Justice Pitchford is a now available on the website especially set up for the public inquiry. The public inquiry is of course to be welcomed and hopefully will uncover the truth behind some of the most shameful elements of British secret state operations against its own citizens. However Pitchford's remarks and the Terms of Reference published by Teresa May, leave cause for concern.
a. Spying on trade unions and proven police collusion in blacklisting is not mentioned once. Although social justice campaigns are included. We will need to argue that trade unions fall into this category.
b. The document stresses that only covert spying by police will be investigated. This leaves a huge gaping hole in the area of corporate spying on activists. The state is not neutral but is always on the side of big business against trade unions. Police and corporate surveillance are completely intertwined with sharing of intelligence standard operating procedure. Some state spying may have actually been out-sourced to private companies. Is this going to be off limits? Will blacklisting fall through the net?
c. 'Neither Confirm Nor Deny' has been the response from the police to every attempt to pry open their dirty secrets. In addition they have refused to disclose evidence on the same basis claiming 'national security' or 'ongoing investigations' as the reasons. Continued use of this position by the police would make the entire inquiry a farce. Pitchford makes no mention of this but does talk about having to hear some evidence in secret and keeping identity confidential. Clarity on this issue is essential.
d. Immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for whistle-blowers will be crucial if the true extent of police operations are to be fully investigated. Without this, the inquiry is going nowhere. Pitchford does mention evidence given not being used to bring subsequent criminal charges - but this could apply to undercover officers who were involved in serious criminal activity such as sexual assault, arson or terrorism. It is not clear at all from the documentation so far released whether Peter Francis, the primary whistle-blower will be protected.
e. The Child Sex Abuse inquiry has set up a panel to hear and assess the evidence. The final report will be a collective response. In addition, an advisory panel made up of victims of abuse has also been established to assist in guiding the direction of the inquiry. No such equivalent structures have even been mooted by the Home Office or Pitchford. With the full PR machinery of the state at the disposal of the police, it is easy to see how the inquiry may cover areas which paint the police in a good light but completely ignore other areas.
f. For the Pitchford inquiry to have any credibility, it will need to leave no stone unturned. There will be a period of lobbying and submissions by lawyers in the next few months. BSG and unions will be directly involved in that process. Which direction Pitchford will take is far from certain. One path may lead to ground-breaking insights into the anti-democratic operations of the secret state. A different path could result in another good old fashioned establishment cover up".

2. High Court orders Blacklisting firms to disclose evidence (previously hidden) 
We also name the senior managers actively involved in blacklisting union members in the building industry. Many of these wretches have now moved to top HR jobs in the NHS, Universities, Lottery, Jockey Club and the off-shore sector. Do you recognise any of the names?  

3. VICTORY - sacked UNITE rep reinstated after direct action picket line
Graeme Boxall, the UNITE shop steward sacked at the Morgan Stanley HQ in Canary Wharf on Friday has been re-employed. Graeme was dismissed immediately after he requested direct employment for the electricians he represents but following a picket line this morning, negotiations took place between UNITE official Guy Langston and Lee Crompton Phoenix Managing Director. The outcome was that the sacked steward is now re-employed and the union will participate in continuing talks with the company about the direct employment issue.
Police threatened to arrest pickets and managers tried to intimidate the pickets by waving paperwork in front of them saying, "you are on private property and this is document is a High Court injunction which bans this protest"
The rank and file sparks reply was, "so what?"
Following the successful re-employment, protests have now been suspended to allow the union to negotiate the outstanding issues. Graeme Boxall commented: "I would like to say a massive 'Thank You' to all those who came down to support me today. I would especially like to thank the vast majority of construction workers on site who showed such solidarity by respecting the picket line, despite all the intimidation from the police and senior managers. Millions of workers are being denied their basic employment rights by the use of zero hours contracts, employment agencies and umbrella scams. But we don't have to passively accept these abuses. Today has proved that if we fight back, we can win".

4. Pay The Rate - Teesside Construction Activists
The ongoing 16 week dispute in Redcar, Teesside is going to kick off big time. The national collective bargaining agreement is being ignored by major companies on the site who are exploiting workers by paying them less than the nationally agreed rates of pay, lodge and travel. We are not prepared to see any workers exploited, whether they are from Canterbury or Croatia. 
This could spread like wildfire into a national wildcat strike. COBRA will have to meet if workers on power stations across the country follow the lead of the Teesside construction activists.  
Reel News produce the first major video of the dispute:
If you want to show solidarity - contact Teesside construction Activists via FB:

5. Blacklisting in the Labour Party leadership election
Jeremy Corbyn's official flyer(see above picture) for the Labour Party leadership election (attached) specifically calls for compensation for the thousands of blacklisted workers and a full transparent public inquiry. 
The flyer also calls for justice on Orgreave & Shrewsbury Pickets. For a number of years, Jeremy Corbyn attended Blacklist Support Group events in his own Islington constituency and in parliament. If any of the other candidates have official flyers that support blacklisted workers, we will be very interested in seeing them. 

6. Reel News
Everyone involved in Reel News deserves an award for all the hard work they are putting in to tell the stories the mainstream media are ignoring. We could not do what we do without the work they do - they are an integral part of the rank and file blacklisting campaign.  Please get your union branch to subscribe or make a sizable donation to keep this essential trade union based indymedia collective afloat. 

7. Happy holidays - enjoy the sunshine "

VICTORY - sacked UNITE rep reinstated after direct action picket line‏!

Graeme Boxall, the UNITE shop steward sacked at the Morgan Stanley HQ in Canary Wharf on Friday has been re-employed.
See link to today's Morning Star front page headline for details:

Graeme was dismissed immediately after he requested direct employment for the electricians he represents but following a picket line this morning, negotiations took place between UNITE official Guy Langston and Lee Crompton Phoenix Managing Director. The outcome was that the sacked steward is now re-employed and the union will participate in continuing talks with the company about the direct employment issue.   

Police threatened to arrest pickets and managers tried to intimidate the pickets by waving paperwork in front of them saying, "you are on private property and this is document is a High Court injunction which bans this protest"
The rank and file sparks reply was, "so what?"

Following the successful re-employment, protests have now been suspended to allow the union to negotiate the outstanding issues.

Graeme Boxall commented:
"I would like to say a massive 'Thank You' to all those who came down to support me today. I would especially like to thank the vast majority of construction workers on site who showed such solidarity by respecting the picket line, despite all the intimidation from the police and senior managers. 
Millions of workers are being denied their basic employment rights by the use of zero hours contracts, employment agencies and umbrella scams. But we don't have to passively accept these abuses. Today has proved that if we fight back, we can win".

James Petty: Journalist on Northern Voices

Published in the Burnley Express on 21st July 2015 (Distributed in Burnley):

James (Jim) died on Friday 10th July in Royal Blackburn Hospital, Jim aged 82 years.
Dear father of Iain, loving brother of Barbara and Christine and sadly missed uncle of Jordan, Olivia, Jemima, Tom and Henry James. The funeral service and cremation will take place on Friday 24th July 2015 at Burnley Crematorium at 2.20pm. Family flowers only please but donations if desired made payable to Macmillan Nurses c/o Greenwoods Funeral Service, Cemetery Lane, Burnley, Telephone 01282 831333
A more comprehensive obituary on the Jim Petty will be published shortly on this Blog.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Spies, Lords and Predators!

WE thought our readers might be interested in this. It is an investigation by the Australian TV programme '60 minutes', into a paedophile ring that is alleged to have taken place at the top of the UK establishment. This is not a programme that is likely to be broadcast on UK TV, so we are showing it here

Austerity: Lite or Tight?

THIS letter from Andrew Wastling was sent to Northern Voices, and also addressed to Mr. Paul Harrison , The Editor Rochdale Observer,  for publication on the 'Your Views' page:

"Austerity – Lite or Austerity Tight ? “

IT was heartening to read in Talking Politics : 'Changes will make families worse off''Your Views', Rochdale Observer, [ 11.VII.2015 , p.12 ], our MP Simon Danczuk write of the last Budget :
'[It] is clear it is poor working families that are going to bear the brunt of the changes. The plan is to slash tax credits, housing benefit and child tax credit and compensate people with a higher minimum wage, [ misleadingly called a living wage]. While this sounds good in principle, the bottom line is thousands of families in Rochdale will be worse off to the tune of hundreds of pounds.'

So far so good - However, many of us would be interested to know what Simon's  view is on Harriet Harman acting Labour leader saying on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, at the weekend, that Labour would NOT oppose the government's plan to reduce the overall household benefit cap to £20,000 a year outside London and hinted it would also back the third child limit on future tax credits claims. and  that the Labour Party won't oppose limits to Child Tax Credits in George Osbornes emergency Conservative Budget?
Furthermore Harman said that the Labour Party would accept some of the radical welfare cuts imposed by the Tory regime, her capitulation coming as experts around the country rounded on the Tory Governmnet for imposing more grim austerity measures that are “aimed at the poorest “ - what was she thinking?

Just to be absolutley clear , Tax credits have provided precious and targeted support to hundreds of thousands of families across the country for many years; 55% of children across the country are living in families that rely on them – 63% of these families are in work.
A staggering 13 million families will be worse off by an average £260 a year due to the four-year freeze in working-age benefits and tax credits announced according to an in-depth assessment of theBudget by independent think-tank The Institute for Fiscal Studies .[1].

Yet despite this Harman seems intent on promoting a ill-thought out brand of “austerity -lite” on the British people. This comes in the wake of others in the Labour Party who seem intent on making them even more irrelevant to working people by the day.

Especially so when we hear Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Kate Green MP, refused demands from anti-Austerity campaigners to save the disabled persons Independent Living Fund (ILF) saying  quite clearly that :
'I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF.'

While Labour profess to support fully the right to live independently for disabled people we are now in a situation following plans to close the Independent Living Fund where England is left as the only UK country which will not have it’s own form of a fund to continue to support the additional funding requirements of those who have high support needs.

We have also seen the likes of Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeve claim that "sanctions " have been part of Britains Welfare State since it's founding. And shortly after being appointed, Reeves said Labour would be tougher than the Conservatives on cutting the benefits bill;

That a member of the same party that originally set up the welfare state can cite such glaring inaccuracies on sanctions which did in fact not exist until 1999, and casualy posist such reactionary views is frankly shocking to many in the wider labour movement & beyond.

Its intresting to note that on a lobby held on 6th January Independent Living Fund recipients called on MPs from all political parties to save the ILF. Caroline Lucas MP who sponsored the lobby told the meeting that her party , the Greens , are fully behind the call to keep and re open the ILF.

On Welfare Reform Labour seem to be intent on becoming what Tristram Hunt , another Liz Kendal leadership contender supporter has described just this week as being ,
'increasingly regarded as irrelevant in the aftermath of its disastrous election defeat.'  -
Quite so Tristram!
Only hours after her unilateral announcement three of the four leadership candidates – Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper – all signalled their opposition to the move , with the notable exception of Liz Kendal, Simons prefered Leadership candidate, who said she backs Harriet Harman's policy on welfare cuts.

Already , [ before we have another £50 MILLION in Budget cuts implemented by Rochdale Labour Council , imposed by a Tory Government with only a political mandate of twenty -four percent of the electorate ], a mere  few minutes walk from our MP's Constituency office there already exists in our  town centre ward  of St.Chad, St.Mary & St. Edmund ,   shamefull child poverty and social exclusion statistic that show :
'Child poverty, pensioner poverty and working age poverty in this parish  among the highest in the country. Male life expectancy, female life expectancy and qualification levels in this parish are among the lowest nationally. Lone parenthood in this parish is higher than average compared with other parishes in the country - 36% of children, 39% of pensioners already living in poverty, life expectancy for males reduced to 69 years and 38% of the people living there having no formal qualifications whatsoever.' [2].

It surley begs the obvious question is it still appropriate for Simon to be backing a candidate for the Labour Party leadership who would appear to have so little understanding of the impact such Austerity measures are going to have on child poverty numbers nationally and especially here locally in Rochdale ?
Simon said in the New Statesman in May that :  'Some in Labour will say that this means adopting a "Tory agenda".' [3]- well on this I agree he is exactly right .

Yours faithfully,



[1]. “Budget 2015: George Osborne's benefit cuts set to make 13 million families 'significantly worse off' “ , The Independent , 09.VII.2015 , please see link at :

[2]. Church Urban Fund, 2015.

[3]. “ I'm backing Liz Kendall for one reason - because she can beat the Conservatives “ , New Statesman , Simon Danczuk 27 .V. 2015

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ricky Tomlinson & Northern Voices

Ricky Tomlinson at Baker's Union Conf. in Southport last month


NORTHERN VOICES 15 above is now on sale its usual outlets.  This issue of Northern Voices has an interview with the anti-establishment painter from Buxton, Jeff Perks.  He is a radical artist who has done exhibitions at Stockport Art Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, an exhibition titled 'Race Against Time' - Trades Union Congress House, and was Winner of the Friends of Buxton Museum Sculpture Award (3 times).  His art aims to make people feel uncomfortable.  Sales of Northern Voices in Ashton town centre shot up during a Green Party demo a couple of weeks ago when street sellers started shouting: 
'Kieran Quinn - Kieran Quinn - Look at the Rat in the Wheelie Bin!' 

Other articles include a piece on 'Who Owns the North' by the writer Chris Draper; a report on Fracking at Barton Moss Salford by the activist Barry Woodling; an account on the consequences of the Scottish referendum by the Labour councillor, Paul Salverson; a story on Northern Canals by Les May; a historical item 'Shoot the Conchies' also by Chris Draper; reviews on the radical touring play UNITED WE STAND and Dave Douglass's new book on 'A history of the Liverpool Waterfront 1850-1890'; a searching review on the book on Cyril Smith by Simon Danczuk M.P. by Les May;  Tameside Eye, and 'Six O' the Best Northern Bus Journeys'.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 15, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 46, Kingsland Road,
Rochdale, Lancs. OL11 3HQ.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Paul Massey: Mayor of Salford Candidate Shot

                                                                      PAUL MASSEY

The crime reporter on the Manchester Evening News today gave the following description of Mr. Massey:
'He was articulate, intelligent and street-wise.  He was not ranting.  But he told me calmly that he had been pulled up by police more than a dozen time and accused of things he had nothing to do with.'

GREATER Manchester Police have confirmed that a man has died of gunshot wounds in the Clifton area of Salford, following several reports of gunfire at about 19:30 BST on Sunday.  The man killed is reported to be 55-year-old Paul Massey, a security manager and businessman, who stood for Mayor of Salford in 2012.

The father-of-five was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1999, after he stabbed a man in the groin outside a club in Manchester, severing an artery. 

Mr. Massey is well known in Salford, and he attended the funeral of veteran Salford anarchist and local character, Ken Keating, in 2011.  At that time Ian Bone wrote on his Blog:
'Ken was the prime mover in Ordsall Class War in the 1990s and i think it would be safe to say none of us had ever seen the likes of Ordsall Class War! There are others who knew Ken far better than me and I hope to be publishing their thoughts when they are ready.'

Paul Massey's reputation grew during the 1990s and he had reportedly in the past acted as a mediator between warring gang factions.  In his election campaign in 2012, he insisted that he wanted to keep heroin off the streets of Salford and stickers appeared on lamp posts warning heroin dealers they risked getting 'smacked' if they brought their goods to the city.

Mr Massey had said in a BBC Radio Manchester debate he would do the job of mayor without being paid, saying:
'I will do it for free; I will do it for the voice of the people.'
He called on voters to forget his 'Mr Big' reputation, claiming that it was in the past and people had misjudged him.

Unite Steward Sacked for requesting rights

A Unite shop steward has just been sacked while working at Morgan Stanley Investment Bank in Canary Wharf after he asked for direct employment for all the electricians he represents. The company is D&D, who are sub-contracting for Phoenix Electrical who are a JIB registered company. Under JIB rules, all labour on site should be directly employed. This had actually been agreed in principle but when the steward actually asked to go on the cards, he was immediately dismissed. 

We are not standing for this. 
Casualisation is the scourge of the UK workplace. Zero hours contracts, agencies, temporary contracts and umbrella companies. But we don't have to simply accept this erosion of working conditions and legal rights. We can fightback and demand direct employment. If you want to fight back against the tide of casualisation & have a pop at global capitalism at the same time - join the picket:
Monday 27th July - 6:30am onwards
Morgan Stanley
25 Cabot Square
Canary Wharf

Morgan Stanley rule the world and Canary Wharf is the spiritual home for financial capitalism. If the construction firms want to have a fight about workers rights - we're happy to have it there.

Everyone welcome, especially any legal observers (as the private security and police might get heavy). 

BREAKING: The industrial relations consultant representing the electrical companies in the Morgan Stanley sacking is Frank Westerman.
The ex-Amicus official now works as a freelance consultant for the major construction employers, including Skanska and other multinational firms responsible for blacklisting trade union members. Frank Westerman's name appears as the source of information on a number of Consulting Association blacklist files, especially in relation to electricians who worked on the Jubilee Line. Westerman denies ever deliberately grassing up his members to the bosses and any other wrongdoing. He himself has a blacklist file from his youth as a shop steward.

Rough Sleepers in Rochdale!

THE letter below originally sent to the Rochdale Observer has been forwarded to Northern Voices by the local author Andrew Wastling, and we are invited to place it on our Blog:

Dear “ Your Views “ Rochdale Observer,

"A serious breach of our Common Law and Magna Carta rights ?"
It was unfortunate in the extreme and uninformed to an blindingly obvious degree that hairdressing salon owner , and former Lib Dem Councillor ,Greg  Couzens should chose to publicly announce only a day before a weekend of national events to celebrate armed forces day that :
We have no rough sleepers in Rochdale. All of them have home addresses, so this is about clamping down on the begging and the alcohol consumption within the town centre." [1].
Unfortunate ,because his comments come just as a greater Manchester Supported Tenancies Service reveal an increasing number of ex-servicemen and women are facing homelessness, citing the one in ten homeless people in the UK have a military background stating in the Manchester Evening News that :  "It’s a travesty that men and women who have served their country find themselves in a homeless situation”, [2].

Uninformed , because his claim that :
'We have no rough sleepers in Rochdale' flies in the face of the latest governmnet evidence . Only three months ago the Observers sister paper the MEN reported that : 
"The number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester has risen by nearly 50 per cent in a year, according to official figures - but campaigners say it is much more. Statistics show there were 101 rough sleepers in the region in autumn 2014, 31 more than the same time the previous year. In Manchester, the figure was up 79pc from 24 to 43.The city now has more rough sleepers than anywhere outside London. Rochdale saw a rise from six to 17, and Salford from seven to 14" ,

These latest statistics were reported extensively only a few months ago in 'Number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester soars by 50pc in a year', Manchester Evening News, 1.III.2015 , [3].
With Housing & Homelessness Campaigners arguing official figures are likely to be a significant underestimate as they are based on a snapshot of a single night.
Also this week we have seen a homeless charity Manchester Angels go so far as to publicly acuse a major Greater Manchester Council of actually “lying” over the level of rough sleepers saying :
"The number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester has risen by nearly 50% cent in a year according to council statistics “, concluding :"However, we’re aware that these yearly audits - conducted one night a year in well lit areas - don’t show a true reflection on how many homeless people there are “, [4].

I accept fully that Mr. Couzens may well have been unable to find any rough sleepers on the night when he looked but that does not mean they are not there every other night of the week.

Simply scapegoat homeless people & beggars at the end of The Walk for the failure of our town centres business seeks to apportion blame on a handful of people whohave been sanctioned by the DWP or made  homeless through repossesion or other life changing traumas is not worthy of someone of  Mr. Couzens calibre as a businesman in our own  when the reasons for the failure of our town centre over decades are far more complex and long-standing than the beggars that have become a semi-permanent feature of the Rochdale town centre landscape over the course of the past five years smacks of misguided desperation to many.

To an extent he is absolutley right that we do not want to see beggars and homeless people sat on pieces of cardboard , or scavenging food from bins , however we must also look to and tackle the underlying causes of such behaviour not just move them on to somewhere less visible – out of sight – does not mean problem remedied.

What I wonder was the cause of failing businesses in Rochdale town centre before we had this supposed infestation of beggars ? Unfortunately I can't help but think Scape goat “ & “Convenientspring immediately to mind in this instance.

It is also deeply worrying that the solution to beggars seems to be to use dispersal orders to remove them from view. Apart from the fact they will simply move the problem somewhere else it taps into the current anti-humanistic narrative that supports wideley unpopular street spikes on the outside of shops and seeks to still further demonise the poor and clearly damadged in our society . In the Homless magazine The Pavement , Connor Johnston, a barrister specialising in homelessness also quite rightly points out that : 

'The purpose of these orders is to clamp down on antisocial or nuisance behaviour that impacts on the quality of life of those in the locality. There is nothing inherently antisocial about a person being forced to sleep rough and we should not be criminalising it.'
'The effect of it is simply going to be to shunt homeless people to another borough. This won’t solve anything beyond making our streets a bit ‘shinier’ and will almost certainly just make it harder for those sleeping rough to access the support services they rely on.'[8].

More concerning from the individual civil liberties point of view is the unavoidable  issue around "Dispersal Orders" is  that they are an extension of previous powers, but the key difference is that they can now be applied in any place, at any time.

Previously, areas had to be declared dispersal zones in advance, after a relatively lengthy consultation process. Now any area can be declared a dispersal zone on the spot: a police officer need only gain authorisation from his or her inspector over the phone.

The only condition for serving a 'Section 34' dispersal notice is that they 'suspect' that a person's behaviour 'is likely to contribute' to causing 'harassment, alarm or distress'.

A Manifesto Club briefing document investigated the use of these powers and found that some police forces are now declaring dispersal zones before almost any kind of public gathering, including political protests, which poses a direct threat to freedom of speech and assembly.

The condition for issuing a dispersal order is so low that it can be used against almost anyone. Those barred from public places include homeless people, a disabled man handing out food for the homeless who was issued with a dispersal notice which barred him from central Brighton, making it a crime for him to re-enter the area, and football supporters who had pulled up by the side of the road in an isolated area.

Just to make it crystal clear I am not in any way anti-Police and I am certainly not against the rule of law and our democratic legal system which has enshrined our cherished liberties and rights to protest. But like many people I am very concerned about a little-noticed part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, passed last October, which has given the police a roaming power to bar people from public spaces

New legislation that  writers in The Ecologist state   :

'Allows them to exclude people for anything from street drinking to looking suspicious, being homeless, protesting, or merely 'congregating'. This represents a serious breach of our Common Law and Magna Carta rights.'

This is a regressive , reactionary , rather than a modern progressive ,solution to an age old problem  that harkens back to a less enlightend era described in for example local Rochdale writer Jack Hiltons , Caliban Shrieks 1935Hilton vividly described the medieval experience of the sessions in 1575 when the poor  :
'Vagabonds were sentenced to be branded, five to be hanged , and eight set to service.  Service was unvarnished slavery.  And it was from the stress of such times that humanity set up it's workhouses.  We still have them with us.'

And in the local Means tests for Public Assistance in the middle 1930's  when he asked :

'What sort of civilised action in such callousness...when you take away the last straw off the poor blighter, it's a punishment that eats into his bone ?' , [9].

We already have in the Town Centre some superb Community Support Officers who already do an excellent & difficult job in an exempary proffessional and diplomatic manner - perhaps a better solution would be to invest in more of this sory of community policing as well as not continue with any more cuts to frontline homelss provision or to GMP's policing budget as planned ?

Unfortunatley " Dispersal Orders " alone won’t solve anything beyond perhaps making the street outside the former Lib Dem Councillor Couzens shop a bit more ‘ up -market “ and possibly ease his troubled social conscience removing some of the less palatable results of the past five years of Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition government will almost certainly just make it harder for those sleeping rough to access the support services they rely on.

If the number of beggars alone was any concrete indication of economic failure then Manchester City Centre , especially Piccadilly gardens , would be in near economic meltdown .As it is Manchester is set to compete with Paris& Berlin in the next five years.
As single homeless Charity Crisis’s say :
'While it’s right that the police have the power to tackle genuine criminals, covering a complex issue with a wide-ranging PSPO could lead to people in dire need of support facing a counterproductive arrest or fine.
'Rough sleepers deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance – they may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse. Instead, people need long-term, dedicated support to move away from the streets for good.'
This is the worst type of NIMBY-ism from some elements of our business community, [ people who in the past in the guise of the High Street Foundation [4] have not been slow at asking for a handout from the public purse many times themselves ]; And may well have effect of it is simply shunting homeless people to another part of the town.
With Rochdale Council removing support to the High Street Foundation [6] of which Mr. Couzens vice chairman this week it's tempting to think Mr.Couzens may well want to clear a personal pitch to rattle a begging bowl at the corner The Walk for himself of in very near future?

If Mr.Couzens is so concerned about people giving money to beggars rather than spending it on expensive designer haircuts perhaps he could use his considerable influence within the local business community to ensure any out of date food is sent direct to local food banks rather than skipped, or have official donation points for vulnerable & poor people installed at the end of The Walk were shoppers can donate , or perhaps organise some donations form the relative; wealthy business community direct to local charities ?
I understand that there is a perfectly serviceable Deli halfway along the Walk that may well soon have the rent paid up front for some time – maybe our local business community could turn this otherwise redundant building into a soup kitchen for struggling pensioners or the hungry ?

Having the luxury of inhabiting a large former Vicarage I doubt Mr. Couzens or his family have ever spent many nights cold , hungry or alone on the streets of Rochdale so it's perhaps understandable that his lack of lived experience” , [ as with so many other local decision makers ] , renders him totally unable to empathise with rough sleepers.
It also clear that living so close to a place of worship has not by some kind of spiritual osmosis given Mr . Couzens  a more compassionate view to the very many people in this town, who often through absolutely no fault of their own, now live s so much less fortunate than his own.

Perhaps he should take time out from his busy schedule sometime and ask his nearby Vicar about the Chrtistian theory & practice of

Psalm 113:7
He raiseth the poor out of the dust , and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill  - King James Bible.

Yours faithfully
[1]." Move on or face arrest 'beggars' warned" , Rochdale Observer, 27.VI.2015
[2]. One in ten homeless people nationally are ex-service personnel” , Manchester Evening News ,26.VI.2015 , please see link at :
[ ].

[3].Salford service reaches out to ex-Armed Forces as growing number face homelessness” , Mancunian Matters,27.VI.2015 , please see link at :
[ ].
[4 ].” Charity accuse Manchester City Council of lying about homeless figures “ . Mancunian Matters , 26.VI.2015, [ ].
[5]. " Number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester soars by 50pc in a year" , Manchester Evening News ,1.III.2015 ,
[6]. Council pulls support for the High Street Foundation “ , Rochdale Online , 26.VI.2015
[ ].
[7]. " Number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester soars by 50pc in a year" , Manchester Evening News ,1.III.2015 ,
[ ]
[9]. " Caliban Shrieks " , Jack Hilton , London , 1935