Sunday, 21 January 2018


LAST week Tameside Councillors were daggers drawn in the wake of the Carillion affair.  The Tory Doreen Dickenson wrote on Twitter:
'Nobody is friendlier with Carillion than Tameside MBC Labour controlled for 39 yrs.'
To which Councillor Ryan for the Labour administration made a remarkable retorted:  
'Tameside Council has had NO direct contracts with Carillion'

Weasel Words

Those of us who have read the responses of the Consulting Association administrator Ian Kerr, will remember his reply to a question at the Scottish Affairs Select Committee about his links to the Security Services.  Mr Kerr, who had previously pleaded guilty at Knutsford Crown Court to managing an illegal data base or blacklist, said; 'We had no direct contacts' (or words to that effect).  When he was then asked 'did you have any indirect contacts with the Security Services', the Chairman intervened and that query was never answered.  Mr Kerr's methods of blacklisting building workers were described in a recent book by Professor Rhidri Jeffreys-Jones* as 'effective but primitive'.

The methods of the former boss of Tameside MBC, Kieran Quinn and the Labour Council can be clearly seen as more sophisticated, and because he was a Labour coucillor and a trade unionist he could get away with murder forming cosy relationships with companies like Carillion.

The current protestations of the Tameside Labour councillors he has left behind following his well timed exit on Christmas Day, leaves them sounding like the chorus in a Comic Opera


 *  'WE KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU - The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America', published by Oxford University Press

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Working Class Heroes with nothing to do

Spikymike on libcom
Jan 16 2018 18:15
Not unsurprisingly this split in the AF has attracted some unwanted interest from other of the tiny groups claiming their place in the anarchist and communist milieu - from some confused sympathy for the 'Communist Anarchism' element by members of the SPGB to outright hostility towards both sides of the split and plain nastiness from the sectarians of the 'Northern Voices' outcasts, well known for their regular misinformation and lies directed at other anarchists. Not much sign here of cooperatively tapping in to any 'collective knowledge'.

INEVITABLY Christopher Draper's witty account of the decline and fall of the rather pretentiously labelled 'Anarchist Federation',  has stirred-up some chat room types who once spent their lives seeking out left-wing 'talking shops' in pub rooms.  Michael Ballard, who on libcom uses the pseudonym 'Spikymike'  and has lived in south Manchester for years, originates from the London-set and is one such figure.  He seems to have moved to the Midlands as a student and later settled down into  a career at Manchester City Council, ultimately rising through the incremental scales to ultimately reach the heights of Housing Manager.

Mr Ballard was very much a white-collar worker who fetishize the working class from afar.  He solemnly pontificates upon what he pretentiously describes as 'the anarchist and communist milieu'.  Milieu according to one dictionary means 'the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops'.  

Yet just now it's easy to see that something has 'occur[ed] and develop[ed]', with everything falling apart and with the Anarchist London Bookfair organisers throwing up their hands despair rather than risk another disaster like last year with the feminist constituency and the Trans community disputing with each other over the who has the right to use of the 'Ladies' toilets.

Mr. Ballard, who although now retired was always anxious to protect his status as a housing manager, has never been at the centre of any action in Greater Manchester.  Though, he talks here of the 'anarchist milieu', he has never described himself as an 'anarchist' and he usually hangs around meetings pontificating on the actions of others:  like the Manchester electricians fighting the blacklist who he challenged for their lack of consciousness of the 'class struggle' as a bit of a boss himself he knows all about 'class struggle'.  Normally, these people represent an interesting 'type' who want to preserve their double life, often have very little to do with themselves, and on a recent thread Ballard has described himself as 'a loner' reduced to putting comments on libcom.

Yet, the fall out which followed with Nick Heath's 'Anarchist Fed.' splitting up, was a natural consequence of the slippage in Mr. Heath's strangle-hold on the federation, after several provincial sections took unilateral action supporting the trans-sexuals faction by signing open letters, and denouncing the feminists and the bookfair organisers.   


Anarchist Federation Splits!

by Chris Draper

REJOICE – the Authoritarian Fraud has been exposed and the AF come unstuck!  Once several AF branches issued an ‘Unauthorised’ statement on the disruption of the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair we knew they’d be trouble.  

Sharp eyed observers spotted the pronouncement didn’t carry the imprimatur of AF’s Supreme Leader, KIM JONG HEATH and predicted he might press AF’s nuclear button.  Admittedly Northern Voices thought he’d incinerate the enemy – those branches and individuals who’d challenged THE PARTY LINE would be expelled but instead the worms revolted and the Supreme Leader along with his entire Politiburo were forced to walk the plank! – Rejoice!

This had to happen sooner or later.  In the words of 'Monty Python' this devastating split exemplified, 'The violence inherent in the (AF) system' for AF was never really Anarchist nor was it a Federation.   In reality, AF was nothing more than a small authoritarian political party, an ideological sect.

'Anarchist Federation' sounds very open and free – not only libertarian, but a federation composed of independent-minded local branches but the name was always a con, chosen for marketing purposes because the reality was deeply unappealing.  If we go back to 1980 the Supreme Leader’s sect called themselves the Libertarian Communist Group (LCG) with just 16 members who were regarded by most anarchists as at best, 'Anarcho-Trots'.

As if they were determined to rid themselves of the 'Anarcho' part of the label altogether LCG then fused with the Marxist 'Big Flame'!  By 1984 this Great Leap Forward had resulted in a party, BF, with a grand total of 17 members!

The next move was to abandon 'BF' and create the 'Anarchist Communist Federation', but as this moniker proved equally unappealing the sect adopted the more consumer-friendly but utterly deceptive 'Anarchist Federation'.   Anarchism is supposed to be a 'bottom-up' political philosophy, but this wasn’t AF practice.  Firstly there’s the Catechism or core of compulsory beliefs and policies, or 'Platform' as they prefer to call it.  

To join AF you not only had to fully embrace the Platform, but had to have your belief and sincerity tested.  Like the Moonies, a couple of party apparatchiks would call on prospective disciples to test out your worthiness before you were anointed with AF membership.  In a rare published interview, in 2003, the Supreme Leader, admitted,  'Each member has to agree with our ideas and is met by AF members before they join'.  Membership came at a cost, a compulsory levy on your income was demanded.  Lapses in regular payment or ideological deviation resulted in denunciation and expulsion.

Of course Comrade Nick Heath never referred to himself as, 'The Supreme Leader', he preferred instead to call himself 'Battle Scarred', but as his militancy was confined to a liking for abusive language and a career as a librarian perhaps he meant, 'Battle Scared'.

KIM JONG HEATH will doubtless come up with some new mini-political party although, rather amusingly, at the moment he calls his faction, 'Communist Anarchists',  whilst his Leicester ex-Politiburo associate names his faction, 'Anarchist Communists' !  A Federation of two.

There is a positive role for a genuine, open, bottom-up, 'Anarchist Federation' to play in Britain.  Perhaps the faction continuing the title, cleansed of the Supreme Leader’s sub-Marxist faction might fulfil that role but first they’ll have to ditch an awful inheritance of dishonest and authoritarian practice.  

Their published support for the violent disruption of the Bookfair suggests the new AF is no better than the old and in this instance Bakunin’s familiar aphorism seems appropriate:
 'The urge to destroy (the AF) is a creative urge.'


Friday, 19 January 2018

Why a Minister for Loneliness?

By Les May

MOST of us have felt lonely at some time in our lives but last year a commission found that nearly nine million people in this country either often, or always, feel loneliness.  So when Theresa May said a few days ago  'I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with',  I think she should be applauded.

For once it's right to say 'throwing money at the problem isn't the answer'. Giving money is the easy bit.   Giving time is the thing that is hard.  Ultimately the success of this initiative is going to depend on the willingness of volunteers to do just that.

Recently I met an enthusiastic young woman working in a building society who has decided not to let her university education in Art and Drama go to waste and who is giving up some of her free time to use these skills to help others gain the confidence to interact with others.

You can see something of what she is trying to do at the Rochdale Apna Ghar KYP centre on Wednesday 31 January 2018 at 6pm. (01706) 630 140 and

'Deep Throat' Delivers Rebuke

Who Knew What About Carillion?

Editor:  The observations below appeared in a post on the Alan Wainwright Blog yesterday.  It makes serious claims that the characters named were aware of the situation regarding Carillion.  Northern Voices is not in a position to judge the validity of what Alan Wainwright is saying.  But we believe Mr. Wainwright ought to be listened to.  In 2007, Mr. Wainwright performed the role of the 'Deep Throat' in the context of the blacklist in the British building trade.  Without the help of the whistle-blower Wainwright, the blacklist would very likely never have been exposed.

Thursday, 18 January 2018:


Theresa May, Greg Clark, Margot James - Government

John McDonnell - Land of Make Believe

Aidan Kehoe - Chief Executive Liverpool Royal Hospital

Board of Directors - Liverpool Football Club

Steve Rotheram MP 

Philip Green, Keith Cochrane, Steve Mogford, Andrew Dougal, Alison Horner, Ceri Powell - All Carillion

& many others
I was National Labour Manager at Carillion for seven years, reporting directly to the managing directors. With responsibility for around 2,500 mechanical and electrical operatives and a £60 million annual labour bill, I had access to key financial personnel and the relevant financials.

This post should be read in conjunction with the other Carillion Lies posts HERE.

As you will see from the three letters to Philip Green, Keith Cochrane and the other Carillion non-execs, John McDonnell was also copied in the correspondence and I have alerted both him directly and his team on many occasions to my concerns about Carillion.

McDonnell ignores me, as I continue to campaign to expose the trade union officials involved in the blacklisting, and current senior trade union leaders such as McCluskey, Cartmail and Beckett who ignore all the evidence I've presented to them about this and Unites cover up of the blacklisting back in 2006 to protect the millions they were receiving from the construction companies at the time, which is detailed HERE.

As no one was responding to the very serious concerns I was raising about Carillion, I asked my MP David Hanson to get involved and set out all the correspondence between him and Theresa May, Greg Clark, Margot James. No 10 and John McDonnell below.

David Hanson to Theresa May - 18 October 2016 (download link)

David Hanson write to the PM, highlighting my correspondence to Philip Green (and the other Carillion non-execs) and questioning his suitability to advise the PM on Corporate Social Responsibility. Theresa May punts this off to Greg Clark on 28 October 2016.

David Hanson to Greg Clark - 10 January 2017 (download link)

David Hanson follows this up with Greg Clark on 10 January 2017, as no response had been received to date.

Margot James to David Hanson - 22 February 2017 (download link)

Margot James responds on behalf of Clark, stating that Mr Green was appointed by the previous PM, David Cameron and that she had been advised by No10 that he no longer held the position.

David Hanson to Theresa May - 17 March 2017 (download link)

David Hanson writes to Theresa May highlighting further questions from me about Mr Green and steps taken to ensure he was suitable for the role as Special Adviser on Corporate Social Responsibility.

David Hanson to John McDonnell - 17 March 2017 (download link)

David Hanson writes to John McDonnell, highlighting my letters to him from January, March and April 2016 and asking what steps he had taken in relation to the concerns raised about Carillion.

McDonnell ignores him for months, so I ask David to chase this up, which he did. McDonnell eventually responds by email on 2 August 2017 stating: 
'In response to the correspondence from your constituent Mr Wainwright, I was working on the basis from his past correspondence that Mr Wainwright had expressed such a virulent lack of confidence in me that he was continuing to pursue his concerns via yourself as his constituency MP.'

McDonnell had been aware of the fact that Carillion had blatantly lied to the City, their clients, shareholders and employees, and a parliamentary select committee since January 2016 and his first response 18 months later is that?

The response didn't even make sense, as I only contacted David Hanson for help as McDonnell had been ignoring me all this time.

10 Downing Street to David Hanson - 13 June 2017 (download link)

Andrew Paterson responds to the above 17 March 2017 letter to Theresa May, but does not provide the information requested.

So everyone knew about Carillion Lies and the fact that Howson & Co were prepared to lie to their clients, shareholders and employees, and a parliamentary select committee, but nobody did anything about it.

This Cotton-Built Town

Poem sent to Northern Voices by the Rochdalianm, Trevor Hoyle.

[after Betjeman.  A long way after]

It once were great, this cotton-built town
A grand night out for half-a-crown,
Go out now you get knocked down
Or summat worse.

We had cobbles and ginnels and gaslit streets,
A clip round th’ear from bobbies on beats.
No muggers or druggies, no benefits cheats,
Our nation’s curse.

Gradely folk they were back then
Slogged all week at mill for six-pound-ten:
Lancashire’s best – la crème de la crème,
Gone and forgot.

Walk down Drake Street now and weep
For Ivesons, Fashion Corner, the Carlton creep,
The legacy of civic pride sold cheap.
Who gives a jot?

It’s council top brass in the main
Who’ve least to lose and most to gain.
(1st class seats on the gravy train!)
Just hear their cries:

Sack the workers but keep the bosses!
That’s the way to cut the losses!
And round our necks like albatrosses
Hang the PFIs.

And where do all our taxes go?
You must be joking – don’t you know?
On bods with clipboards on go slow,
On Manchester Road –

Where roundabouts once did the job
The planners have incensed the mob,
Who write in fury to the Ob:
“Stop this load

Of nonsense, quick, it’s puerile,
Are they trying to compete in style
With illuminations on’t Golden Mile
And make things worse?”

Come, gentle Kong, and dump on Dale
Bury it deep so it can’t inhale.
Beyond a joke, beyond the pale,
Armpit of the universe.


Northern Buildings at Risk:

From HUT Newsletter - Thursday 18 January 2018:

Building of the month - Hexham Workhouse, Northumberland 

THE Hexham Union at Peth Head was erected in 1839, and is an early example of a purpose-built workhouse complex with large parts of the original buildings surviving.

Located within the Hexham Conservation Area, the buildings have been unoccupied since September 2015 and have suffered from neglect and vandalism. The council took action in 2017 to force the owner to repair a collapsed wall and clear some of the debris from the site, but the buildings remain at risk with an uncertain future.

A group of Hexham residents would like to convert the workhouse buildings into genuinely affordable community-led housing, and they are encouraging the County Council to acquire the site through compulsory purchase. For more information click here.


Thursday, 18 January 2018

'Construction News' on a quiet site today

A GROUP of birds are flying around three Carillion cranes which stand abandoned on a site in central London.

One hovers and eventually lands on top of the middle crane’s arm. The cab appears empty. After a while, the bird flies off. I wonder whether this is the most action the site has seen all week.
I ask the site’s security team, who seems to be closely monitoring who’s going in and out of the site office, whether work is ongoing. He replies, with a bitter laugh: 'No way man.  There’s been no work on here for days.'

One construction worker, working on a separate project over the road, tells me the site has been left empty for days.  “We haven’t seen anything happening since the beginning of the week.  It’s a mess.'

It’s a similar scenario in Carillion’s offices in London.  I went to see if the contractor could provide any answers, any information at all, about the chaos and confusion that has erupted following Monday’s announcement.

Surprisingly, a handful of people were still working. But the fact that a journalist can walk unannounced into the offices of a business that has suffered such a high-profile liquidation says it all.
People seem at a loss of what to do. I wander round the empty kitchen and communal workspaces.  It feels like I am standing on the decks of a sinking ship.

I walk up to reception. Is there anyone who can help with media enquiries, I ask. 'No,' replies one receptionist.  'There’s no one.'

This summarises perfectly the situation in which hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves following the contractor’s collapse.

Carillion’s 19,500 UK workers have been told they will be paid until the end of January, but what happens after this is unknown.

Tens of thousands of subcontractors have been left in the dark about whether they will see any of the money they are due – or what will happen to their retentions.

In some cases, it can be easy to forget the impact a business can have on its workforce, stakeholders and suppliers. But in the case of Carillion, the human impact has dominated.
One Carillion pensioner says he thinks his pension may be cut by 10 per cent following the collapse. He raises an interesting point about how the auditing system has failed throughout this whole catastrophe.

'Senior people have been paid a lot since they have left the company. And yes, I think my pension will be cut by 10 per cent, but the story will come out in the wash,” he says. 'The key point is that we, the public, government, investors – everyone – should be able to rely on the audit process.'

He says it would be “ludicrous to think that these losses were accrued between the audit in December 2016 to the audits during the summer of 2017'

'Instead, these losses will have been accrued over a number of years,” he continues. “We rely on the auditors – who should be holding the company’s feet to the fire and weren’t.'

Despite the impact Carillion’s demise will have on him, he is refreshingly optimistic.
Instead of bearing resentment, he says the focus should be looking forward to how the industry can learn from these catastrophic mistakes and make sure they won’t happen again.

His comments are an example of the resilience of those who have or are working in such a volatile industry as construction. Support shown for others is sometimes astounding in times of real trouble. Never before has this been demonstrated so clearly than in the past few days.

Construction firms have been reaching out to those affected by Carillion’s demise, offering opportunities to discuss careers at their companies as well as messages of support.
In such worrying times for those who have families to feed and bills to pay, just a few kind words from others can be invaluable.

The Carillion catastrophe will roll on, but it is important we look forward and think about how we can operate best as a whole industry.
Lucy Alderson, features writer, Construction News

Manchester Mears Group Strike explained

NV Editorial comment on Mears dispute:  Dave Smith, joint secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, wrote to a shop steward involved in the strike at Mears Group plc [see e-mail below].  Mears is a housing repair and maintenance body.  The Mears workers walked out in a strike over pay and conditions, begining with a 48-hour stoppage on the 16th, November 2017.  Some  180 Unite members who work at Mears in Manchester and at 'Manchester Working', a joint venture organisation operated by Mears, voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot last in October 2017.  The affected employees undertake housing maintenance work across 12,000 properties managed by the housing association Northwards, via a contract tendered by Manchester council.
The dispute seems to be complicated by the fact that  Manchester City Council was in the process of breaking up the joint venture company and much of the workforce has been TUPE – [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations] transferred to Mears.In the run-up to the TUPE transfer in January 2017, Mears reneged on a previous commitment to tackle pay differentials.  In the run-up to the TUPE transfer in January 2017, Mears reneged on a previous commitment to tackle pay differentials.  
The new contract the Mears workforce are expected to follow demands a more flexible approach to shift working, additional working hours and days as well as greater use of technology, without any real increase in pay.  Mears is also seeking to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which is effectively a ‘sackers charter’ and has been pressurising the workforce into accepting poorer conditions regarding sick pay and vehicle policies.
 Even before the collapse of Carillion, the workforce was disappointed with the attitude of Manchester City Council, which was aware of the ongoing problems at Manchester Working but went ahead with the TUPE process regardless.

Hi people,

SEE below email from the steward at Mears who are building workers in Manchester who have been on strike for the past 8 weeks now.   I've only just really heard about the dispute, so forgive me if its a really big deal up in the North West..  Any chance some of you guys contacting him and hopefully organizing some solidarity?

Hi Dave,

Unfortunately, Brother we are still very much out.

We are in our 7th week of a 12 week Strike Action with work only being undertaken on a Wednesday. This is our second wave of action in the same dispute.  Back in May 2017 we had our first 12 week strike that ended in 24/7 action against the companies MWL (a JVC) and Mears.

Any show of Solidarity is food for our members here in Manchester, be it a financial donation or just a message of support to remind us we are not alone.  This has been a difficult Winter for all involved in the action with Christmas falling within the period of action.  Truly a testing time for our members, there spouses and dependants.

Our Fighting Fund has helped releave the pressure on many of our younger members who are sole income householders woth young families and large mortgages.

One of my fellow Workplace Reps William Sinclair became a victim of Blacklisting here in Manchester back in the day.  He tells me how he had to find alternative employment away from the Building Trade at that time. Appalling.

Your Solidarity is greatly appreciated Dave and any monies raised will continue to go to those members in need to help bolster our resolve and prevent any considerations of a return to work through hardship. Our fund details are....

UCATT UD.393 Manchester 1st Branch
Sort Code  60-83-01
Account no.  46034412

Col Pitt

BLACK MEN WALKING at Royal Exchange


INSPIRED by a real-life Black men’s walking group based in Sheffield, BLACK MEN WALKING has been conceived by Eclipse in collaboration with Leeds-based rapper, singer, producer and performer Testament. Directed by Eclipse Theatre’s artistic director Dawn Walton, this new work mixes dramatic story-telling with original music written by Testament and performed by a four-person cast. An Eclipse Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production, BLACK MEN WALKING will premiere on January 18th, 2018 at the Royal Exchange Theatre before embarking on a UK tour.
Thomas, Matthew and Richard meet every month as part of a walking group to explore the dramatic landscape of the Peak District, Yorkshire. On this particular trip, the rest of group cancels and it soon feels like maybe they should have done too. The men find themselves forced to walk backwards through two thousand years of Black history, embarking on a dangerous journey that invokes an element of the supernatural, an encounter with the spirits of their ancestors and an exploration of what it means to be both Black and British today.
A rising star in the theatre landscape, Testament was most recently acclaimed for his one-man show about feminism, WOKE, which fused powerful first-person narrative with his signature beat-boxing and rapping. The walking group which inspired the production was founded in 2004 by a group of men of African and African-Caribbean heritage who started walking for health, wellbeing and camaraderie.
The cast includes Tyrone Huggins as Thomas (THE TEMPEST - Improbable/Northern Stage/Oxford Playhouse) Trevor Laird as Matthew (ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS - National Theatre) and Tonderai Munyevu as Richard (SIZWE BANZI IS DEAD - Eclipse Theatre Company / Young Vic co-production). Completing the cast is Dorcas Sebuyange (Hayleigh in THE ELASTICATED SOUND SYSTEM - 20 Storeys High).
BLACK MEN WALKING, the first work to be staged as part of the company’s ground-breaking REVOLUTION MIX movement will deliver the largest ever national programme of Black British stories produced and performed in UK theatres.
Eclipse Artistic Director Dawn Walton commented:
'This powerful story perfectly encompasses everything the Rev Mix movement stands for; turning the spotlight onto Britain’s missing Black history with a piece inspired by real people and real events. It is so important that these stories are told, especially when you look at the recent online backlash faced by Mary Beard who was accused of ‘re-writing history’ by pointing out the ethnic diversity of Roman Britain. This reaction is evidence of a real lack of understanding about our true British heritage. Open a history book and you’ll see that the Roman empire, Britain included, featured people from Ethiopia, Algeria and beyond.
'One of the earliest influences for Revolution Mix was Peter Fryer’s seminal book, ‘Staying Power’, which unearths a compelling history of Black people in Britain over the last 2,000 years. The opening line of the book is ‘There were Africans in Britain before the English came here.” That one statement is so wonderfully provocative and for me, it set the wheels in motion for us to produce a body of work that will bring to stage and screen an erased history.  This is just the first of several new works from Revolution Mix set to tour in 2018, which is also the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Windrush, a milestone which is often celebrated as the start of modern multicultural Britain. Acting as the antithesis to this, Revolution Mix will delve deeper to explore Black British history long before, and since,  Windrush, offering a new perspective and insight into the full Black British experience.'
Black Men Walking will run until 3rd February 2018 at the Royal Exchange Theatre, before embarking on a UK-wide tour including Belgrade Theatre, Coventry; Northern Stage, Newcastle; West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds; Hull Truck Theatre; Nottingham Playhouse; The Arnolfini, Bristol; Theatre Clwyd, Wales; Royal Court Theatre, London; Sheffield Crucible Theatre; Salisbury Playhouse; The North Wall, Oxford and Unity Theatre, Liverpool.

Carillion collapses! Tameside Council says it's "business as usual."

It's Business As Usual But Where Are The Workers?

If Tameside Labour controlled council are to believed, the one thing that is not in short supply in this crumbling industrial wasteland, is VISION! But given this vision, they were totally unprepared for the predicted collapse of their partner 'Carillion', the construction giant that became insolvent on Monday.

Despite the collapse of Carillion, which runs a number of services for Tameside Council, such as school meals, project design and construction, events and facilities management, the council say that it is "business as usual" and that Carillion is continuing to "operate as normal", after going into liquidation earlier this week. 

Following the collapse of the "too big to fail" construction company, Tameside Council sent out emails to employees of Carillion working on council contracts advising them that they should continue to report for work and would be paid at the end of the month. Who is going to pick up the bill for this, isn't clear, because the Government have said they wouldn't be bailing out Carillion. Nor is it clear, what the situation will be for Carillion workers after the end of the month. However, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said that the government will continue to pay the wages of the Carillion employees providing public services.

In 2011, Tameside Council employees working for facilities management, were transferred to Carillion under a TUPE arrangement whether they liked it or not. At the time, they were told by Cllr Dave Sweeton, that this new "Service Delivery Model" would secure jobs and services and cut costs. Yet, only this week, Cllr John Bell, the Conservative leader of the opposition told a local newspaper that there had never been any proper oversight or scrutiny to hold the council to account and that there was no way of ensuring the public were getting value for money. Cllr Bell said: 

"The whole thing has been managed unprofessionally - they are like a bunch of Arthur Daley's if you ask me, they really are."

As previously reported, contractors who reported to work on Monday, were told by security staff that they were being denied access to the new council office complex still under construction on Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne. However, a council spokesman told the local press that "work would continue on site." When NV visited the site today (Thursday), workers were conspicuous by their absence. A lone security guard, refused to answer questions and scarpered off like a sewer rat up a drain pipe.

Cllr John Bell feels that Tameside Council in their relationship with Carillion, put far too many eggs in one basket and that the chickens have now come home to roost. He said:
"Tameside's relationship with Carillion is greater than with any other authority in Greater Manchester."

One suspects that few people will be duped by Tameside Council's reassurances of "business as usual" and that worse is yet to come as this fiasco unravels.

Councillor Quinn on the Carillion connection

 'Changing Dynamic[s]' in build trade!
NV Editor: The story below shows an interview last September between the leader of Tameside Council / chairman of Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and the Construction News journalist Charlie Schouten, in which Councillor Quinn argued for closer association between 'London-based businesses.....they like talking to people like us; they see an opportunity here,' and people like him.  And then tellingly he adds:  
'If they [companies like Carillion] can come into partnership with us, it de-risks it for them.'
LAST September Kieran Quinn, who died on Xmas Day, gave an interview to Construction News in which he related his ideas on the strategies of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund [GMPF] to the journalist Charles Schouten over lunch in the 19th century Midland Hotel. 

A former postal worker Mr Quinn, who holds down the job as GMPF chair with other tasks including the executive leader of Tameside Council and a place on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the scheme sums up his ambitions to make the fund a much more active player in not just in the local economy, but nationally, too.

Part of that, he said, is the shift in relationships between funders and contractors.
'We’ve started to have much more of a conversation with contractors because we want to take more direct holdings in projects,' he says.
'It also means that the relationship between contractor and funder becomes much more powerful.'

The GMPF fund, chaired last September by Quinn represents all 10 local authorities in the Greater Manchester area, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members.   It was one of the key funders behind One St Peter’s Square after investing £10m in the scheme, which was completed by Carillion in 2014.  The scheme is typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declined to reveal what the fund’s return on the development is.

As Construction News sits down to talk to Mr Quinn in Manchester’s grand 19th century Midland Hotel, the venue seems slightly out-of-kilter with our discussion, particularly as the GMPF has helped to fund some of the projects in the last decade that have made the city one of the UK’s fastest growing.

The fund, which represents all 10 local authorities in the region, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members

The Farmer Review – Modernise or Die – published roughly a year ago, argued for radical changes in the construction industry.

Among the most controversial of these – and one that has since been rejected by the government – was the introduction of a client charge to help fund areas like innovation and skills.
The idea that clients should help take the lead on areas such as training, innovation and skills alongside main contractors is hardly a new one, but the calls for closer collaboration are continuing; perhaps a reflection of the relatively slow progress being made.
But what if collaboration and best practice could start at an even earlier stage?
That’s precisely the argument that Kieran Quinn, chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, is trying to make.
Funders and financers typically take a back seat in projects; particularly when it comes to conversations with main contractors.
But as Mr Quinn argues – should that now be ripe for a change?

Changing the dynamic

As Construction News sits down to talk to Mr Quinn in Manchester’s grand 19th century Midland Hotel, the venue seems slightly out-of-kilter with our discussion, particularly as the GMPF has helped to fund some of the projects in the last decade that have made the city one of the UK’s fastest growing.
The fund, which represents all 10 local authorities in the region, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members.
It was one of the key funders behind One St Peter’s Square (pictured, below) after investing £10m in the scheme, which was completed by Carillion in 2014. The scheme is typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declines to reveal what the fund’s return on the development is.
But for former postal worker Mr Quinn, who juggles his role as GMPF chair with others including the executive leader of Tameside Council and a place on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the scheme sums up his ambitions to make the fund a much more active player in not just the local economy, but nationally, too.
Part of that, he says, is changing the relationship between funders and contractors.
'We’ve started to have much more of a conversation with contractors because we want to take more direct holdings in projects,' he says.
“It also means that the relationship between contractor and funder becomes much more powerful.”
He uses the Airport City scheme – in which GMPF holds a 10 per cent stake alongside Manchester Airports Group and construction partners Carillion and Chinese firm BCEGI – as an example of the more traditional one-step-removed relationship between funders/contractors.
In that instance, he says, the fund has had “few direct conversations” with either Carillion or BCEGI due to its small holding in the project.
But that is now changing, and the new view is one of Mr Quinn’s fundamental aims for the pension fund.
'Our expectation now is to have a much more direct relationship with the contractor, or whoever is managing, overseeing and delivering the project,' he says.
'That’s not normally how pension funds would take things forward, but we’re now starting to change that; for example on two of our schemes, we have someone on the board, so we’re starting to change the dynamic.'

Fair contracts, fair payment

He adds that part of that approach is getting involved at a much earlier stage – so not just by having an influence over project funding, but also its tender documents.
“Pension funds like to have a stake when a project is completed, but they prefer not to have a stake when something is still in the ground. Again, we want to change that,” he says.
It’s not much of a surprise that social value and fair payment are two of Mr Quinn’s areas of interest here – after all, he has been active in the Communications Workers’ Union for more than 30 years. But he wants to make it a core part of the pension fund’s activities on future projects.
'A lot of councils have been focusing on social value for a while; as a pension fund we make significant investments, so why do we not say, as part of that relationship with contractors, that we expect the same sort of social value?' he says.
The fund is already putting this into practice, starting with One St Peter’s.
“As part of our discussions around One St Peter’s Square, we put social value [in the tender]; the number of apprentices, the number of local businesses, the geographic links to the centre,” he explains.
'All the things that you think would be commonplace in a council tender are now becoming commonplace in the pensions world, and we’re at the forefront of that.'
When CN points out that it’s not always easy to keep a lid on main contractors’ and subcontractors’ payment terms, he agrees that there is “no magic wand', but argues that fair payment has to start at the top.
'It starts with strong auditing of our contracts,' he says.
'We shouldn’t hide away because ‘that’s just how [main contractors] work’; a lot of these financial mechanisms are a way to abuse the system.'
Part of this approach has now led to the fund exploring 28-day payment terms for all its projects, although Mr Quinn again admits that it may prove difficult to enforce – making the issue of contract auditing “all the more fundamental'.
'We know that we’ll sign [28-day payment] as part of our contract, but [main contractors] will subcontract out parts of the project and that’s where [those payment terms] start to get filtered out.
“Conversations on fair payment are absolutely relevant and we’re prepared to have them; it’s also exactly the right thing for the pension fund to get involved with.'
Again, he admits it may be “beyond the reach and authority of a pension fund” to stop poor payment practices – that, he argues, should start at the very top with central government – but ensuring it is stamped out from any GMPF contract is his first step.
So what about the GMPF’s future pipeline?
On this, Mr Quinn gets straight to the point:  'There’s no conversation we’re not prepared to have'.
The fund has already restarted its stalled office scheme in the centre of Manchester, which it is aiming to get underway in 2019.
The GMPF is now looking to form a joint venture with a developer to bring forward the 55,025 sq ft Island Site development on John Dalton Street in Manchester city centre, after having purchased the three buildings on the site – Ridgefield, Old Colony House and Grange House – for an undisclosed sum in 2011.
He says that this scheme will be on a similar scale to One St Peter’s Square once complete, giving the city a major new landmark office development in the process.
On top of that, the Fund is 'actively seeking' more similar projects to invest in, particularly in Manchester, with more and more firms casting their eyes north for office space and investment.
'I’m having a lot of conversations with plenty of London-based businesses that want to come to Greater Manchester because they like talking to people like us; they see an opportunity here,' says Mr Quinn.
“If they can come into partnership with us, it de-risks it for them.”
And Mr Quinn doesn’t want to just limit the fund’s activities to the commercial world; its ambitions stretch into both infrastructure and housing.
For infrastructure investments, Mr Quinn again wants the fund to take a more active role, particularly with a £500m war chest to play with.
It has partnered with other institutions, including the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA), to back a number of schemes. These include rail schemes in Norfolk, and large-scale wind farm project in Strathclyde where it is a 45 per cent equity holder, in a joint venture with the LPFA.
Alongside the LPFA, the GMPF has taken a £150m stake in SSE’s Clyde windfarm, which is one of the largest onshore ones in Europe.
Mr Quinn says that this high-profile investment is exactly what the GMPF should be aiming for.
“The UK pension world doesn’t need to play second fiddle to Canadian funds; we should have the ambition and drive ourselves to have direct conversations on investment,” he argues.
While he says infrastructure can be a “marmite” subject for funds – “either you love it and want it as an active part of your portfolio; or you hate it and don’t want anything to do with it, because it’s too complex, too costly, and the returns are unclear” – it forms a core part of GMPF’s ambitions.
That could even stretch to one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country: the TransPennine Tunnel.

Investing in infrastructure

Sealing the business case and getting the tunnel under way is one of Mr Quinn’s key ambitions, particularly with one of the proposed routes for the £6bn tunnel passing through his home territory of Tameside.
'You’re looking at linking six to eight million people together, so if anything, the argument for the tunnel has been under-played,' he says.
'If we’re really talking about releasing the potential of the North, and creating a link between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and beyond, then the tunnel has to play a part.
'Every economic assessment I’ve seen – admittedly drafts and guesstimates – have said that the economic benefits that will be released from that connectivity are huge, so we’ll continue to press its case.'
It’s here that Mr Quinn outlines the scale of GMPF’s ambition: 'if the circumstances were right, we could be an equity holder in the tunnel', he says.
“Even if we commit £500m, that’s under 1 per cent of our holdings – it’s not as if we’re raiding the piggy bank to get those funds.
“We’re keeping it well within the normal risk parameters of a pension fund, but it gives us a brand new opportunity to do things much more large scale, and much more direct.”
And while he admits investing in the tunnel in the near future might be unlikely, it shows that shifts in the way pension funds work is one of the changes that contractors will need to be aware – and take advantage of – when opportunities arise.
For Mr Quinn, it’s about not only helping Greater Manchester grow, but grow in the right way.
'One of my pleasures of acting as GMPF chairman is using workers’ money to invest in the city they work in,' he says, 'and there will be plenty more investment to come'

Who 'exposed blacklisting'?

A London Centric Re-writing of History.
National Shop Stewards Network [NSSN] 16, JAN 2018;

THIS week the National Shop Steward's Network Bulletin reported on the current Carillion scandal that the BLACKLIST SUPPORT GROUP [BSG 'exposed blacklisting employers such as Carillion through a heroic campaign.'  

This is not true, because when the blacklist was first exposed the BSG didn't exist.  The NSSN say this because they are predisposed to a London centric analysis.

The BSG was only founded after the blacklist had been recognised by the chairman of an Employment Tribunal in the case of .Acheson & others v the electrical engineer for sub contractor Logic in 2007.   At that time Dave Smith, the national secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, has, I believe, made clear that he did not know about the blacklist until 2009,

The wrong-headed paragraph, which foolishly re-writes the history, from the NSSN newsletter is below:

'The Blacklist Support Group exposed blacklisting employers such as Carillion through a heroic campaign. We support their call that “the government should bail out the NHS not Carillon or their bankers. The government should nationalise Carillon now at the current market value of their shares (nothing) and go further by banning all of the construction companies involved in the blacklisting human rights conspiracy from any publicly funded contracts.”
This scandal shows once and for all that the parasitic privateer companies must be forced out of the NHS and the rest of the public sector. Last summer - porters, cleaners and domestics went on strike at Serco in Royal Barts NHS Trust. One of their main demands was to be again directly employed by the NHS.'

The exposure of the blacklist in the British building trade came about owing to the relentless efforts of what Derek Pattison and Brian Bamford as officers of Tameside TUC described in their book as 'The Boys on the Blacklist'.  This publication outlines the early campaigns in Manchester in Crown Square, and outside Manchester Royal Infirmary by a handful of local electricians.  If it hadn't been for the tenacity of these northern lads, members of the EPIU NW 1400/7 branch of what was in 2003 the Transport & General Workers Union, and is now the Greater Manchester Construction Branch, Alan Wainwright the Carillion whistle-blower wouldn't have contacted the secretary of the above branch leading directly to the case at the Manchester Employment Tribunal in which the existence of the blacklist was finally recognised:  see link below.

Read more on how thw blacklist in the British building trade was exposed:

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Carillion Crash follows death of Councillor Quinn

'He hath put down the mighty from [their] seats, and exalted them of low degree' 
(Luke 1:52: King James Bible)

To see readable press cuttings left click on image

GOD KNOWS BEST!  What need be there for anarchist assassins when the Gods are so clearly on the side of the righteous?  When the market so mercilessly murders those who most worship it.

Many blacklisted electricians and other building workers must be feeling chuffed today, as the news breaks of the expected collapse of leading construction company Carillion PLC.  They will feel that there is some justice in the world,

In May 2016, Carillion was one of a range of building firms which issued an apology in the high court in London, admitting that since the late 1960s they had been 'involved in secretly collecting, storing and distributing among themselves information about workers who had, or who were applying for, work in the construction industry'.

At the time this cohort of blacklisters said:   'The simple purpose of this operation was to create a database of information to vet particular workers in the construction industry.'  The firms accepted that 'their secret vetting operation should never have happened.   It caused harm to the employment opportunities of many workers.  The secret nature of the operation meant that those on the database had no way of establishing whether they were included in it, or any chance to challenge the information that was kept and available for dissemination.'

The firms – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – told the court that they hoped their apology meant that 'this matter can be treated as a closed chapter'.

The Road to the Blacklist

Carillion was created in 1999 by the famous road surfacing business Tarmac in a demerger.  Today, it employs 19,500 people in the UK alone, and is based in Wolverhampton.

Carillion's major projects have included 'the doughnut' - the iconic circular office building of the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) - completed in 2003.   Alongside new facilities for the Royal Opera House, Carillion completed the Tate Modern in London in 2000.
Its other projects have included the Grand Mosque in Oman, completed in 2001, as well as an expansion to Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium in 2016.

The company’s extensive expansion into acquiring outsourced public sector contracts means that as well as construction staff, the workforce also includes hospital cleaners, prison maintenance workers, port staff and workers in the energy and utilities sector.

Only today Unite's assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, will have had these workers in mind when she said:
'The Carillion crisis has become a major story but it must not be allowed to go over the heads of its loyal workforce, who are effectively being held hostage by the whims of the market.
'Carillion can’t keep its workforce in the dark any longer it needs to clearly tell them and their union representatives, how they are trying to overcome the current problems, with an honest assessment of what the future holds.'
'We underwent a vigorous and lengthy process to ensure that the right contractor (Carillion) was selected for the construction of One St Peter’s Square.
'Experience, reputation and ability to deliver were of paramount importance as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed within the projected time frame.'

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund, formally administered by Tameside Borough Council, represents all 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members

Quinn has been in-bed with the Carillion blacklisters, both in terms of Tameside Labour Council's long local partnership with what some financial pundits are now calling a 'structurally unstable' company, but also regionally in Greater Manchester, as chair of Greater Manchester Pension Fund [GMPF], in which as recent as last September, he was calling for closer relations with the company.  We don't know how heavily invested the GMPF is in Carillion, especially because sources close to Tameside Council have told Northern Voices that Tameside Council's deals with Carillion were conducted 'behind closed doors' by a tiny clique of councillors and officers.  As I write this other sources are saying that their is talk of engaging another contractor to replace Carillion in Tameside or of bringing estate management services back in-house.
Given what's happening now, it looks like Councillor Quinn picked a convenient time to leave this mortal coil.  At least he escaped the current wrekage of Carillion.
Tameside Trades Union Council anxious about Carillion deal

The scheme 'One St Peter’s Square' Quinn promoted was typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declines to reveal to  Charlie Schouten what the fund’s return on the development was.

'Pension funds like to have a stake when a project is completed, but they prefer not to have a stake when something is still in the ground.  Again, we want to change that,' he says.

Yet what Kieran Quinn ought to have known was the contents of the Farmer Review which was published in October 2016 by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC);  Mark Farmer in this review of the UK Construction Labour Model stated:   'This review adopts a structure of evaluating he construction industry’s current and future state which has a strong medical process analogy'.

Mr. Farmer illustrated the ongoing problems and dangers in the British building trade: 
'The evidence reviewed indicates that the construction industry and its labour model is at a critical crossroads in terms of its long-term health.  Whilst the diagnosis points to a deep-seated market failure, there are certain industry trends and wider societal changes happening now that represent both unprecedented risk and opportunity for the industry and its clients.  If the opportunities are not harnessed, the risks may become overwhelming.  The prognosis for the industry, if action is not taken quickly, is that it will become seriously debilitated.  It is facing challenges that have not been seen before, which create an absolute imperative for change.  Previous calls to arms have not been acted on by the industry or its clients at any real scale and somehow the industry has continued to "muddle through".' **

The snag with Carillion is that its plans were based on continuing growth and its strategy fuel by debt to the banks, But what must not now happen is that the tax payers bail out the banks and the investors.  The Liberal Democrat leader. Vince Cable, has said that we can't have a situation in which the profits are privatised, while losses are nationalised.

*    Kieran Quinn died on Xmas Day.