Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

foodbank

The following article was sent to us by Nicky Downes, a local teacher and equalities secretary for Coventry NUT.

There will be many children in Coventry counting down the days until they return to school in September. We all assume that children love the freedom of the holidays but if you’re hungry then there is little pleasure in each day.

Teachers in Coventry often have a packet of biscuits in their cupboard and many will have provided a bowl of cereal for a child that has gone without breakfast. At least for all children in Key Stage 1 there is a free hot meal to look forward to at lunchtime during the term. In fact as reported by the Cov Telegraph this week 8368 students in the city are entitled to free school meals. That’s one in every ten children.

Come the holidays free school meals are not available. For some families finding the cost of providing meals for their children for the six week holiday can be a struggle. The Tressell Trust which runs many of Coventry’s foodbanks reported a 17% rise in use over last year’s summer holidays. It is likely to be as high or if not higher this year.

We live in the sixth richest country and still some of our city’s children go hungry over the summer. Despite knowing that for many a free meal in the middle of the day is essential, the Tory government wanted to end free school meals for Key Stage 1 and were quite rightly forced to backtrack. No families should be reliant on foodbanks to fill the gap. It’s a national disgrace.

Coventry teachers join national NUT strike

Coventry teachers join national NUT strike

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Protesting outside the Department for Education building in Coventry

Today saw members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) take industrial action against funding cuts to schools, an increasing workload, and schools using unqualified teachers in order in classrooms in order to save money. Members of the NUT say they will continue to take industrial action demanding no more cuts to funding, so they can continue to provide an outstanding education and support for every child to develop and thrive.

Around 80 teachers and other trade unionists protested outside the Department for Education building in Coventry and at Godiva Statue, as well as holding picket lines at schools across the city.

“The 12% reduction in funding to Coventry schools will devastate education in this city. We will see a possible increase of class sizes to 35 and classes taught by unqualified teachers. Teachers will see their workload further increase and it is intolerable now. More and more teachers will leave teaching either by choice or by being made redundant as schools tighten their belts. Parents should be angry that this will impact on their children’s education.” said Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT equalities officer and Socialist Party member.

Since the Tories came into power we have seen attacks on our education, NHS and other public services across the country. Today it was announced that junior doctors have rejected the imposition of a new contract – the next step should be for them to take strike action alongside teachers, as part of the fight against austerity.

‘No more academies. No more cuts’ A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

‘No more academies. No more cuts’

A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

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Nicky Downes

The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers begins today in Brighton. Socialist Party member and NUT activist Nicky Downes is a delegate from Coventry. Speaking to us whilst travelling to this key meeting of teacher trade unionists she told us

The education system in this country is well and truly broken. We need to fight back just like the junior doctors are doing to save the NHS. If this doesn’t happen we will continue to have a system that values profit above learning. A system that believes anyone can teach and the best education comes from a book or computer programme flogged by Pearson. No more academies. No more cuts. A qualified teacher in every class.

Jane Nellist, also from Coventry, and a member of the national executive of the NUT has written an article calling on the unions to act against the academies onslaught. It can be read here

If you are a teacher and want to link up with Socialist Party members in the NUT, please fill in the form below!

Why we’re protesting against austerity

Why we’re protesting against austerity

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We asked some of the people supporting the anti-austerity protest in Coventry on Wednesday 27th at 5pm in Broadgate why they believe it is important to take part. The protest has been initiated by Youth Fight for Jobs and has the backing of Coventry TUC, Coventry Unison, and Coventry Peoples Assembly.

Here’s what they said.

Non Frenguelli, an 18 year old school student 

Non Frenguelli

Non Frenguelli

“I’m protesting, not only because of the Tories’ previous privatisations of vital services such as the Post Office and the outsourcing of disability benefits to ATOS whose “fitness-for-work” assessment has wreaked havoc for hundreds of disabled people, but also because of the recent announcement to sell £780million of the NHS to 11 private firms. From recent privatisations of the NHS we have seen that it is inefficient and provides poor treatment for patients, further privatisation will be a disaster for the public. Cameron has promised the world’s first seven day healthcare service but that’s an absolute joke if his current plans for mass privatisation go ahead unhindered. My friends and I will be at the protest to show our anger at the government’s austerity plans and to show solidarity to those who are suffering under his regime.”

Sarah Smith, campaigner against library closures

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

“I’m protesting because Coventry Council wants to close Tile Hill library, Sure Start centre and youth centre, which will rip the heart out of this community. Every library outside the City Centre is threatened with closure – we shouldn’t let them close any!”

Nicky Downes, local teacher and TUSC candidate

Nicky Downes

Nicky Downes

“I will be standing alongside young people and students at the protest on Wednesday in defence of education and city services. This government is blaming teachers and schools through unnecessary testing, slashing budgets and enforcing privatisation through academisation. It is doing nothing to improve the life chances of young people or to end child poverty. We did not vote them in and we will fight back against all cuts to jobs and services.”

Aidan O’Toole, a Coventry Uni student

Aidan protesting at Cov Uni

Aidan protesting at Cov Uni

“I’m supporting the protest because young people didn’t cause this crisis, but we’re paying for it. We’ve had tuition fees trebled, EMA taken away and housing benefit for young people slashed. Most of us can’t get jobs, and the jobs we can get are mostly low paid and on zero-hour contracts. Young people didn’t vote for Cameron’s austerity – but teenagers who can’t even vote are going to suffer because of him.”

The protest is on Wednesday May 27th at 5pm in Broadgate. Please join us and build the fightback against austerity!

We encourage people to attend the massive anti austerity demonstration in London on 20th June organised by the People’s Assembly. There will be transport from Coventry, get in touch to find out more.

To put an end to austerity we will need to build a socialist movement to end capitalism. To help us and to get involved, click here 

Socialist campaigns continue after election

Socialist campaigns continue after election

TUSC candidates campaigning in Coventry

TUSC candidates campaigning in Coventry

Socialist candidates and campaigners were out in Coventry City Centre on Saturday continuing the fightback against austerity. We had petitions calling for an end to council cuts, a £10 an hour minimum wage and against parking charges at Walsgrave Hospital.

TUSC candidate for Coventry North East, Nicky Downes, said “Unlike the other parties we don’t stop campaigning on election day – we keep fighting all year round. The fightback against the Tories needs to continue, not wait until the next election!”

Socialist Party members hold campaign stalls every week. If you want to get involved, fill in the form below!

Packed room for Socialist election rally

Packed room for Socialist election rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed into the Methodist Central Hall for the Coventry Socialists pre-election rally with Irish Socialist Party MP Ruth Coppinger last week.

Socialist activist and TUSC candidate for North Warwickshire, Eileen Hunter, opened the rally with some reflections on her campaign in the closest marginal seat in the country. John Boadle from Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax then spoke about the planned eviction of Archie Millar, a Coventry resident hit by the bedroom tax, that was prevented by socialists, TUSC candidates and neighbours. Archie was applauded for his strength in fighting back – community campaigners can win!

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Ruth then spoke about the situation in Ireland, where there has been a mass movement against austerity, including huge demonstrations and non-payment of water charges. She also spoke about the campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on same-sex marriage, and against the ban on abortion. Dave Nellist spoke to close the rally, and addressed a number of issues about cuts and austerity. He pointed out that the £70billion+ in bonuses given out by banks since the financial crisis is equivalent to the cuts made to the public sector, and that the super-rich have increased their wealth in that time – “there’s enough wealth in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands!”

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

The rally showed the potential to build the anti austerity socialist alternative in Coventry, something we will continue to do after the election. The election is on Thursday, but Socialists won’t stop campaigning on Friday morning – we’ll keep fighting all year round. Want to help TUSC? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

No evictions here!

No evictions here!

“Most people know the Bedroom Tax is a bad thing, and all parties except the Tories are committed to repealing it. But unlike the rest the Socialist Party has always made it clear we would do whatever it takes to defend people suffering its effects. Two years ago we set up Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax. We held public meetings with 200 in attendance, lobbied, protested and publicised, gave advice to many, went to tribunals and court hearings. We helped people get thousands of pounds via appeals and Discretionary Payments. We expected eviction attempts would be reached a year or more back, but Housing Associations like Whitefriars have been slow to take that step, not wanting to look like the villains of the piece.

Suddently this changed when Charterhouse resident Archie Millar phoned last week to say he was to be evicted at 10.00 on Monday. Archie has lived on St Margaret Road since 1976, becoming the tenant when his mother passed away nine years ago. He used to work for Parcelforce but is now unemployed, getting £72 JSA plus his rent via Housing Benefit. The Bedroom Tax means a £25 shortfall in that, which he’s expected to meet out of his JSA leaving him with just £47 a week to pay his bills and live on. Clearly that’s impossible and despite making some payments Archie’s £1700 in arrears. He tried everything to come to terms with Whitefriars. They wouldn’t let him move to a smaller place because he’s in arrears (talk about Catch-22!) and blocked him taking in a lodger even though that was endorsed at a court hearing. Eviction would leave Archie homeless. He tried Welfare Rights advice but all they could offer was the phone number for the Salvation Army and the RSPCA for his dog.

We couldn’t let that happen. Our resources are fully committed to the TUSC election campaign, but we got to work on helping Archie. Dave Nellist approached Whitefriars with a detailed proposal but to no avail, and we organised a protest and media coverage over the course of a weekend. We contacted scores of Party members and other volunteers and about 30 people assembled outside Archie’s house in time to confront the Whitefriars representative, bailiffs, locksmith,  and eventually two vanloads of police who took position scattered along the other side of the road.

The protesters included trade unionists, students and local residents. Some neighbours turned out because they knew Archie, others just because they know what’s right. Archie commented ‘I never knew there were so many good people around’. We packed into the front garden and on the pavement, Archie was in his house with the door firmly locked and a burly trade unionist outside! The protest was deliberately kept peaceful and disciplined to avoid the police intervening. But the atmosphere was determined and excited, with placards, the TUSC banner, laughter and chatter. The media turned up and were very helpful, filming, photographing and interviewing throughout.

Sarah Smith, a Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax organiser and TUSC candidate in Woodlands, pointed out that CABT called for Whitefriars and other social landlords to implement a non-eviction policy for bedroom tax arrears two years ago! She said “Labour claim they’re against the bedroom tax – if that’s the case, why haven’t the three Coventry Labour councillors on the board of Whitefriars stood up and opposed Archie’s eviction, and any others?”

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

The forces on the other side of the road were obviously a lot less cheerful, realising they were not going to get Archie out without a struggle and the world’s worst publicity. The stand-off continued for an hour. During that time Dave Nellist negotiated with Whitefriars, whose bosses were clearly finding themselves in an unfamiliar and awkward position, under the glare of the media spotlight, anxious to find a way out without appearing to back down too much. Finally they called the eviction off and the bailiffs’ van sped away past the protestors, to a chorus of cheers and jeers. We got Archie out, thanked everyone and ended the successful protest, proud of showing what solidarity and people power can do.

What next? Well Whitefriars are suspending their action until June now, while a long-term solution is found. This should have happened before, but Archie would have been out on the street without our action. We expect something acceptable will be found, negotiating with Whitefriars and the Council, especially in the context of the Bedroom Tax’s forthcoming abolition. But if not, we’ll be back. Media coverage since Monday has been very complete, with reports from the Coventry Telegraph, Coventry Observer, BBC Coventry and Warwick radio, Free Radio and BBC Midlands Today. The latter posted a video of the protest on Facebook which has had almost 300,000 views! They commented that this shows the action caught people’s interest and they are keen to do a follow-up to tell viewers the final outcome.

Personally I am proud of how Coventry Socialist Party responded to this sudden threat. It shows how committed and organised we are, even at short notice and when our attention was focussed in another direction. I think the successful outcome came from us being able to organise lively direct action, effective media relations, knowledge of the issue, negotiating skills and an established reputation in the local area. We use those strengths battling away all the time but it’s great when you do win! No-one who participated will forget this for a long time.”

John Boadle, Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

You can watch some video coverage of the protest here. An interview with Archie and John is below.

Do you want to help stop future evictions or support TUSC candidates? Fill in the form below and get involved!