Failings at Birmingham prison reflect broader crisis, Tory Government is warned

From The Guardian: The Ministry of Justice has been warned that failings at a privately run Birmingham prison reflect a broader prison crisis, as overcrowding and dwindling resources lead to increases in violence, drug use and self-harm in jails across England and Wales.

HMP Birmingham was dramatically taken from the control of outsourcing giant G4S and returned to public governance on Monday after a damning inspection that uncovered rife drug abuse, violence and filthy conditions at the jail.

Earlier this year, the high number of deaths at the prison, including suicides and drug overdoses, came under scrutiny.

A 14-hour riot involving at least 500 prisoners in December 2016 has been cited as a pivotal point in the jail’s deterioration, although a separate investigation published on Monday revealed problems at the jail had been escalating for months prior to the disturbance.

Chronic staff shortages contributed in part to a breakdown in authority and increasing instability ultimately led to prisoners policing themselves, the investigation found.

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secetary, called for a temporary ban on further privatisation of the justice sector. “Once again we see the dangerous consequences of the ever-greater privatisation of our justice system,” he said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Budget crisis takes Northamptonshire council into uncharted territory

From The Guardian: The most high-profile symbol of the cuts in Northamptonshire to date has arguably the county’s 36 libraries, 21 of which the council wants to close or sell. There is popular outrage at this, not least in Northamptonshire’s more well-heeled rural areas, making its Tory MPs nervous. The proposal is being challenged in the courts.

Less well known is that 19 of the 21 libraries under threat host early-years children’s services such as mother-and-baby groups and health visitor sessions. These services were moved into libraries two years ago when an earlier round of cuts closed several SureStart centres. Where these services will go now is unclear.

Northamptonshire’s cuts will be felt in even its leafiest and most prosperous areas. Dig into the council’s cuts plans and you find an axe taken to highways budgets – less pothole filling, winter gritting and traffic light maintenance. The council expects legal challenges to these, too.

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Tory-led Northamptonshire county council imposes emergency spending controls for second time in six months

From The Independent: A Conservative-led council has taken the unprecedented action of imposing emergency spending controls for the second time in six months after projecting a budget shortfall of up to £70m.

[Read article on Independent website…]

DWP silence over ‘thousands of ESA claims lost in IT black hole’

From Disability News Service: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told a disabled woman whose benefit claims repeatedly went missing that thousands of other claimants have lost their applications in the same departmental black hole.

Vicky Pearson, from Lincolnshire, had to survive for nearly two weeks without food over Christmas and the new year, a distressing experience that she believes caused significant long-term damage to her health.

When she asked a DWP civil servant what she should do over Christmas, she was told to “rest a lot and drink a lot of water”.

[Read full article on Disability News Service website…]

Tories slammed by Labour over axed bus routes in northern England and the Midlands

From Morning Star: Bus passenger numbers have plummeted by millions in northern England and the Midlands as a result of routes being axed because of Tory austerity, Labour has said.

The party revealed its analysis of government figures as shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and shadow minister for buses Matt Rodda visited Northampton.

Since 2010 bus passenger numbers have fallen by seven million a year in both England’s north-west and in the east Midlands, by five million in Yorkshire & Humber, by four million in the north-east and by three million in the west Midlands.

The figures show that the number of routes is projected to be cut by nearly 5,250 nationally by 2022.

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Woman with epilepsy so severe she set herself on fire sees benefits removed

From Metro: Pippa Hammond’s epilepsy is so severe that someone has to wait in the room with her every time she has a shower, goes to the toilet or even blow dries her hair. Despite this, she has been denied any disability benefit under the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme, with her application scored zero in every category.

[Read full article on Metro website…]