Justice ‘only for the wealthy’: Law Society condemns legal aid cuts

From The Guardian: It is increasingly difficult for defendants and claimants to find solicitors prepared to represent them due to government legal aid cuts, the Law Society has warned.

In a fiercely worded attack on funding restrictions, Christina Blacklaws, the society’s president, said British justice now existed “only for the wealthy, or the small number on very low incomes lucky enough to find a solicitor willing and able to fight a mountain of red tape to secure legal aid.”

Public access to justice and the right to a fair trial has never been so restricted, according to the organisation that represents solicitors across England and Wales.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

End to nursing student bursaries sees numbers keep falling

From Morning Star: The nursing profession has been left in “managed decline,” the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said today, responding to a further drop in student numbers due to bursaries being replaced by loans.

The number of nursing students from England taking university places has fallen by 4 per cent from last year and 11 per cent since 2016 when bursaries were axed, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

The RCN said the decline could jeopardise the future supply of nurses at a time when the NHS is dire need of such staff.

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Tory Government ‘ignoring Grenfell warning signs’, say firefighters’ leaders

From Morning Star: Firefighters’ leaders have accused the government of ignoring the warning signs of Grenfell, as new figures showed a rise in incidents amid continued fire service cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that, despite mounting difficulties over the last year, the government continued to “starve” fire authorities of funding.

There were 564,827 incidents in England in the past year, an increase of more than 4,000.

Firefighters attended more than 167,000 fires, the most since 2011-12, said the FBU, adding that the long period of improvements in public safety has plateaued, with cuts the “most likely explanation” for the rise.

The union said that, since 2010, one in five firefighting jobs have been cut, including around 10,000 in Englan

FBU national officer Dave Green said: “These dreadful new figures confirm firefighters’ worst fears. Austerity cuts are now damaging public safety.”

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Charge increase providing cover for NHS cuts, say dentists

Press release from the British Dental Association: The BDA has branded the latest patient charge increases in England as a cover for cuts to state funding for NHS dentistry.

The third year of above inflation increases of around 5% a year will bring charges for a basic check-ups to £21.60, and charges for items like crowns or dentures to £256.50. According to the Government’s own estimates this amounts to patients paying in an additional £72.4 million over the course of the financial year.

Dental charges are increasing as a proportion of the NHS budget, while contributions from general taxation are in long-term decline. The BDA estimates patients will be contributing a full third of England’s NHS dental budget by 2020 – and are on course to exceed government spending by 2032.

Nearly 1 in 5 patients have delayed treatment for reasons of cost according to official statistics.

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Plot by Tory ministers could slash paid holidays for 7 million workers, says TUC

From the TUC: A plot by #Tory ministers to scrap the Working Time Directive in the UK reported today could deny paid holidays to millions of workers, and make long working weeks the norm, the TUC has said.

The Sunday Times and Sun both report plans by ministers – including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson – to scrap the Working Time Directive after Brexit.

Losing the protections of the directive means that:

  • 7 million workers could lose rights to paid holidays – 4.7 million of them women, and many on zero-hours or part-time contracts.
  • Even more workers could be forced by bosses to work weeks longer than 48 hours.
  • Workers could lose the right to lunch and rest breaks.
  • Night workers could lose some health and safety protections.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a straight-up attack on our rights at work. Millions could lose their paid holidays, and be forced to work ridiculously long hours.

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Apprenticeships fall by 59%

From The Guardian: Employers and unions have called for a rethink of the Tory government’s apprenticeship policies after a 59% fall in those taking up trainee posts since a new scheme was launched in April.

Just 48,000 people started an apprenticeship in the final three months of the educational year to July 2017, compared with 117,800 in the same period a year before. The biggest drop came in the lowest level “intermediate” apprenticeships, which dived by 75%, compared with a 48% drop in the most advanced training courses.

Critics of the scheme say the increased costs and complexities are deterring employers from creating apprenticeship posts.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Employment tribunal fees unlawful, Supreme Court rules

From BBC News: Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful, and the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

The Tory government introduced fees of up to £1,200 in 2013.

Government statistics showed 79% fewer cases were brought over three years – trade union Unison said the fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The Supreme Court ruled the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”

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“Scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance was a mistake”

Shakira Martin, President-elect of NUS, writes on FE Week: Scrapping the education maintenance allowance scheme in England was a mistake. Plain and simple. The coalition government did a U-turn on their education policy centred on ‘fairness and equality of opportunity for all’. Against all their rhetoric it took away from those who needed the help most. Labour’s commitment to reinstating the scheme if elected next month are a step in the right direction on the road to recovery for FE.

EMA made a significant difference to those from low-income backgrounds, covering essentials such as food, books and transport. It wasn’t perfect but it eased educational disadvantage and scrapping it has had major repercussions on students from lower-income families. At the time of implementation in 2004, financial constraints were seen as a barrier to involvement in post-16 education, it aimed to directly reduce the cost of education as a means for raising their participation (including influencing retention and attainment).

Many students were struggling then, and they’re still struggling now. We know from our own research that many find it difficult to cover their course costs with half stating that they had considered dropping out due to financial worries. This manifesto finally says to post-16 learners that our politicians are ready to invest in young people again and provide a real ladder to opportunities, skills and jobs.

[Read full column on FE Week website…]

Service cuts see young lives written off, claims union

From BBC News: The livelihoods of young people are being written off due to cuts to youth services budgets, union Unison has claimed.

About 100 centres have closed with 360 jobs cut in Wales in four years.

The union’s Dominic MacAskill, called on councils to provide at least a “baseline” service.

But the Welsh Local Government Association said the lack of standard success measures made it a complex area for authorities.

Spending on youth work in Wales has dropped from £23m in 2013 to £19.3m in this financial year.

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Youth services heading towards collapse, says union

From BBC News: UK youth services are heading for collapse, research into the scale of council cuts since 2012 has suggested.

Some 600 youth centres have been shut, 3,650 youth staff have lost their jobs, and 139,000 youth places have been axed, the report for Unison says.

And information from 180 councils warns of more cuts ahead, and suggests the youngsters most in need are being left with nowhere to turn for support.

[Read full article on BBC News website…]

Tory “economic competence”: Britain has biggest fall in real wages since financial crisis of any advanced country except Greece

From The Guardian: Britain has suffered a bigger fall in real wages since the financial crisis than any other advanced country apart from Greece, research shows.

A report by the TUC shows that real earnings have declined more than 10% since the credit crunch began in 2007, leaving the UK equal bottom in a league table of wages growth. Read more

A dossier on racism in the Conservative Party

From Unite the Union: This dossier was put together from news reports in the local and national media and is far from comprehensive.

But it shows is that the Conservative Party is regularly beset by allegations of racism against its MPs, councillors and candidates. It’s also clear that only rarely do such instances – even when particularly offensive – result in the person being expelled from the Party.

The cases include Tory elected representatives using racist abuse like “Pakis”, “pikies”, and “piccaninnies” – as well as several anti-semitic or Islamophobic remarks. But most appear to have been allowed to continue their membership and even to represent the Conservative Party

[Download the dossier (PDF)…]

Questions raised over fire service budget cuts after fatal fire in Merseyside

From the Fire Industry Association: The Fire Brigades Union has said the outcome of a fatal fire in Merseyside ‘could have been different’ if a local fire station had not been closed.

An elderly couple from the Wirral were tragically killed in the blaze, which broke out at their home, as fire crews missed their target response time due to five fire engines in the area attending a warehouse fire.

A fire engine attended the house fire from Upton fire station but remained without any backup for more than 10 minutes until a second engine arrived.

The station at West Kirby, which was located nearest to where the blaze broke out, closed last year as Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service attempts to axe £11m from its budget by 2019-20.

The FBU said that budget cuts to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has seen its number of fire engines available to respond to emergencies cut from 42 to just 28.

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