Monday, May 28, 2007

Prison Service Directorate colour bar sinks Corby

Liberty and Law Journal has now been provided with the Prison Service’s delayed draft Race Impact Assessment on the controversial proposed move of 65 jobs from the struggling town of Corby to Peat House, Leicester.

The document claims “the setting up of a Joint Midlands Procurement Service Unit is expected to result in efficiency gains in excess of £700k.” It will “try and assist as many staff as possible to relocate to the new property in Leicester through the provision of excess fares and possibly a coach service.”

Apart from the logistical advantages claimed for the move it makes clear the reason why Corby had to be disqualified as a contender from the start and has caused such outrage in the town among staff, residents, councillors, local MPs and Northants Race Equality Council.

The document boldly states: “Crown House is unable to meet Directorate (13%) or HMPS (6%) Race/Ethnicity targets. Race/Ethnicity targets to contribute to meeting HMPS’ Race Equality Duty. This is a ministerial requirement.”

It adds: “Leicester provides good recruitment prospects and in time (existing staff are likely to transfer) is likely to assist HMPS in meeting its staff race/ethnicity targets.”

Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup commented: "It looks hopeless for Corby. It seems there is nothing the town can do to persuade the Prison Service to stay. The demographics are against them. They are a black spot to be avoided by employers with government racial targets to meet."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Time to end charitable status of schools and state interference

According to Geraldine Hackett's report ['Poor law' comes to public schools, The Guardian 26 October 2003] charitable status was worth £82 m a year in tax relief to independent schools. Since then it has apparently escalated to be worth £100 millions.

I use Ms Hackett’s report simply to show how the government uses gradualism as a means of taking control of every aspect of our lives. The government is determined to interfere in their running as a condition for keeping this tax advantage.

In 2003 I calculated on the back of an envelope that with 600,000 children in the independent sector the charitable tax break was worth just £137 a year for each pupil. According to the Independent Schools Councilthe UK independent sector as a whole educates 620,000 children in around 2,500 independent schools”. My revised back of the envelope calculation makes the tax break now worth £161.29 per pupil. [Let’s go for spurious accuracy. We are talking education after all.]

Parents in the independent sector subsidized the the state in 2003 by the £1.7 billion it would otherwise have cost to educate their children. No doubt given the investment in state education since then the figure has risen considerably.[ A Daily Telegraph editorial puts it at £2.2 billion: Johnson's threats lack both charity and sense, 27 May 2007 and one of its published letters on 28 May puts it at almost $3 billion.] But pretending it has not for a moment another back of the envelope calculation shows that the Education Secretary takes in a cool £2741.94 from each of these children. [At £2.2 billion we are talking £3548 and at £3 billion £4839.]

Parents whose children are educated independently should demand that their schools should deregister as charities and pay the extra 44p a day necessary to get the government and its bureacrats off their backs. Their schools can still carry on making some of their facilities available to children forced to go to state schools . It would no longer be charitable of course but an independent gesture of social solidarity untainted by the state.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

David Cameron’s ‘no platform] group wins campus ban on BNP

Ken Livingstone’s group Unite against Fascism successfully stopped British National Party chair Nick Griffin from speaking at Bath University next Monday . Together with the University and Colleges Union [UCU] and the National Union of Students they argued for the ‘no platform’ policy to be extended to the university.

Currently the most prominent parliamentary UAF supporter is Conservative leader David Cameron. He is joined by his shadow Home Office minister Edward Garnier, QC MP.

Historically the Conservative party has argued in favour of free speech and against the ‘no platform’ policy of the National Union of Students that in the past was used to prevent Conservative cabinet ministers from speaking.

Bath University had originally given permission for the meeting to go ahead as the BNP was a lawful political party and to conform to its freedom of speech code.

The university only reversed its stance on 10 May following a campaign launched by the ‘no platform’ groups that made the university fear for the safety of staff and students. It also had “fears of disruption to examinations given the likely scale of protests on the day."

Weyman Bennett, Joint National Secretary of Unite Against Fascism explained his stance: “The racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic politics of the BNP pose a danger to many of the staff and students who make up the diversity of the university.”

Sally Hunt, UCU joint general secretary said: “Allowing the BNP to speak would have compromised the safety of staff and students and sent out a very worrying message about Bath University’s commitment to diversity.”/

Let’s give them a warm welcome 4 May 2007

University in row over BNP invite 10 May 7.34a

University halts BNP speech plan 10 May 2007 17.55

Fascist BNP leader stopped from speaking at Bath University
Protest cancelled 10 May 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Legal aid cuts need race equality impact assessment first

The UK Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee has woken up to the fact that the government’s proposals to reform legal aid payments to “save” £100 million pounds a year could breach statutory duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. These regulations now force businesses to carry out a race relations impact assessment when making changes to their business practices that could have an unequal impact on different racial groups.

The government’s scheme has been opposed by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Law Society.

The Law Society Gazette reported last week that the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) and the Black Solicitors Network (BSN) had sent the legal Services commission a letter before action challenging its failure to carry out the assessment.

The “best value” competitive tendering sought by the LSC these groups argue would have a disproportionate effect on small firms which themselves disproportionately employ minority ethnic staff.

Liberty and Law believes that SAL, BSN and the Law Society have a very good case. It also believes that the legal profession should be able to pick up massive fees in litigation certain to take place across British industry as a result of the legislation. Trade union lawyers should be on to a winner.

Already the Prison Service has been challenged over its proposed move from Corby to Leicester over the disproportionate effect that would have on the employment of its existing white staff.

MPs say legal aid changes could breach race laws