Education Education Education!

Investment in education is a win-win for the entire nation. When today’s students enter the jobs market they need to be equal to or better than their counterparts from around the globe. In time-honoured tradition they will also need to be sufficiently economically productive to support their children’s generation through school and their parents generation through old age. The scale of these twin challenges is growing, and those wistful Brexiteers blissed-out in their dreams of waking to a new dawn in sunny uplands need to WAKE UP! They will not see that day simply by closing our boarders to the immigrant labour currently recruited to fill the skills gap. When the free movement of labour is curtailed, the excess demand for skilled workers will need to be met by a newly refreshed and suitably qualified pool of domestic labour. If that demand can’t be satisfied businesses will move to where they can find the skills they need.

Anything less than a wholehearted properly funded commitment to education at every level will condemn our nation to a low wage low skills economic life in the slow lane.

What We Have Is Not What We Need
Good, appropriate, and effective education requires a level of investment which the Tories are demonstrating they are not prepared to make. While we are told spending on education has never been greater, just saying and repeating often does not make it true. Analysis of spending per pupil gives the lie to this boast. After factoring education7in the increased pupil numbers, reduced buying power after inflation, increased payroll and employer pension contributions, the value of education spending in England is reducing. Like so many fly-by-night spivs the Tories are trying to wing-it on the cheap.

The Grim Realityeducation2
Balancing their school budget for many head teachers is at crisis point. The Tory mantra of ‘efficiency savings’ is ringing hollow, and further real terms cuts will bite ever deeper in to front line services. Vacancies are left unfilled, class sizes are increasing, subjects are being dropped, after hours activities are ended, skilled experienced staff are leaving the profession, and parents are being asked to make direct cash payments to cover the shortfall for day-to-day expenditure.

Meanwhile the Education Secretary is grandstanding plans to reintroduce grammar schools; the state funded selective schools where the offspring of wealthier parents are grossly over represented. The corollary of this will be the downgrade of comprehensive schools to Secondary Modern status. Introduction of these regressive proposals will herald a return to the selective secondary education relic from the 1951 Tory administration. We will once again have a society where a large majority of children are intentionally left behind from the very outset.

The truth Behind Justine Greening’s Fig Leafs education5

  • To claim that reintroduction of grammar schools will provide choice to parents is disingenuous; any choice rests with the selection process. This brands children a success or failure and often determines whole life outcomes at age 11.
  • To suggest that grammar schools foster social mobility is a discredited myth. Grammar school pupils do better than their counterparts in non-selective areas, but those who don’t get in to grammar schools do less well than their counterparts in non-selective rea’s. (see IFS, Sept. 2016)
  • To pretend that grammar schools will ‘work for everyone’ is a statement of the ridiculous. Compared to children from the state education sector, children from independent Prep schools are 10 times more likely to gain entry to existing grammar schools than pupils in the state sector on free school meals. 53% of pupils attending existing grammar schools come from wealthy families. (see Sutton Trust, Dec 2016)

The Final Analysis…
Is the aim of the Tory government to provide a place for every child in a good or outstanding school? No doubt they would say it is (because to say otherwise would be political dynamite). It is a worthy objective, but one which regrettably is not supported by the current funding settlement, or compatible with their grammar school proposals. A less easily defended position is difficult to imagine, but ploughing on with a policy which is good for the few at the expense of the many has never yet dissuaded a Tory from pursuit of their folly.

Now Consider The Alternative
Labour’s Pledge On Education:-
“We will build a new National Education Service, open to all throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life… We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all…” read more here

David Evans

Why Not Upcycle The Road To Nowhere?

The process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

For forty years the ‘Road To Nowhere’ has been:
1, a standing joke,
2, a monument to weak willed local government,
3, a victim of austerity (1970’s style).

road_nowhereWhilst the unfinished dual carriage way lies abandoned to the slow ingress of nature the rest of Yate has moved on. Today, if the road were to be completed it would not be a much needed lifeline between otherwise isolated focal points of activity. Nor would it be the final link in any major arterial traffic scheme running through or around Yate. In the unlikely event it came to pass, the benighted highway might shrug of the ignominy of 2 and 3 but gain a new and equally damning epithet of ‘White Elephant’. It may even have the unintended consequence of drawing in commercial traffic from the Beaches, North Road, Stover Road, and Great Western industrial areas seeking a more direct route to the M4 junction at Tormarton.

In these times of biting Tory austerity, our elected representative at Westminister should know better than most that the prospects for success with his fanciful ambition are beyond bleak. And yet the man persists, Luke Hall has chosen to hitch his cart to a horse that is going nowhere fast. Completion of this road will not happen before our MP is called upon to reapply for his job in 2020.

A better plan would be to enhance and extend the use of the road in a way that some local residents already have.cycleway
The foot path beginning at Westerleigh Close and which runs along the fence beside the railway line could be upgraded to a combined cycle way/pedestrian path and joined to the road. This would be a very direct link to Yate railway station for residents in the South of Yate, and would continue to serve dog walkers and pedestrians in general. Furthermore, one carriageway of the road could be ripped-up to free the ground for further light-touch landscaping and other simple measures to encourage wildlife.

The advantages of this proposal are many, varied and not limited to the following:-
• For cyclists travelling between South Yate and the Yate station area the route is both much shorter and safer.
• That local environment will be transformed from eyesore to asset.
• The scheme does not simply move vehicle traffic from one road to another; it may actually encourage a reduction in car journey’s.
• Finally, in these times of straightened public finances this proposal has the obvious attraction of much reduced cost- a fact that should not fail to piqué the interest of our man from the Party of Cuts.

David Evans.

Let Us Know What You Think About 'The Road To Nowhere'

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Housing Crisis Needs New Thinking & Fresh Policy

Lesley Mansell has been selected as Labour’s candidate for the new West of England metro mayor.  We all wish her well in the upcoming election and offer her whatever support needed.  One of the biggest issues within the remit of the metro mayor will be housing. garden_city_greenbeltHousing is a particularly pressing concern in the West of England, a rapidly growing part of the country.   In South Gloucestershire and especially Thornbury and Yate, with its predominance of rural and semi-rural towns and villages, housing raises particular issues:  balancing maintaining the character of our communities and the needs of all members (and prospective members) of those communities.

garden_city_greenbeltsaveThe presence of the green belt has been a mixed blessing, preventing development sprawl subsuming much of rural South Gloucestershire into the Greater Bristol conurbation, but leading to unbalanced and non-optimal development at the edge of the green belt, effecting the larger towns in Thornbury and Yate.

This September article from the BBC about a village in Suffolk that shows one way that consensus around housing development can be achieved, even in an area where Nimbyism would most be expected.

“It is an issue which has led to some soul-searching by many of the older residents of Lavenham as they consider the future of their historic village.

“I’m not going to knock the over-65s too hard – I’m one of them,” says Carroll Reeve, chairman of the parish council.

“But we’ve got to make spaces for the young families coming through the school. We’ve got to plan for the future. And unless we start to address that issue we could end up as a retirement home.”

Pat Rockall, chair of governors at Lavenham Primary School, agrees and suggests young families are the lifeblood of the village.

“There has to be young life in any village. We have got to think about what this village will be like in 50 to 100 years, and we must do something now, to make sure it is a living, working, breathing community then.””

garden_city_housestackKey aspects highlighted in the article that have lead to greater acceptance are price controls and coupling with expansion of services and amenities.  Other ways to increase acceptability could be greater community involvement from the outset in choosing location and style of development: letting communities know what proportion of new housing is required but giving them an active role in deciding where they should go and what they should look like.  This is where a more muscular role for local authorities in directing and implementing housing development that centres the needs of communities and not developers, could come into play, and where Labour, with its commitment to government, at both national and local level, as a force for positive social change, has the chance to come to the fore.   garden_city_shopsInvolving communities actively in the planning process, and including new amenities could make viable a more balanced spread of the burden of new housing across South Gloucestershire, including consciously taking a flexible approach to the greenbelt for community focused developments.  New housing has the potential to make sustainable threatened services such as smaller schools and lead to more balanced communities.   “Garden” towns or villages, if done well also have the potential to achieve some of these goals.


It’s also vital that a housing policy encompass all types of tenure, politicians of all parties have often elevated home ownership and home owners to the pinnacle of political discourse, and the key to their electoral prospects.  Social housing has come to be undervalued at the expense of some of the poorest in society.  Long-term social housing needs to be included in any new development but it’s also important not to view renters and owners as categorically separate groups.  garden_city_rentersOften they are the same people at different stages in their lives.  Not everyone aspires to home-ownership, and the responsibilities and restrictions that go with it in the immediate future.  Home ownership can be isolating for single people and the accommodation of single people in family homes isn’t an efficient use of space, leading to further pressure on housing.  The availability of inexpensive rented accommodation would allow young people to retain more of there income to save including towards their eventual family home.  garden_city_olderHousing is intimately connected to how people lives and the problems facing newly single older women, in particular, was highlighted by one of the candidates for Labour metro-mayoral candidate, Bath and North East Somerset Labour Group Leader, Robin Moss, at a hustings.  The new Metro Mayor has the opportunity to look into developments for private sector renters- located in the main population centres aligned with public transport routes- and thinking about how those communities could be designed: in which ways people want privacy and in which ways people want communal space.  Renting out small properties to private renters, at a modest profit but still below market rates could generate new income for local authorities and also be an efficient use of space.

Housing is a hot button issue that cuts across social and political divides with excessive housing costs dragging down disposable incomes for large numbers of people and many more in the region are effected by new housing development.  Innovative housing policies have the potential to resonate in ways that could prove a political success beyond Labour’s natural constituencies.

Hannah Dadd

Our Region Transformed

Momentous decisions are about to be made which will shape the way our local communities look and feel for an entire generation. The four West of England authorities of South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, and North Somerset Council have joined together to plan for development which will touch everyone of us.
Forecast growth in the region during the next 20 years will generate 82,500 new jobs and need  105,000 new homes for the incoming workers.

The planning process is underway to determine where new houses will be built, which areas will be designated for commercial/industrial use, how provision of healthcare and education services will be met, and what routes new and upgraded transport infrastructure will take.

To this end the four Councils are working together on what they call their ‘Joint Spatial Plan’ and ‘Joint Transport Study’. There is a website which can be found here:-
where there is more information about the draft proposals, and opportunity to respond. There is also a calendar of open public meetings where the proposals will be discussed.
While formulation of these plans are not yet finalised now is the time to seek more information, provide feedback and raise your concerns. Don’t delay, consultation closes on 19th December.

Why Democracy Matters

Be in no doubt, this comment is not about if the UK will leave the EU; it is more important than that.

To Set The Scene…
The opportunity for a referendum on 23 June was the product of our
democratic process, and the outcome was a clear message to our elected representatives. We are about to embark on a journey towards exiting the EU. The road will be difficult and the route is uncertain, but the destination has been made clear and we have a strong and resilient constitution that will help us resolve the issues that arise along the way.

A Brief Lesson In Constitutional Government…
The Executive (PM and cabinet) formulates a policy, the Legislature (House of Commons) will deliberate that policy and enact legislation to create statute law, and the Judiciary (law courts) must interpret and apply that law to cases brought before it. Aside from this, the Royal Prerogative grants powers to the Executive principally to act in the national interest.

Applying This To The Story So Far…
The Referendum Act 2015 did not create a statute to enable the Prime Minister to trigger the start of EU exit in the event of a leave vote. Furthermore, exercise of the Royal Prerogative, which normally allows for treaties to be made and unmade, is not appropriate; many of the rights and benefits enshrined in our domestic law are derived from the EU law which exit from the EU would sweep away.
Whichever point of view the reader might subscribe to, it makes no sense to seek to restore UK Parliamentary sovereignty by leaving the the EU only to deny it by attempting wrongful exercise of Prerogative. In claiming to be implementing the will of the people by triggering article 50 without recourse to Parliament, the Executive will establish an unintended(?) precedent.

Finally, Why This Matters More Than We Might Ever Imagine…
Next time, a less than benevolent Executive may invoke such a precedent to repeal Trades Union and workers rights legislation or privatise the NHS. Wouldn’t that be a shame when the Sovereignty of Parliament exists to avoid the risk of those unintended consequences?

Interesting Times

One morning last week and with a little time on my hands I turned the pages of the newspaper I was reading beyond the current affairs and bad news, and arrived at the literary review section. There I found two reviews from among the nonfiction titles which offered helpful alternative perspective on the travails currently experienced by our Party. The first can be characterised as a warning of the potential outcome of what we are currently wrestling with as a party. The second describes a very dark place that some suggest we have already arrived at having fought and lost our internal battle.

russian_revStay with me – It gets easier later… Historical nonfiction has not been on my reading list since I left school, but like I said, with time on my hands I read on anyway. The first* review was of a book  concerned with life in Petrograd at the start of the 1917 Russian revolution as experienced by the community of foreigners in the city at that time. Some of whom failed totally to recognise and understand the significance of what was unfolding around them, or the magnitude of the likely consequence for the world that survived. What I noticed was that by changing a single word many of the quotes of expats and diplomats would have an eerie resonance with what is presently abroad in the Labour Party. “All of Russia could go to hell for the want of a little wise management… What a chance for some wise American organiser [AMERICAN only because of the prejudice of the American speaking the words.]”. When the mob did take over the city, a French diplomat dismissed any prospect of a greater revolution because the rioters were “without alcohol, without a leader and without a clear objective”. There were of course leaders; Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Leon Trotsky. One business person wrote of them “[They’re] talking rank anarchy!”. While those from abroad who remained in the city learned it was “unwise to appear well dressed” and to appear bourgeois was “to sign one’s death warrant”. Finally, with the old boss gone and the new boss with his hands on the levers of power, the most perceptive realised “Not only is she [Russia] out of the war but she is out of the world for a long time to come.”

french_revThe second review** is of a book which takes the French Revolution as it’s subject. Comparisons (in the review not the book) are drawn between what happened 225 years ago in France and what is by some interpretations currently occurring within the Labour party. The French Revolution was not a single event, rather it was a series of riots and coups d’etat between 1789 and 1799. It also saw establishment of the National Assembly, storming of the Bastille, a collapse of the relationship between the bourgeois and the sans-culottes, and great blood letting courtesy by Madame Guillotine. The new society was funded by sequestration of private possessions (nationalisation by any other name), and was managed by a dogma with a central tenet that “he who is not with me is against me”. In turn this created factionalism that courted support of partisan mobs with which to intimidate opponents; elected or otherwise.

Now it gets easier…
In the first scenario, current affairs in the Labour Party are compared with Russia circa 1917. The moral of the tale is the need to understand the importance of eternal vigilance, to recognise where danger lies, and to confront the challenge from those who would divert us from our purpose.

In the second scenario where the comparison is with the French revolution, the takeaway nugget of wisdom is equally valuable. If the Labour Party is already on the road to self ruination as some suggest, then it is regrettable that the hypothetical position from which we start is made more difficult. If this is the case, then the dangers have already made themselves known and the task before us is clear. We must join together in a reformation of the broad church we once were, and to expel those who practice sectarianism, who promote division, and who subvert our constitution.

All of the above may be a bit playful, but I would hope that it will cause the reader to ponder for a moment on what the outcome will be of our group soul searching during the next five weeks. Be in no doubt, what we do as a party in this period will have profound consequences:-
Either the Labour Party will banish itself to the wilderness of a generation in opposition with little hope of righting any of the wrongs we see in our society.
Or the Labour Party will once again be recognised as a government in waiting with realistic prospects of winning power, and to not only oppose what we believe is wrong but to legislate for what we know is right.

Finally, the stark truth…
If the Labour Party is to win even the most precarious overall majority at the next general election we must gain a further 95 seats. Regardless of all else, this will not happen before or until the following issues are resolved.

  • We must dispel the rumours of Trotskyist entryism in to our party.
  • We must be seen to be a united party with a strong leader.
  • We must effectively challenge Tory policy at every turn.
  • We must have a raft of policies consistent with the hopes and aspirations of the greater part of the electorate.
  • We must inspire that greater part of the electorate to believe a Labour government will have the ability to exercise the privilege inferred by the system of representative democracy for their benefit.

*’Caught in the Revolution’ by Helen Rappaport, reviewed by Gerard DeGroot, The Times 13.8.2016
**’The French Revolution, from Enlightenment to Tyranny’ by Ian Davidson, reviewed by David Aaronovitch, The Times 13.8.2016

The ‘Best’ of Boris

Is it any wonder that the Germans were laughing in disbelief at the news that Boris Johnson has landed one of the top jobs in the new Tory cabinet? Our new Foreign Secretary has a crucially important job to do in the coming years, but he has created an image of himself which may yet prove to be a fatal hindrance. The self promotion was a distraction with consequences, and frequent use of shabby epithets had a far wider audience with longer memories than he might now have wished for.

All nations with a buffoon for a Foreign Secretary marked in red

Boris Johnson is the man who has been tasked with going out in to the post-Brexit world to forge new treaties, deals, and alliances. What a shame he didn’t have the first inkling of a plan for the future we are facing now that we find ourselves where he and his adoring fans have succeeded in taking us. We must hope his civil service minders prevent him doing his talking first, his thinking on the hoof, and winging-it every time he cant be bothered to do the detail.

All of the below is in the public domain and assumed to be true and accurate.

Boris Johnson on China, the worlds second largest economy
“Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase…”

On Hilary Clinton, the likely next leader of the worlds most powerful nation …
“She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”

On the guy we hope will come second to the woman above, Donald Trump…
‘The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

On Barack Obama, the current leader of the worlds most powerful nation…
“No one was sure whether the President had himself been involved in the decision. Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire — of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

On the warmonger George W Bush, former leader of the worlds most powerful nation…
“A cross-eyed Texan warmonger.”

On the Nato ally and President of Turkey…
“A terrific wankerer”

On Commonwealth nation Papua New Guinea…
“For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.”

All nations insulted (so far) by our Foreign Secretary marked in red

On Arnie…
“My speaking style was criticised by no less an authority than Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a low moment, my friends, to have my rhetorical skills denounced by a monosyllabic Austrian cyborg.”

On the Queens commitment to her duty as head of Commonwealth…
“It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”

On the genocidal dictator Bashar Al-Assad…
Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

On fostering racial harmony…
Orientals … have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole.

On gender equality…
[Female students went to university because they] have got to find men to marry.

Treatment of Workers

article submitted by J Malone.

It isn’t obvious until you start looking for it, but treatment of working people down the ages has always been demeaning and degrading, but usually unintentionally.

The bosses, or ‘tories’, have always considered those who work for them to be sub-human, not worthy of the respect and affection that they show to their horses and dogs, but it has not been done with malicious intent, it simply hasn’t occurred to them to behave in any other way.

While the workers have always tended to dress in scruffy and dirty clothes, due to lack of funds to buy better, but also as a result of the nature of the work they were doing, design of industrial equipment also contributed to this marking of people as not worthy of consideration as human beings, as will be shown by the following examples.

transport01This is a photograph of a canal boat being pulled by a horse.

The horse is led by the bargee, on foot and the barge is steered by, presumably, a member of the bargee’s family. Both are outside, exposed to the elements, in all weathers and for extremely long working days.

Another thing to notice about this image is that, on British canals, there is only one towpath, a feature designed to keep down the cost of building the canal. Notwithstanding, canals did have two way traffic.



And here is a better shot of the driver of a narrowboat, with no shelter and an improvised seat.



A Hansom Cab in London, 1895.

Notice that the customer will be accommodated inside while the driver sits outside at the back.


This is a Hackney Carriage pictured in 1920, notice the driver is still outside in all weathers.



Once the motor car was introduced it was still not considered necessary to provide the driver with the protection from the weather that his employer enjoyed.

transport09A horse drawn tram, showing the driver in, what should now be the expected position, outside in the weather.

At least half of the customers would also be exposed to the weather and I suspect, though do not know, that they would be in the cheap seats.

transport11With a vehicle such as this, there really is no excuse for treating the driver in this way, but still, there he is, exposed to the weather at the front of the tram.


The driver of this motor bus is high above the road but still exposed to the weather.





This milk float shows the contempt felt by employers for the welfare of their workers, a milkman in this case.


The driver of this monster was fortunate to be given a seat, but what a seat!



Protection for the crews was a long time coming on the railways, and here is an early example of how such protection had not even been considered.


A lot of designs of buses, trams and even railway carriages were based on this. Vehicle designers have always been very conservative.


The question of weather protection becomes a minor consideration when you look at this health & safety nightmare!



And it wasn’t just in Britain. This is a Benz truck.

Councillors “rushing” day care consultation


Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are criticising the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for “rushing to judgement” by authorising a consultation on the closure of day care services at Turnberries in Thornbury before the needs of all service users have been fully analysed.

The council’s Children, Adults & Health Committee was asked today to approve a consultation on decommissioning day care services from the Turnberries site in Thornbury and provide building-based day service provision from a single site located in Kingswood instead.

As part of the process, 102 day care users have been subject to service user annual reviews, but councillors were told today that fewer than half have been completed. Despite this lack of full analysis, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors voted down a Labour proposal to wait until all the reviews have been completed before taking a decision on how to proceed.

Woodstock_-_Gareth_Manson.jpgLabour councillor Gareth Manson (picture left) proposed the unsuccessful bid to wait until later in the summer, by when all the reviews are due to have been completed. He comments:

“The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are rushing to judgement on this by authorising a decision to open public consultation on the decommissioning of day care services in Thornbury before all of the service user annual reviews have been completed. Service users and their families will rightly question what value the council places on their annual reviews with this decision. I believe it is both discourteous and bad policy to proceed in this fashion.

I proposed that the committee should wait until each individual’s annual review has been completed before it opens this consultation, but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats still pressed ahead with the consultation now. They are focused on squeezing financial savings out of the service, but they should be treating service users with greater respect than this.”

The article above was first published on the South Gloucestershire Labour Councillors group webpage here:-

Trolley Blight In Yate ~ Update

Since the original post was published at the beginning of May, there has been an exchange of correspondence with Yate Town council of the subject. The purpose of the first email was to bring the issue to the attention of the Council, and enquire if measures may already be in place. That email and respone to it can be read here. As the reader can see, anything less and we could characterise the Councils policy as “our policy is not to have a policy”.
The purpose of the second email was threefold.

1, to highlight the shortcomings of what was in place,

2, to invite a response with proposals to more effectively tackle the problem, and

3, to suggest a measures the council might consider implementing.

The email was acknowledged, and in due course the subject was discussed at the next meeting of the Councilors. The second email and response to it can be read here.

The outcome of that meeting was reported back on 1st June (and can be read here), and would seem to have been an entirely reasonable first step in as far as it goes. Encouragement is always better than enforcement, and is invariably more economic when it achieves the desired effect at an early stage.

The Coucil have published the following information on their website ( in the ‘Your Yate’ section, under the ‘Useful Contacts’ tab (

Report an abandoned Trolley


The effectiveness of the Troleywise app in our area is untested. Does anybody have experience of trying it?

The verdict so far

Regrettably the above cannot (if we coin a phrase) be regarded as ‘a raft of new measures’.

All shops and stores have a publicly listed contact telephone number, so nothing new there, and what we know from experience is that not all retailers are sufficiently diligent in organising recovery of abandoned trolleys when they are reported.

The list of these contact details can be found where expected within the Council website, and fairly prominently within that section. It just requires some navigation to get there.

Next Steps

It is to be suggested that the Council bring their influence to bear and encourage retailers operating trolleys to apply a contact number to every trolley. There by making the reporting of abandoned trolleys both easy and immediate. Continue reading “Trolley Blight In Yate ~ Update”