Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why we’re striking on the 30th

By Kit Leary, councilworker and UNISON member in Kingston

The government are after the pensions of millions of public sector workers. They say that we are living longer and that our retirements have to be paid for.

We don’t have a problem with that. The reason why we’ll be out on strike on November 30th is not because we’ve all gone back in a time machine to the 1970s, or because we don’t want to pay for our retirements. Indeed, we already are; we are paying, on average, 10% of our salaries (which have been frozen for the past two years) in pension contributions. Our deferred salaries are going into very healthy pension pots.

What we object to – and the reason why we’re out – is because we object to being forced to pay off, with our pensions, the debts racked up by the banksters in the Square Mile. Because that’s what Osbourne and Cameron want us to do.

We don’t want any special previleges – not that we get any as it is. Our pension pots, made up of our own contributions and returns on careful investments, are ours. If these proposals go through, we’ll be paying more to get less. And how would you rather our retirements were funded – from our pension pots, or through state benefits? Because that’s what will happen.

All we want is to be able to have a reasonable retirement where we can support ourselves rather than relying on the public purse. If you, like us, think that it isn’t too much to ask, then support the Hands Off Our Public Services campaign and hep us fight for pensions justice for all.

In Kingston, we are looking to build a committee of strikers and supporters to carry forward the pensions campaign in Kingston – please contact us if you’d like to get involved.


Fate of five shops in Kingston unclear as closures announced

The future of five Kingston shops is uncertain after their parent company announced a nationwide closure programme.

Top Shop, BHS, Burton, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins are all owned by the Arcadia Group, which yesterday reported a 38 per cent fall in profits.

The group’s owner Sir Philip Green said 250 stores could close over the next three years depending on the outcome of lease renegotiations with land lords.

Read more.

Mental health matters – Defend Rose Lodge

By Valerie Prechner

Much controversy has been caused in recent months by the Coalition’s plans to dismantle and privatise huge portions of the National Health Service. Health professionals and the public have expressed outrage that this beloved service is facing its greatest threat ever from the Health and Social Welfare Bill. And yet, there is an area of the NHS which have been consistently ignored and underfunded by successive governments, and is now silently being cut back even further: our mental health services.

The reason why these particular cuts have not caused the same outcry as other changed to the health system is that, even now in the 21st Century, mental health problems carry a stigma which is difficult to break down. In many cases, people with mental health issues feel too vulnerable to speak out, and unless we’re blessed with celebrity status, our voices our seldom heard. And yet, despite all this, mental illnesses are both prevalent and serious: 1 in 4 people suffer from one at some point in their life, and they can be fatal if not properly treated. Some may recover relatively quickly, but others may need long-term and continuing care: this is the case for the residents of Rose Lodge in New Malden.

Rose Lodge is an NHS-funded community house with room for fourteen residents and trains thirteen specially trained staff. This high level of staffing is much needed, as many residents have serious mental health issues which have either been caused by or have led to drug and alcohol use. Many have suffered a complete collapse of their lives. They have lost employment, family connections, as well as the roofs over their heads. Rose Lodge provides a unique service, operating as a transitional space between the hospital and the outside world, providing a degree of independence not afforded in an acute mental health ward, and helping residents to recover at their own pace.

Yet for all of its vital work, Rose Lodge is about to close. Some residents have already been moved onto private sector providers who lack the expertise of those who previously cared for them, or to the woefully underfunded voluntary sector. Both staff and residents are facing an uncertain future: they’re planning one last Christmas together before the axe falls and funding is withdrawn altogether.

Rose Lodge is representative of many other workplaces in Kingston where public servants dealing with vulnerable people are being made unemployed. Community mental health teams have lost their deputy managers. Surbiton and Chessington Community Mental Health Teams have been forced to merge. Surbiton CMHT’s clients have lost the quiet, initimate space it used to occupy at South Place.

All this is happening despite the government’s pledge that there “can be no health without mental health”.

These attacks on the most vulnerable in society must be challenged. We must fight to keep unique services like Rose Lodge open. The issue of mental illness may not attract as much attention as heart disease or cancer, but to everyone in the “one in four” and to residents of Rose Lodge, the existence of good, professional support can mean the difference between life and death.