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Peanuts for lockdown Mum
I work in a shop. In the first lockdown, my workmates were furloughed on 100% pay.
But I was on maternity leave. Even though I'd been working there for two years when our son was born, I was still not entitled to the company's maternity policy.
I was on statutory maternity pay - £151 a week. Then nothing for the last three months of maternity leave.
In the second lockdown, even though the shop was closed, inexplicably, the company decided not to furlough staff and we had to go into work each day.
They couldn't get away with that in Lockdown 3. But staff were still expected to spend half our time going into work, and the other half working from home.
We were not provided any resources to work from home. And most of the work seemed to be just pointless training.
Shop worker, Essex
I got a letter to say that our council tax is going up by about 5% and the energy bill by 8%. There must have been some kind of mistake!
My partner Nina is only getting a 1% pay rise and my pay is frozen. I'll let them know - they'll be so embarrassed when they realise.
James Ellis, Leeds
Long history of police power
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) - elected people who became renowned because... nobody knows what the hell they do! They replaced Police Authorities, which have a long history.
They were originally Watch Committees, composed 50% of elected councillors. They had the power to hire and fire any police, determine their pay and promotions, question and direct their activity.
This was before the working class got the vote. When they did, Watch Committees lost more power, and the police were more under central government control.
In 1964, committees were replaced with Police Authorities, which still had panels with elected councillors. Some Labour councillors did clash with police forces over their activity, especially over racism. Even with power stripped from them, Police Authorities still could make forces somewhat accountable.
The PCC - one directly elected individual we are discouraged from giving a damn about - replaced Police Authorities. Now a panel can scrutinise PCC actions.
They are mostly councillors. But the National Audit Office says they're basically useless, provide "few checks and balances" and "lack power".
The very little control ordinary people had over police before 2011 has been extinguished.
Adam Harmsworth, Coventry
Child poverty: Welsh Labour's failed strategy
Almost one in three children in Wales live in poverty. Even before the pandemic, the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimated that UK government tax and welfare 'reforms' would add another 50,000.
But this has happened on the Welsh Labour government's watch. Its Child Poverty Strategy boils down to little more than advice, raising awareness of existing inadequate programmes, and improving take-up of free school meals for those who are already eligible.
Free school meals are mostly restricted to children of parents earning less than £7,400 a year. Shamefully, every Labour member of the Senedd (Welsh parliament) present voted against widening access to free school meals.
No amount of welfare advice, the best energy deals, benefits of a smart meter, or begging for a slice of the discretionary assistance fund, will address the root issues: low pay, housing costs, and the shameful way this country treats unemployed people, ill and disabled people, and unpaid carers.
After twenty years of Welsh Labour 'managing' capitalism and capitulating to Tory cuts from London, we need a real socialist strategy for eliminating poverty in Wales.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates, including Socialist Party Wales, believe that the Welsh Parliament should be leading a fight today for the resources we need in society, for universal free school meals, a mass council house building programme, rent controls, pay rises, and more. Follow our campaign at tuscwales.org.uk
Ben Golightly, Cardiff
Housing companies bend profit
The Stevenage Comet had two articles highlighting the deregulation of building control and its impact on Vista Tower, a high-rise building converted from offices to flats in 2016. JGA fire consultants found "non-compliant" foam insulation in the walls that could "provide a route for fire to spread around the external envelope of the building".
This was not a post-Grenfell breach. Regulations were broken "during the time of conversion". This defect should have been mitigated, in part, by cavity barriers and fire stops, but neither were found.
There was no communal fire alarm. Leaseholders are being charged £12,000 a week for a walking watch - £600 a month per leaseholder.
In the other article, chartered surveyor and fire safety expert Arnold Tarling says that firms eager to secure continuing business will offer low prices and little interference. "If people are looking at the bottom line the whole time, and how much they can rake in, they bend."
Despite regulations demanding cavity barriers and fire breaks in changes of use, inspectors "are not required to check."
"It's on drawings." But "planning drawings are public records, building regulations drawings are not."
"In the old days, the local authority had all the drawings, but now these things are all over the place. Private companies have them."
"What happens when the private companies go bust? All the information disappears."
This shows the madness of capitalism. Where building companies can choose their own inspectors, it is no surprise that corners are cut, and profit comes before people's lives.
Barbara Clare, Stevenage
Some great comedic writing on Labour's London election leaflet. "Rejecting Tory cuts - the Tories are underfunding TfL, the Met Police and local councils at the worst possible time."
Surely if Labour's Sadiq Khan has been mayor for the past five years, they're no longer just Tory cuts? It's time for genuine no-cuts and anti-austerity representatives in city hall. Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Ferdy Lyons, Newham, east London
Racism commission concludes...
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up by Boris Johnson, concluded that there is no institutional racism. And it wasn't even April the first.
Commission chairman Tony Sewell denied that the report said that there was no racism, but he quibbled with the term 'institutional'. Black people account for 3% of the population, but 8% of deaths in police custody. Is that "institutional" enough for you, Sewell?
Derek McMillan, Durrington, West Sussex
Priti Patel's new plans state that asylum seekers who are deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally, even if their claim is successful, will only be granted temporary refugee status and face being indefinitely liable for removal. She also raised offshore asylum processing, leaving asylum seekers locked up in a ship, for their documents to be processed.
Those who travel to the UK through 'illegal' means are usually the poorest, unable to pay their way into the already biased immigration system.
If the Tories prioritised the safety of those travelling in often dangerous conditions, why don't they tackle the real issues such as war, persecution and poverty where the asylum seekers often flee from?
We need to fight against the divisive rhetoric put forward by the Tories. What we need are jobs with decent wages, fully funded public services and free education for all, not oppressive immigration laws.
Socialist Party members Iain Dalton and Tanis Belsham-Wray would like to announce the birth of Eugene Luthien Dalton on 28 March 2021.
A special thank you to the NHS staff, who through their fantastic care, have once again demonstrated why they fully deserve a 15% pay rise.
In The Socialist 7 April 2021: