Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
ISSUE 288, FRIDAY 22nd December, 2000
Wheels of Fortune
"Politicians are in danger of forgetting the lesson of the 90s, when large scale road development played very badly with ordinary people. Communities and environmental groups will now take on the Government over every inch of tarmac." - Lynn Sloman, Transport 2000.
So you thought the Battle of Newbury, Twyford Down and Fairmile had forced the government to halt its construction programme for new roads? Well now roadbuilding is back again to haunt us. Last week John 'Two Jags' Prescott announced the transport budget for local authorities for the next five years. Four billion pounds - nearly half the total - is to be spent on roads. That's enough to build forty more Newbury bypasses. It looks like it's time to dust down yer D-locks and take out yer tunnelling tools again.
The protests against the new programme have already started. In a pre-emptive strike, besuited protesters stormed the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions in London, and locked themselves in the offices of ministers Michael Meacher and Lord McDonald. The car park was blocked by a group linked with arm tubes and security doors were locked shut, preventing Prescott from parking either of his two Jags.
It's not all bad news. £4.4 billion is to be spent on improvements to public transport and providing more support for pedestrians and cyclists. But hidden in the small print of the Fat Controller's timetable are plans to build a new Worcestershire Wyre Piddle Bypass, a new stage of the Leeds Inner Ring Road, and the East Leeds Link Road. Seventy seven more schemes are in the pipeline for funding in the next five years.
Bob the Builder's corporate chums will be jumping for joy at the news, but it certainly won't be a Christmas number one for residents in Salisbury, where plans for the bypass which Labour scrapped when they came into office have now been dug up and repackaged. Or in Lancaster, where the Lancaster Western bypass would trash the Lune Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or Carlisle, where the privately-financed Northern Development Route will destroy a section of Hadrian's Wall - a World Heritage Site.
A New Battle of Hastings
One of the prime candidates for future funding is the planned Hastings Bypass in Sussex. Despite a load of greenwash about tough measures to reduce environmental impact, the bypass would destroy two SSSI's and pass through an area of outstanding national beauty and the environmentally important floodplains of the Rother and Brede Rivers. And consultants evaluating the project warn that it may actually increase unemployment in Hastings which is not one of southern England's most prosperous areas.
That's not to say there might not be economic benefits. It's just that it's large corporations which stand to gain, with precious little expected to 'trickle down' to the resident Hastings' community. As at Newbury, construction of the Hastings bypass will open up the way for in-fill development, with business parks and housing estates already planned for neighbouring greenfield site areas. As at Newbury, the bypass would become one part of a larger national road scheme - a long-distance south coast link-road leading to Folkestone and Ashford. And as at Newbury, public debate about the Hastings bypass is being heavily manipulated by business, the local media, and the three main political parties, all of whom strongly support the road. All this despite surveys which show most local people would prefer better public transport rather than new roads.
Meanwhile, plans for a big-budget Hollywood film drama, starring Sigorney Weaver, of the UK anti-roads movement have been put on hold. If you've been lamenting the lack of excitement in your life since events at Newbury, or if you weren't there at all, it looks like we'll all have a chance to bag a starring role as the real-life drama unfolds once again....
Transport 2000 12-18 Hoxton St, London, N1 6NG. 0207 613 0743.
CRAP ARREST OF THE WEEK
The police were out in force last month at a car-park near Windsor and Eton Train Station after one of their number was called a moose. For some time this place has been used by young people to meet up and chill out, so bored cops looking for fun have recently also been turning up to harass them. When one woman, who had had enough of this, called a WPC a moose no less than eleven coppers stampeded in to arrest her. After locking horns about it later at the station she was released without charge.
More than two and a half years after Simon Jones was killed at work, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to charge Euromin, the company Simon was working for, and its general manager with manslaughter. Simon was sent to work inside the hold of a ship with no training and was dead within two hours of starting work.
Since Simon's death his friends and family have campaigned for the events surrounding his death to be the subject of court action. Their campaign has involved shutting down Euromin's docks, occupying the employment agency that sent Simon to work for Euromin, occupying the Department of Trade and Industry on the day that Simon's case was being debated in parliament, shutting down Southwark Bridge outside the Health and Safety Executive, winning a judicial review challenging the Crown Prosecution Service's decision not to prosecute and, this September, picketing their headquarters in London demanding a prosecution. These actions, of course, had no influence on the decision to prosecute which, in the words of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was "reached without unnecessary delay". This is only the sixth time that any company director has been taken to court for the charge of Manslaughter by Gross Negligence. So remember - direct action never works. Honest.
NATTA 01273 298192 http://go.to/ta2000
A Right Carry On
Britain's planning system faces chaos after a ruling in the High Court last week. Controversial planning decisions are often decided by the Environment Minister, however lawyers successfully argued that this is in breach of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 'the right to a fair hearing.' The ruling is the first time an English court has used the Human Rights Act to declare existing laws incompatible with human rights. The Government are now appealing.
A new report by the local government ombudsmen has shown a 73% rise in complaints about Housing Benefit over the past year. In London most of these complaints are directed against the performance of 4 London boroughs where Housing Benefit has been privatised: Southwark (CSL), Lambeth (Capita), Hackney (IT net) and Islington (IT net).
In Newham things quickly started to go wrong for CSL, owned by Deloitte Touche. Under new 'private sector management practices' claims lay unprocessed , staff are bullied and victimised and not surprisingly leave on a daily basis creating even more work for those left. Things finally came to a head when three workers, UNISON shop stewards, were disciplined simply for raising the issue. All three were suspended on a charge of 'causing grave embarrassment'! Show support by targeting CSL and Deloitte & Touche offices in your area! Contact : CSL3 Support Group, c/o PO Box 1681, London N8 7LE; email: email@example.com
SchNEWS in brief
After crimbo as the interest starts to pile up on yer loans you might start considering changing your faith. Converting to Islam might be worth considering, not only will you not have to celebrate consumerism annually, it's also against Islamic law to charge interest. The highest court in Pakistan has recently ruled that the country should adopt an interest-free monetary system within twelve months. Malaysia, another Islamic country, stuck two fingers up to the World Bank this year when it refused to pay any more interest to them, or get involved in their structural adjustment programme.
'Because of reprocessing at Sellafield, in the area around the plant there are 10 times more children with leukaemia than the British average. Because of 50 years of reprocessing, the Irish Sea is now the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world' - Kent Against a Radioactive Environment (K.A.R.E)
Last week the first shipment of plutonium nuclear waste left the defunct power plant at Dodewaard, Holland, for Sellafield. Despite the best efforts of protestors - two managed to infiltrate the police exclusion zone by dinghy, while Greenpeace boarded the ship carrying the waste, had a boat crushed and were hauled off to Court - the waste is on its way to Sellafield. There will be consignments of nuclear waste leaving for Sellafield from Dodewaard every month for the next year and a half. Protests are planned both in Holland and over here. The next shipment will be on January 25th, 2001. http://kare.enviroweb.org/
Christmas, the season of goodwill, the season for buying presents for children and watching their little faces light up. Not according to Crucial Input Ltd, a debt collecting company based in Liverpool. They reckon this is the time for 'sending the boys round' to people who owe them money because, as their leaflet says, the debtor will be spending more on their families when they should be paying off their debts. Some people are all heart! SchNEWS advises all readers not to give these modern day scrooges a call on 0870 700 4004 or 0870 700 4005 and pretend to be the ghost of Christmas Past / Present/ Future or to send them a black fax on 0151 476 6661
That's all folks ! Next SchNEWS 12th January - Happy Holidays
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Last updated 22nd December 2000