Archive for April, 2012

by Sarah Cope

Camden Green Party members attended the opening of the Crossroads Women’s Centre’s new premises on Friday night. After launching a fundraising campaign in October 2010, the centre has raised enough money to relocate to a former doll factory in Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town

Since the organisation was founded in 1975, they have faced two evictions and an attack by far right
group Combat 18. Originally located in a squat, they have been in Kentish Town since 1996,
where the centre has become a much-loved part of the local community.

Providing room and support for diverse groups of women, from asylum-seekers to sex workers, from
women with disabilities to environmental campaign groups, the launch was attended by a wide
range of people. It was noted that it was in fact a very international gathering, with attendees from,
amongst other countries, Haiti, Ireland, India, Ghana and the US.

The hope is that with a premises twice the size of the last one, Crossroads Women’s Centre will be
able to assist twice as many women as before, and thus be twice as effective. These are also fully accessible, and boast a peaceful courtyard garden.

Camden Green Party Chair Natalie Bennett, who was in attendance at the re-launch, said “Crossroads do great work – I’ve seen first-hand in particular the assistance they provide to foreign-born women in the UK experiencing visa problems, and to women struggling with financial problems, particularly those with children.

“With the increasingly harsh immigration laws and slashing of benefits that we’re sadly seeing now, I know that these mostly voluntary workers will be working harding than ever, and desperately need this space.”


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by Cllr Maya de Souza

The Camden New Journal report on Sir Derek Jacobi’s plea to save services provided for our older citizens by charitable giving brings home just how badly services for the elderly are likely to be hit by cuts in Camden’s budget.

Services are provided through different departments and through voluntary sector bodies such as Age UK. Cuts in these different budgets are chipping away at our services and are already forcing the voluntary sector to concentrate on fundraising, rather than providing services.

The impact on the health and well-being of the elderly is much more serious than the “granny tax” that led to a general protest earlier in the year.

To date, Camden has had a good provision of services from luncheon clubs to exercise classes. But the combined effect of central government cuts and cuts in the Council’s revenue through freezing Council Tax for around six years is likely to be severe. Years of freezing the council tax below the rate of inflation has meant a loss of revenue of about £15m a year, a sum which would have made a major dent in the £80m cuts that are now required.

Leaving aside the issue of whether the cuts are necessary on a national level considering the potential to save money from unnecessary wars and Trident nuclear weapons and to raise it by addressing tax avoidance by large corporations and wealthy individuals, at a local level Greens will be seeking transparency and dialogue as to how best to fund these services, as well as cross-party pressure on central government. That’s the sort of politics we would like to see – open and honest dialogue with residents and cross-party working so that the Council and residents together can do our best to protect services.

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Natalie Bennett, London Assembly candidate

I was delighted to be asked to represent Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones at the Migrant’ Rights Network London hustings last week.

I’m constantly horrified to see just what a concerted attack is being made on the key rights of migrants and prospective migrants to the UK. This hustings brought together many of the groups trying to deal with that.

This is very much a London issue. London has the greatest number of migrants (2.4 million foreign-born people from a population of 7.8 million in 2010) of any UK region.

The most disturbing issue of all, because it affects extremely vulnerable people, is the changes to the rules on migrant domestic workers. From this month, those brought in by one employer are unable to change jobs without losing their visa – this, as a representative of Justice 4 Domestic Workers (which works with the Unite Union) said at the meeting, is a licence for “slavery”.

But also deeply worrying are the government’s planned changes to settlement rights for non-EU migrant workers. The plan is that they’ll have to earn more than £35,000 a year to win the right to settle. That means, on the government’s own figures, that 48% of migrant nurses, 37% of primary school teachers and 35% of IT/software professionals would be excluded. The plan is that removals of people who fail to meet the thresehold will begin in 2016.

That means the UK is in effect introducing a German-style guestworker scheme – the deal is that you can come here for a few years, probably some of your most productive, healthy years when we can work you very hard – then we’ll ship you out again and replace you with a fresh batch. No sense of building a career or a life, just a slog. What that would do for morale and productivity doesn’t bear thinking about – not to mention the human cost of disrupted lives.

Then, if you think that is bad, there’s also the question of family visas. The government plans to demand the family member who’ll be supporting the incomer have a minimum income of £25,700 (£50k if you have two children – which will exclude most people in “normal” jobs). The probationary visa will also extend from two to five years. Now – although you wouldn’t think it if you read the Daily Mail or the Telegraph – family visa entrants, as do most other migrants, have their visas stamped “no recourse to public funds” – but their sponsor simply has to show that they have the funds to support them.

A gentleman in the audience from Migration Watch tried to claim that actions to reduce immigration such as these weren’t an attack on migrants already here. I and, it was clear from the response, the audience strongly disagreed. The fact is if the two parties of government, and all too often the Labour party too, are saying, or signalling, “we have to reduce migration because migrants are taking our houses/jobs/school places”, then that badly effects migrants already here (and for the record that includes me – I moved to the UK in 1999, having been born in Australia and previously spent five years in Bangkok).

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by Natalie Bennett

It’s good to know that the supermarkets and big food companies have promised under the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal.

But a bit puzzling to see how the displays at the front of the Sainsbury’s near Mornington Crescent Tube on Camden High Street fit in with this new responsibility on unhealthy food and alcohol.

On one side, chocolates, crisps, fizzy drinks, and a bit of wine…

On the other side, lots more wine and beer…

All sold not on the basis of quality or taste, but on how many calories/how much alcohol you get for your pound.

That’s the same Sainsbury’s whose major advertising campaign was banned as misleading.

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