Happy New Year! New Year Dishonour List 2018

by Ian Jenkins

Dish out your tawdry, bloodsoaked gongs

Reward your friends for all their wrongs

Hang sigils struck from stolen gold

From those who do just as they’re told.
Wrap criminals in silk and ermine

Make peers and knights of lying vermin

Honour those who turn their hands

To murder and theft in ravaged lands 
But throw some plebs an OBE

In the name of fake egality

And as cover for this filthy game

Of honours as a mask for shame.
And when your shabby little list

Is safely grasped in the monarch’s fist

Pray to the darkest gods to bless

Your litany of wickedness.
But year on year the luster fades

Of ersatz honour on parade

And one day all will wonder how

Humanity was made to bow

Tories quietly  drop two flagship housing policies from key strategy document


Exclusive: Plans to build 200,000 homes for first-time buyers and help more people access Right to Buy are excluded from latest plan amid ‘complete rethink’

Ben Kentish @BenKentish 20 hours ago – 275 comments

Two of the Conservatives’ flagship housing policies have been dropped from a key government document, raising questions about the future of the plans.

The new “single departmental plan” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) does not include a single reference to Starter Homes, which form a central plank of the Government’s commitment to increase home ownership, or of the planned extension of Right to Buy.

The document, which forms part of the guidance for civil servants working on housing, is in stark contrast to the previous plan published last year, in which the two policies featured prominently and were mentioned several times as part of the Conservatives’ housing strategy.

In the latest version, five specific pledges to boost home ownership, including delivering Starter Homes and the extension of Right to Buy, have been downgraded to a single-line promise to “increase home ownership through schemes including Help to Buy”.

Fewer social homes being built than at any time since Second World War

Furthermore, a specific commitment to “increasing home ownership” has been absorbed into the broader aim of fixing “the broken housing market”.

Starter Homes are properties supposedly affordable to first-time buyers because they are offered at a 20 per cent discount.

Ministers had promised to build 200,000 of them by 2020 but The Independent revealed last month that not a single Starter Home has yet been built. This led to officials admitting the policy remained an “ambition” – but have now removed all mention of it from DCLG’s housing objectives.

The previous iteration of the departmental plan included a clear commitment to the policy. It said: “We are delivering a major boost to affordable home ownership with Starter Homes and extending Right to Buy to housing association tenants.”

It reiterated a pledge to build 200,000 Starter Homes, including 30,000 on brownfield land – former industrial sites earmarked for development.

References to the planned extension of Right to Buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants have also been quietly dropped from the latest document.

Whereas the 2016 document promised to “implement a voluntary agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation that will extend Right to Buy level discounts to 1.3 million housing association tenants, giving them the opportunity to buy their own home”, the latest version includes no mention at all of the controversial Right to Buy scheme.

The omissions will probably fuel speculation the Government is wavering in its commitment to two of its most contentious housing policies – especially given the delays in implementing them.

Amid widespread concern about the future of social housing, Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, admitted in October the Conservatives had “failed” on housing in recent years and promised a “complete rethink of our approach to social housing” in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

That revaluation could have consequences for the two policies not included in the latest DCLG plan, both of which are predicted to accelerate the loss of social housing – something highlighted by the Grenfell tragedy. The extension of Right to Buy is expected to lead to the loss of 75,000 social homes, while Starter Homes will be built at the expense of other types of affordable housing, including those for social rent.

Flagship government housing plan fails to deliver a single home in three years

Labour said the omissions in the new document showed the Government had “given up” on helping first-time buyers.

John Healey, the party’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “With home ownership at a 30-year low and the number of younger homeowners in free fall, the Government has now given up on first-time buyers.

“We need much more affordable housing for younger people looking to buy their first home but ministers have erased new housing for first-time buyers from the Communities Department’s official objectives.

“After seven years of failure on housing, the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. Ministers should back Labour’s plan to build 100,000 FirstBuy homes linked to average incomes to give first-time buyers the chance to own their home.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the new strategy document was a “high-level summary” and did not reflect a change in policy.

A spokesperson said: “This single departmental plan is not an exhaustive list of all of the department’s policies. This is a high-level summary of our priorities and overall aims for the Government.”

The latest plan was published as ministers said the implementation of a third major Tory housing policy is to be be pushed back until 2019 at the earliest. Controversial measures introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will force local councils to sell off their most valuable council homes in order to fund the extension of Right to Buy.

Town hall leaders say the policy will lead to a huge loss of social housing at a time when waiting lists are already up to 10 years in some parts of the country, while housing charity Shelter estimates that up to 113,000 council homes could be sold off under the plans.

The policy had already been delayed until at least 2018 and Mr Javid confirmed last week that it will be pushed back again, until 2019 at the earliest. A government spokesperson said ministers were “considering” how to implement the policy.

Criminalising homelessness: Homeless man jailed and forced to pay £115 after he fell asleep in doorway of central Bath hotel

He has to pay a £115 victim surcharge

A homeless man has to pay £115 – after being locked up for falling asleep in the doorway of a hotel in Bath.

When 51-year-old Eli John James refused to leave the doorway of the Westgate Buildings Travelodge in Bath city centre on Saturday, December 9, he was arrested and dragged before the courts.

Two days later at Bath Magistrates Court James pleaded guilty to sleeping in the doorway without a reasonable excuse and was sentenced to three weeks in jail.

Room rates at the Travelodge start at £63, while Mr James's £115 fine must be paid by Christmas day
The Travelodge in Westgate Buildings is the company’s third in Bath

The court imposed a £115 victim surcharge.

Mr James, of no fixed address, was in violation of a criminal behaviour order imposed by Salisbury Court in May of this year when he refused to leave the Travelodge doorway.

Mr James is facing the prospect of paying hotel giants Travelodge a £115 victim surcharge
James has to pay a £115 victim surcharge

Bath Magistrates Court also noted that the offence was so serious because of Mr James’s previous breaches of the order, and because the breach was aggravated by the defendant’s previous offending.

introducing “Ourfield” – a cooperative co-farming/crop share investment collective grains movement

OurField is a co-op grains movement that will change the way we grow grains forever, which has started in one field #OurFieldWeston collectively farmed by 40 people, on Cherry farm, in Hertfordshire.

Ref: http://www.ourfieldproject.org/

Do you dare to crop share? #OurField grows
by Tessa Tricks on 7 December, 2017
Ref: http://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/12271/

This past spring, I joined 41 others in the project #OurField, co-invest in a crop. Together with a farmer, we decided what to grow, how to grow it and what we would do with the crop. #OurField is a co-operative grains movement seeking to shift our relationship with food and its production, and working to make the food system a fairer place for farmers.

The financial and emotional support of investment allows farmers to experiment with different growing methods, learn about new opportunities and better understand public perspectives. At the same time the investors share the farmer’s risks and challenges. It’s as much about empathy and sharing the experience, as it is learning about food production.

Much has happened since I last wrote about the collective. We’ve chosen a crop, disputed how organically to grow it and grappled with taking it to market. Anyone can peer into the window of the collective decision-making process by visiting Loomio, the online platform that helped the geographically and ideologically disparate investors in #OurField, reach consensus.

In the grand scheme of our decision making, crop choice was relatively straight forward.

On the first vote we agreed that we would grow spelt with a companion crop which would not be harvested but instead act as a weed suppressant and help to build soil fertility.

Things got tricky when we had to decide on whether to add nitrogen fertiliser to the crop. In the words of one co-investor ”The first decision helped give the project a bit of an identity, a face (or crop) to a name. [But] the second decision could have a big impact on the end-result of our experiment.” The vote was close with many on the fence wrestling with the sheer number of factors at play – you can find them outlined in detail on the Loomio site and in this blog from the our field team.

At the last minute the vote swung towards the decision not to use nitrogen fertiliser on the crop.

I am very pleased that a high degree of respect was maintained during all discussions online, despite differing opinions. I think everyone has found it a learning journey. So many variables come up about every decision, it constantly brings you down to earth, and we are reminded how big the task at hand is when growing 20 acres of cereals.
Abby Rose, Our Field Co-ordinator

As one of the investors with the least experience in the field, I found the urgency as well as the complexity of the decisions we had to make, a challenge. The crop doesn’t stop growing just because our lives are busy. You can’t ask the ripe field of spelt for an extension to read up on the pros and cons of different agricultural techniques. I don’t think I was the only one that struggled to keep up at times. The number of people involved in coming to the decision dwindling as the project progressed. Less than half have actively participated in discussions since the first vote, and half of that again have been proactive in driving the discussion. I caught up with a number of the co-op investors to see how they were finding the experience and how it faired alongside their expectations.

Urban grower and self- identified tech geek, Darren was keen to see how the online platform could be used to make it easier for people to participate in the governance of community supported agriculture. “At times I’ve found it slightly frustrating, wanting to know more, or be more involved, but there is so much to be done, and so much to understand, in both the farming process and running a project like this, transmitting all information is impossible. Considering everything, I think the team have been doing a great job.

When asked what advice he would give to new investors, Darren declares, “Go for it. Even if you don’t think you have much time to be involved, you will learn loads about how your food is produced and will be helping to support a new, hopefully better way of organising our food production.

Christine, like Darren has been one of the more vocal contributors. She joined due to her interest in micro-bakeries and has found that the project helped her to learn a huge amount about the supply system. “I am horrified that the value of the crop is so low and by the risks farmers have to take. I now want to know much more about farming subsidies and how that system works and how a ‘crop to mill’ cooperative could work.

She’s struggled with the shifts in the group’s energy and the time that she’s been able to contribute and warns future potential investors “not to underestimate the amount of work needed to keep the momentum going, it shouldn’t fall to just a few”.

Many of the co-investors appreciate that consensus-making with a group of forty was always going to be a challenge and they have been prepared to take a back seat, investing their money, but not their time. “I knew from the beginning that this was a project I was intrigued by and keen to support, without it being one that I would necessarily dedicate myself to, beyond paying and trying to stay up to date.” Others struggled with the remote nature of the task, “I would have stayed more engaged if the key decision-making discussions took place face to face. If you hadn’t looked at Loomio for a while, it seemed too daunting to catch up.”

Unanimous among the group is that much has been learnt and the pressures upon the farmer are many and far ranging. Albeit brief, a stint in his shoes has been eye-opening and rewarding for all.

John Cherry, our innovative farmer has also learnt a lot, taking risks that he wouldn’t have afforded otherwise and great joy in the process, he says.

I have particularly enjoyed growing a spelt crop without any inputs – something I like the idea of, but left to my own devices, I couldn’t have resisted spraying most of the weeds out and giving it a dollop of fertiliser. It was a disappointing year for spring crops with the long dry periods and poor growing conditions, so quite possibly the no input regime was the best thing we could have done!

It is a fairly pain-free way of trying something new, …it’s not your decision so you don’t kick yourself for mistakes, and financially you are sharing the risk with [more than] 40 other people. More importantly it is fun and educational…having to explain what we do to such a clever bunch of people helps us see things through the eyes of others. Farmers don’t get out very often…”

This month the group will decide where to sell the spelt, which unfortunately wasn’t of a high enough Hagberg number to be milled for bread flour, we are assessing options such as beer, gin, animal feed and biscuit grain. We will also have to decide how to proceed in the year ahead. Will John keep us on for another year, and will any of the collective cash out? Keep an eye on Loomio for final updates and watch this space for a handbook so you can start your own #OurField project anywhere in the world.

Guardian editorial: make water available for free on tap [and food, clothing, shelter]

Great start Guardianistas…. but

Water is a human right under Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Therefore NOBODY should have to pay ANYTHING for it

We got the post WWII welfare state wrong – everyone should have been given these things as a RIGHT – not just to be given enough money to buy them through ‘social security’.

Other basic needs under Article 25 are
– provided for all in Britain until the 1979 Thatcher government

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The Guardian view on plastic bottles: make water available on tap


Editorial Thankfully the campaign to cut our plastic habit by making free fresh water widely available is gathering momentum

Friday 8 December 2017 19.00 GMT

Like a wave building far out at sea, the momentum behind universally available cool fresh water is growing steadily. It is driven by the realisation that the world’s plastic habit must be broken, quickly. It;s reckoned that a million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute; the meaning of this number is best expressed in the images of mountains of litter made of this virtually indestructable material piled by the tides on to otherwise deserted beaches in remote corners of the globe. It is an unnecessary disaster. There is no reason why water has to come wrapped in its own environmentally lethal packaging.

This week, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to develop a city-wide network of water fountains and refill stations. A Bristol-based campaign to set up refill stations in city centres and seaside resorts is flooding across Europe. Australian cities such as Melbourne have digital maps showing where drinking fountains are available.

There could be so much more – airside refill stations in every international airport to slash the thousands of bottles jettisoned at security would be a good start.

A refill station on every platform in every railway station would be even better. The choice between income from retail outlets or a low-cost move to help end plastic pollution is really no choice at all.

Plymouth’s ex-Barclays Bank squatters evicted from Mutley Plain

An enforcement officer served the squatters with a possession order from the landlord

A group of squatters who have been living in different empty buildings along Mutley Plain for months have been kicked out.

Most recently Phil Northmore and Ryan Roberts had been squatting in the vacant former Polish shop, after being moved on from the Barclays bank building next door.

But now the friends, along with a few other squatters, have been told to leave and not come back.

On Wednesday an enforcement officer visited the squat and served them with an ‘Interim Possession Order’, giving them 24 hours to leave.

A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said although it is not a criminal matter, they were made aware of the situation.

“They [the squatters] left without any trouble,” the spokesperson confirmed.

The Herald went inside the squat in the former Barclays bank branch in October and met Phil and Ryan, who had climbed in through an open window.

They were squatting in the former bank before they were evicted [Paul Slater Images Ltd – picture removed]

Phil, who is now living in York, said they gave the enforcement officer “no problems” and gladly moved out within the deadline.

“There is a lot of stigma behind squatting,” he said on the phone from York. “People just don’t understand.”

The local neighbourhood beat manager for Devon and Cornwall Police said many squats are attached to anti-social behaviour, and it is then the police will get involved.

But they said at the time both Phil and Ryan had always been cooperative.

“But if they are causing anti-social behaviour and we get complains then we will deal with those issues.

“We make the landlords aware of the issue, and it is their job to go through the courts and attempt to obtain a court order.”

Their friend Mike has somewhere to live but likes to visit the squat [Paul Slater Images Ltd – picture removed]

Although it has been widely reported that recent changes to the law make squatting in residential premises a criminal offence for the first time, this is not strictly true.

Plymouth-based solicitors Thompson and Jackson explain: “Refusing to leave a property when requested by a ‘displaced residential occupier’ has been a criminal offence for more than 30 years,” they say on their website, “and the theft of someone else’s electricity etc and causing damage to a property are also criminal acts.

“The new laws on squatting only apply to residential buildings, not land in general, and they only apply to those who are living or intending to live in the property in which they squat, not to transient occupiers.

“If a property you own is occupied by squatters, persuading the police to take action can be a difficult job and it is crucially important to be able to demonstrate conclusively your right to take action to recover your property. Do not be surprised if the squatters claim that you have entered into a lease with them, and be prepared to refute such claims and have the necessary proof available at the beginning.”

Phil says there are golden rules to squatting and his own rules too [Paul Slater Images Ltd – picture removed]

Because of this, Phil and Ryan have no problem entering an empty building – of which there of many on Mutley Plain – and making it their home, however temporary.

When they were squatting in the former Barclays bank branch they pinned up bunting and fairy lights, created makeshift bedrooms and even had a table and chairs.

Phil, who has served a tour in Afghanistan in the military, said: “Most [of the empty buildings a squatter would make their home] are insecure with windows open, and that’s how we get in. No one comes round to check them, they just leave them.”

“This is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, so we didn’t actually attend.

“They [the squatters] went without any trouble. There were six people in the property at the time.”

a landrights campaign for Britain

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