Archive for Canterbury

Britain’s Got Talent winners back Aaron Kiely for VP Welfare

My mate, and all round brilliant person, Aaron Kiely, has received the backing of Britain’s Got Talent winners, Diversity, in this year’s Kent Union elections.

Aaron is running for the position of Vice-President (VP) Welfare. He’s running on a clear, progressive platform addressing the student housing crisis, of improving safety and well-being on campus and in the community, as well as promoting liberation campaigns, combating discrimination and inequality, and fighting for a greener campus.

If students are looking for a seasoned campaigner with passion, enthusiasm and vigour, then Aaron is the guy for the job.

I recommend to all Kent Union students to give Aaron their vote in the upcoming elections and to make him your #1 for VP Welfare.

Check out the video from Perri and Ashley.

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Statement of support for Biosciences staff from VP Welfare candidate

Aaron Kiely, a committed student activist and community campaigner, as well as candidate for the position of Vice President (Welfare) in the upcoming Kent Union elections, has come out with a statement of support in favour of the UCU and those opposing cuts in higher education. Aaron said:

I am absolutely behind our lecturers and their union in this. I attended the meeting where they voted unanimously to campaign against these redundancies and defend their members, OUR lecturers. To make someone redundant at a time like this where no one is employing is outrageous and these people have families and themselves to support.

The whole process that staff have been made to go through is degrading, with them being graded against an arbritary scale. Female staff are also being disproportionately hit and all four female staff are threatened with redundancies. Science is male-dominated enough, we should be employing and supporting more women in the sciences, not laying them off.

I am heartened to see a lot of student support and look forward to working with the UCU, and other Unions in opposing these redundancies and the mistreatment of staff.

You can join the Facebook group opposing the redundancies here.

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Scapegoating students…again

Last week, John Healey, Housing Minister and MP for Wentworth, launched one of the vilest attacks on students yet.

Healey announced plans to grant local councils the power to minimise highly populated student neighbourhoods. The plans will allow councils to license and regulate landlords letting to students in problematic cities.

The Minister for Housing said: “I am giving councils more local powers to crack down on the worst landlords and stop the spread of high concentrations of share homes where it causes problems for other residents or changes the character of a neighborhood.”

These plans to restrict the number of multiple occupation of properties has met opposition from the British Property Federation, director of policy, Iain Fletcher, said: “Clearly, ‘studentification’ is an issue on some areas, but the private rented sector provides far more than student accommodation and any interventions need to be balanced against the impact they could have across the wider sector.”

Already, Liberal Democrat councillors in Canterbury have seized upon the issue. Jo Calvett-Mindell, Lib Dem councillor for St. Stephen’s ward, has long been in favour of a cap on student homes. In 2007, she tabled a motion calling for a 20% limit on the number of student homes per road. She made the exaggerated claim that some streets had “90% student occupancy” without citing any data or evidence of this. This weekend, in a tiny article in the free Canterbury Times newspaper, Cllr. Calvett-Mindell repeated her calls for a cap on student homes in the city.

 The plans are a horrendous attack on students from a Government incessant upon getting 50% of young people into higher education, having committed themselves to narrowing the gap of opportunities for young people after mandatory education, making university an unfair default option for many young people who wish to aspire in other disciplines. How does the Government expect cities to cope with an increasing number of young people attending universities, when it narrows access to decent and fair housing?

It’s bad enough that students have to expect delays in their loans, even when the loans fail to cover the cost of rent for one term. It’s bad enough that students have to accept near poverty wages in jobs with non-flexible work hours. It’s bad enough that time and time again students are scapegoated by local authorities for being the root cause of anti-social behaviour in large towns and cities with a significant student population.

Students can expect to become fodder for negative campaigning in local elections. In cities such as Canterbury- where most students often return home between mid-April to mid-May before the start of the exam season- students are deprived of their opportunity to vote, losing their say and local councillors are fully aware of this. Students can expect local, mainstream politicians to use language usually reserved for the xenophobic BNP. There is already evidence that this is the case.

Under Labour, students have become an easy target. The decline in student activism, aided and abetted by the National Union of Students (NUS), has made cheap political attacks possible. Without the promotion of a culture of activism, students are more likely to be ‘benched’ by their elected representatives when it comes to organising against savage Tory cuts in higher education and the prospect of un-regulated student fees. Permanent campaigning is no longer a fixture for NUS bods and union careerists, they’re far more interested in governance reviews and the re-structuring of their bureaucracies.

Until we see the emergence of grassroots, activist-candidates in student union elections who care more about delivering for students than winning, many students will continually be subjected to a brutalisation that will be surgical, painful and ugly.

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I’m Back

Yes, that’s right dear readers, I am now back to full-time blogging. After two weeks of feeling demotivated and having enough of job applications, I am finally back to where I should be. I am once again ‘posi’ (tive).

Over the next few days I will be discussing the following:

  • Is Gordon Brown a ‘comeback kid’?
  • Is the CWU really prepared to pull the plug on Labour?
  • How would an RMT electoral challenge shape Labour’s General Election campaign?
  • Super marginal seats in the South-East come May 2010
  • The campaign in Brighton Pavilion
  • Could Canterbury ever be anything but Tory Blue?

In other news, it is with great regret for me to announce, but the Scrine Foundation will be closing it’s doors on November 1st. Kent County Council has offered pre-existing contracts with Scrine to another homelessness charity, Porchlight. However, Porchlight will not be taking over the Open Centre located just outside Canterbury East station. Of all the services that Scrine provided it’s Open Centre was the frontline service that it offered to all homeless and marginalised people throughout Kent. After November 1st there will no longer be an Open Centre for Kent’s homeless. Whilst I believe Scrine is attempting to do what it can to keep the centre open, it does not look likely unless a major donor comes forward. It is disappointing news and one that would have major consequences across the community. I can only hope that a last minute miracle happens to ensure that every homeless person in Canterbury and Kent has a roof over their heads on the long, cold nights.

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Save the Scrine Foundation

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The Scrine Foundation is a leading homeless charity in Canterbury, but back in July Kent County Council (KCC) decided to withdraw three service contracts worth £660,000; the charity’s 66 full-time and part-time staff have been put on notice of losing their jobs sometime next month.

The Scrine’s Open Centre in Canterbury is the only place in Kent where homeless people can stay overnight in a safe place, the loss of this crucial service for the dozens of homeless people who rely on the shelter, and the service Scrine provides, would have a detrimental affect on the welfare and safety of the city’s homeless, especially over the coming Winter months.

At present Scrine’s Board of Trustees have voted to appeal KCC’s decision to withdraw the contracts and to “assign them over to an alternative” provider, as one KCC spokesman as said. However, it remains to be seen which other ‘providers’ would offer the Open Centre service that Scrine provides, meaning the loss of the Open Centre would have wide-reaching repercussions for not only the homeless and vulnerable people that rely on the centre, but also on the local community, of whom many are passive towards Canterbury’s homeless, but others are deeply compassionate towards.  

The deadline is looming and time is running out to resolve the issue with KCC. I would be very interested to see who KCC has approached as an ‘alternative provider’, and would be very suspicious as to their motivations in switching provider, despite the resounding endorsements Scrine has recieved from former residents. The local Conservative MP, Julian Brazier, who continually trumps up his ‘support’ for local homeless charities, has made no public comment on the issue, instead he’s flying about all over the place…literally!

The story has been covered in the local Kent papers over recent weeks, and has even been picked up by the BBC.

I for one hope a solution can be found, and quickly. I know already that the University of Kent student group, Students Against Homelessness, are planning to work their socks off at ‘Fresher’s Fair’ next week to get as many students involved as possible. Last year they held a very successful sleepout and I hope this becomes an annual event to send a strong reminder to all that Canterbury cares.

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