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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Report on the National ARMS Committee

Held 3 December 2015, PCS Midlands Regional Office
by Steve Ion (based on Draft Minutes)
  1. FINANCE/BUDGET
It was agreed that additional funds be allocated to the following regions: Wales -£400.00, Eastern - £300.00, South West - £100.00. It was specified that these funds would be taken into account in any 2016 allocation, and that the regions should be made aware of this point. It was noted that following these allocations all regions would now be able to plan and hold their AGMS.

AP1: To write to appropriate regions, and to arrange allocation of funds

It was agreed that 2016 diaries to be issued as soon as possible, the regions to be notified about the diaries (including PCS regional secretaries), and that any surplus be donated to the PCS National hardship fund.

AP2: To write to all ARMs and PCS regions.

Recommendation that 2016 funds should include a ‘ring-fenced’ allocation for campaign funds, recommendation agreed.
  1. SECRETARY’S/NEC REPORT
Update on national campaign and PCS staff changes noted.

Lay Tutors briefing discussed, it was agreed that the national Branch secretary briefing be issued to ARMs regions with covering memo.

AP3: To issue BB with memo.

An application for new reps training was discussed and it was agreed that training inappropriate for ARMs reps to attend. It was further discussed the opportunities for mentoring and training to be pursued via the PCS National Education official.

AP4: To contact Karen Foster.

It was reported that an approach had been received by a Cruise travel company offering discount to ARMs members, this had been raised with nationally, and it was agreed that arrangements could proceed.

AP5: To contact Travel Company to open up discussions on reaching an agreement.
  1. STRATEGIC REVIEW
It was noted that the ARMs paper on SMR had been discussed with NECLO, and now submitted to the NEC for their consideration.

AP6: New Appointed ARMs Official to gain report on the NECs position on the ARMs submission.
  1. CONSTITUTION
IT was noted that the change to the ARMs Constitution agreed by a two thirds majority at the 2015 ARMs Annual Forum that nominations for ARMs National Committee posts can only be made by ARMs Regions at Annual or Special General Meetings of ARMs members and must be supported by at least 50% of those members in attendance.
  1. NATIONAL COMMITTEE ELECTIONS
It was agreed that the proposed new ARMs National Committee structure contained in the ARMs response to the PCS Strategic Review means that there is the need to agree postponement of our National Committee election until after our 2016 Annual Forum is held and relevant changes to the ARMs Constitution agreed.

AP7: Newly Appointed Arms Official to write to AGS and NEC to seek agreement for the constitutional point and also the postponement of the elections.
  1. PCS ANNUAL CONFERENCE ARRANGEMENTS 2016
It was agreed that ARMS National Committee seek to have three members invited to ADC 2016, these would staff stall, observe debates and appropriate fringe and offer written reports back to the National committee. Additionally a survey to be issued on ARMs issues to all delegates.

AP8: Newly Appointed ARMs Official to write to GS office for increased invites, and also to Conference arrangements committee for ARMs stall.
  1. ORGANISATION AND MEMBERSHIP
Membership figures were presented, the breakdown of the figures were discussed, it was agreed that further breakdown of the figures was needed.

Steve Ions paper was discussed, it was agreed that a meeting with the National Organiser (or someone appointed by him).

AP9: Newly Appointed ARMs Official to write to National Organiser.

It was agreed that a circular be requested to be issued by HMRC as per the DWP circular issued last year on VES / VER leavers.

AP10: Newly Appointed ARMs Official to write to HMRC Group secretary.
  1. NPC
Bookings for delegates needed. Delegates to be agreed at the March 2016 National committee meeting.

AP11: To arrange booking for hotels and delegates.
  1. COMMUNICATIONS
It was agreed that the ARMs website needed updating, and that the dates of all ARMs regional AGMs needed to be gained.

AP12: To gain the dates of all regional AGMs.
AP13: To review ARMs web pages and content.

It was agreed that an E edition of UP In ARMs would be ready for issue early in the New Year.

AP14: To draft Up In ARMs.

Date of Next Meeting 3 March 2016. 

A guest post by the Shadow Chancellor

Paying tax is something we all must do to live in a civilised society, and tax justice campaigners have for years highlighted tax avoidance and evasion and the need to tighten regulations and enforce the law. As this PCS infographic shows, this has increasingly become more difficult for the HMRC, both with fewer numbers of staff and a revolving door between HMRC and the accountancy firms (gamekeeper turning poacher.) This situation needs to change.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

News updates - from the web

  • BRE briefing paper shows simple changes to the homes of older people could save the NHS over £600million a year - here.
  • Raising women's retirement age: what does it mean for you - here.
  • Energy - Priority Services Register for older and disabled people - here.
  • MPs warn older people will suffer due to delays in care cost cap - here.
  • Which? Elderly care - here.
  • Is the care home market heading for a crash? - here.
  • It's time business stopped peddling lazy, damaging stereotypes of older people -  here.
  • Attendance Allowance is a lifeline for disabled people and must not be merged with social care budgets - here.

Monday, 21 December 2015

AA transferring to local councils

Please see this report in the Guardian:

"Attendance allowance for over-65s to become the responsibility of councils in one of the biggest reallocations of public resources in 25 years".

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

MPs feathering their own nests - petition

MPs and political parties should not be able to profit from any company that takes on public sector work, such as in the civil service, local authorities, police, NHS, fire service, and so on. Nor should they profit from any company involved in the arranging of public sector contracts.

Any shares owned should be sold before taking up post as an MP, and this should also include MPs' immediate families so they do not just transfer them to their partners. At present, many MPs profit out of their own decisions to award contracts.

If you agree with this proposal, please sign this petition.

Chancellor offers "sticking plaster" on care

In last month’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that local councils would be able to raise an additional 2% in council tax in order to pay for social care. Since 2010, the sector has suffered £4.6 billion worth of cuts since 2010 - and campaigners argue this new plan will be nowhere near enough to address the crisis. Already over one million older people no longer get the help they need at home, staff turnover is high, the quality of care is sometimes questionable and there is a distinct lack of dignity. Some councils in poorer areas will struggle to raise sufficient funds and a wider postcode lottery in care will emerge.

Jan Shortt, NPC vice president said: “Anyone associated with the care system will tell you that it simply cannot survive without major reform and all the chancellor has done today it put a sticking plaster over the problem.” The NPC full briefing on the statement is available here.

Taken from the National Pensioners Convention Bulletin for December 2015. To receive copies of the Campaign! E-Bulletin - simply send an email to: info@npcuk.org.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Pensioner winter deaths reach 43900 - NPC

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has called on the government to launch a new fuel poverty commission to urgently address the scale of annual winter deaths among the country’s older population. The call follows the publication of shocking official figures showing there were an estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in last winter. The figure is the highest number since 1999, with 27% more people dying in the winter months compared with the non-winter months. This is up by 25,700 on the previous year and represents a 140% increase. The majority of deaths occurred among people aged 75 and over; and in total the figures represent 365 deaths a day or 15 deaths an hour.

The NPC highlighted the scale of winter deaths by staging a black balloon release in various parts of the country. Balloons were released by the NPC in Barnsley, Birmingham, Colchester, Exeter, Milton Keynes, Southampton and Westminster - with all of the events gaining both local and national publicity.

Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary said: "Officials have tried to say that the large increase in winter deaths is due to an ineffective flu vaccine, but even if that were true, it only accounts for a third of the increase in these figures. The truth is many older people are living in poor housing, unable to keep warm and frightened about paying their energy bills.

"We can’t go on every year replaying the same tragic scene; the government should set up a special commission to urgently oversee a programme of insulating homes, building more suitable properties for older people, raising the winter fuel allowance and tackling the excessive profits of the big six energy companies."

Taken from the NPC's Bulletin for December 2015. To receive copies of the Campaign! E-Bulletin - simply send an email to: info@npcuk.org.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Why aren't moderate Muslims doing anything about terrorism?

The answer is quite simple: they are.

Muslim leaders and scholars have consistently denounced Daesh, the Muslim Youth League in the UK has declared an "ideological holy war" against extremism, and even YouTube has even tried to recruit US Muslims to counter extremist content. Here are two other specific examples:

Last weekend a march through London by Muslims for peace and unity was ignored by virtually all of the British media. The annual event is organised by the Husaini Islamic Trust UK who say it is the "largest annually organised Islamic event in Europe".

Mohammed Al-Sharifi, a regular volunteer at the Trust stated: "We are trying to undo people’s misconceptions about Islam: this a multi-faith event and we are trying to promote universal human values."

Read about the demo here.

Indonesia has more Muslims than any other nation. Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, is the largest independent Islamic organisation in the world, with 50 million members, a number equal to 78% of the UK population. It was founded in 1926 to combat the ideological extremist predecessors of Daesh. Its stated goal is to "to spread messages about a tolerant Islam in their respective countries to curb radicalism, extremism and terrorism".

Read about the NU here.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Benn’s speech: demagogic and dishonest

The definition of a demagogue: ‘a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular fears, desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.’

He is the darling of the right wing media today, and basking in the approval of the most right wing Tory government since WWII. The Murdoch Press, Daily Mail and the rest, including right wing Labour, will promote him as the man to replace Jeremy Corbyn. His resort to flag-waving jingoism is the device used by demagogues throughout the ages. Benn’s reference to Labour Internationalism and to the International brigade’s fight against Franco to buttress his support for international capitalism was unscrupulous. He implied that opposition to military action constituted less than total opposition to the monstrosity of Isis. The millions who oppose bombing which will result in the slaughter of the innocents need no lessons from Benn who enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq which unleashed today’s sectarian madness.

I can also report that the Merseyside Pensioners' Association passed a resolution in support of Jeremy Corbyn in his opposition to the bombing. Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy also addressed the meeting outlining the consequences of Tory cuts on the police service.

A call was made for a real campaign against all the cuts being imposed by the Tory and implemented by Labour Councils all over the country.

Tony Mulhearn

British pensions "worst of any major economy"

Workers in the UK will have the worst pensions of any major economy and the oldest official retirement age of any country, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The typical British worker can look forward to a pension worth only 38% of their salary, once state and private pensions are combined. The Paris-based thinktank said on Tuesday that this compares with above 90% in the Netherlands and Austria and 80% in Spain and Italy.

Click here for the full story.

Campaign Report - ARMS Executive Committee Meeting 17 November 2015

1. October UN Older People’s Day

This year, a number of NPC regions and local groups took part in the UN Older People’s Day to highlight the need for a better state pension for both existing and future pensioners. Reports show that where activities took place, they were successful, but there was a sense that slightly fewer groups were involved than last year. These events, along with 1 February Dignity Action Day, annual Autumn Lobby and the June Pensioners’ Parliament need to be seen as part of a calendar of campaigning taking place throughout the year, which regions and groups adopt and start to support.

2. NPC Lobby of Parliament 4 November 2015

This event was well attended, with around 130 people taking part in Committee Room 14. There was an excellent line-up of speakers, including the new shadow pension minister. We will of course schedule in a similar event for next year.

3. 1st February 2016 Dignity Action Day – “Better Care Now”

A detailed briefing has been issued to NPC regions outlining the plans to make next year’s event bigger and more eye-catching with some PR stunts. Using the theme “Better Care Now” we hope to link with care workers and their unions to highlight the demand that dignified care comes from have staff that also have dignity. In due course, a national leaflet will be produced for groups to use on the day. More details to follow.

4. Meeting with the BBC

Kelvin Hopkins MP, along with the general secretary and president met with BBC’s director of strategy, James Purnell. It was agreed to write to the BBC head of policy as well as to the secretary of state for culture and his opposite number. This has been done and we are awaiting replies. A copy of the letter sent to the BBC can of course be circulated to the EC for information.

ADDENDUM – The BBC has played into the government hands by agreeing to take on payment from the Department of Work and Pensions of licence fees for the over 75s, a cost of £600,000 plus - 20% of the BBC budget

BRIAN HERBERTSON

5. Comprehensive Spending Review

The Chancellor will give is Comprehensive Spending Review statement on 25 November. It is widely anticipated that in it he will outline the scale of the cuts in public funding. In particular, he is also expected to announce the figure for the new state pension next April, and pressure is growing to see whether or not any money “saved” by delaying the care cap will be redirected into the social care system. The NPC will issue a public response and briefing and circulate it to the EC as usual.

6. Excess Winter Deaths/Black Balloon Protest 

On the day of the CSR, the Office for National Statistics will also release the provisional excess winter death figures for winter 2014/15. Given that the previous figures were almost an all-time low, it is highly likely the number will be higher this time. To mark this announcement, the London region has ordered a number of black balloons and at least half a dozen NPC regions will be releasing them at 12 noon on the day at different locations across the country.

7. Current issues 

TPA comments
At this year’s Conservative Party conference, the research director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance made a statement at a fringe meeting calling on the government to immediately cut universal pensioner benefits. His claimed this could be done without any political cost because some of those pensioners affected would have died by the time the election was due in 2020, and moreover even if they were still alive, many of them would not remember it was the Conservative party that had taken their benefits away. The NPC called for him to apologise – which he did – but whilst he said his remarks had been “crass and ill-judged” he still felt the benefits should be cut. His comments of course echo the ongoing attempt to divide the generations.

New State Pension
The Work and Pensions Select Committee is currently calling for evidence on the new state pension. The NPC will be making a submission. In addition, a revised edition of our pamphlet, For What It’s Worth will also be available shortly, containing additional information about the impact of the new state pension on tomorrow’s pensioners.

Triple Lock now “too expensive”
Following the publication of September inflation and earnings figures, we now know that the basic state pension (for those with a full contribution record) will rise by 2.9% (average earnings) because under the triple lock arrangement this is higher than the 2.5% guarantee or the -0.1% CPI figure. This will raise the full basic state pension by £3.35 a week and £2 for many women who rely on their husband’s contributions for their pension. It also means that the second state pension and any occupational pensions that is not linked to RPI, will be frozen for the year. Despite this, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has claimed the triple lock is now too expensive and should be scrapped. This will now clearly be an area on which to keep an eye – especially as both the Conservatives and Labour were committed to the triple lock in their election manifestos.

NPC and social media

As an acknowledgment of the fact that the NPC must increasingly connect with younger generations, we are seeking to develop our presence on both Twitter and Facebook. However, we need more and more people to follow us and like our pages. It would be useful if affiliates could therefore publicise our details across their members as well as other groups with which they may have links. The details are:

8. Diary dates
1 February 2016 – Dignity Action Day
14-16 June 2016 NPC Pensioners’ Parliament