So who did vote to close the children’s centres? – Addendum

Lots of contributors on this site have accused the Labour Party of hypocrisy in closing children’s centres by accepting the new budget and that’s fair enough, they certainly appear hypocritical. They’re not the only ones though.

As an old school Labour man, I realised back in 2001 that MY Labour Party was gone forever. My Labour Party had been sold to the highest bidders. So all those ‘Labour’ councillors voting for a budget that damages those whom they claim to represent is not only unsurprising, it is to be expected. Sadly, as an old school union man, I didn’t realise how deep that hypocracy runs within my beloved trade union movement too.

Robin Symonds of Unison, who at least has the guts to come on this site in spite of a small amount of criticism from some of us, asks for support in the fight to save those children’s centres which is admirable, but here’s the problem for Robin and his fellow full time officials; below is a list taken from our councillors’ registered interests (section 9):

Shabana Ahmed Unison
John Doyle Unison
Emma Hoddinott Unison
Patricia Russell Unison (Ret.)
Brian Steele Unison (Convenor)
Ken Wyatt Unison

Dominick Beck Unite
Margaret Clark Unite
Simon Currie Unite
Judy Dalton Unite
Mahroof Hussain Unite/GMB
Barry Kaye Unite/Rotherham TUC
Neil License Unite/PCS
Simon Tweed Unite
Emma Wallis Unite

Susan Ellis Community
Keith Goulty Community
Jane Hamilton Community
Rose McNeely Community
Chris Read Community
Glyn Whelbourn Community
Peter Wooton Community

Alan Buckley FBU

John Foden UCATT/UCU
Neil Hamilton UCU
DAve Pickering UCU

David Roche NUT
Gordon Watson NUT

Catherine Sims GMB

As you can see, the trade union movement is extremely well represented on the council, although I may have missed a ‘Community’ or two. So can Robin tell me, which Unison is the real one? Yours, which protests the closures, or the Unison of the six councillors above, who voted to close them? Will the real slim shady please stand up. For me, declaring Unison as an interest and then voting against Unison interests is no different from crossing a picket line. But it’s not just Unison is it? I guess you’d expect Unite to back Labour, but the NUT and UCU who care about our kids and young adults? Unions that have public sympathy like the FBU?

This is a betrayal unlike any other. 50% of the council are ‘union’ enough to declare it, but not ‘union’ enough to mean it; to stand up and protect vital services; to put themselves and their political careers on the line.

You may ask why it bothers me so much. I’ll tell you. As a member of the ‘underclass’, I expect the tories (and their locked in the attic UKIP brethren) to stab me in the back and laugh while they claim their expenses and blame everyone else for bad news, but to see the trade union movement subverted and emasculated to such an extent that not a single one of those above could vote against this budget and prevent the decimation of such an important service makes me weep. What hope for us now when our best chance of protection from the cruelty raining down upon us is too busy showing their Party loyalty? Or too safe in the comfort of full time paid positions within the union movement to openly criticise ‘their’ people. Bob Crow must be spinning all the way through to Australia.

On Rik’s earlier post on the children’s centres, someone accused the stay-aways, Neil License and Simon Tweed (both Unite) of cowardice. I believe it was their sense of shame that kept them away, knowing they wouldn’t be able to look at themselves in the mirror. As for the others, their treachery should not be forgiven. It won’t be by me at any rate. I wonder if those supporting the Care UK workers in Sheffield today realise that the unions they belong to have become such a large part of the problem.

Of course this is the internet, so most things written are subjective. This is just one man’s viewpoint and many would (and will) disagree with me. So I’ve done a quick poll over the last day or two; granted, only 12 people, representing three of the above unions (Unison, Unite and one person from the FBU), but when all 12 rank and file members saw the list, it was 100% agreement that in ye olde days, all on the list would have earned the title ‘scab’. I don’t like the use of that word, I prefer to call them ‘New Union’ in much the same way that Labour became ‘New Labour’. Or maybe I’m missing the bigger game that’s being played by those councillors on the list of shame. Robin Symonds can at least answer for the first six, but I’d love to hear from other full time officials to explain their councillors’ voting choices.

Warren Vale

10 thoughts on “So who did vote to close the children’s centres? – Addendum

  1. Excuse my ignorance,and please correct me if I am wrong, but I thought it was a requirement that all Labour Councillors had to be members of a trade union.If that is so where is Akhtar? As for realising the “real”Labour party had gone in 2001. I realised that when Blair had Thatcher round for tea at number 10 and then flew out to reassure Murdoch that he wasn’t going to rock the boat and it would be business (big business) as usual whilst he and he and his New Labour cronies were in power!


  2. This is a good post and has obviously been well-researched and the points are well made. However, it is not my position to explain the actions of any elected member. There are plenty of posters on here who would (rightly) be incandescent if elected councillors voted the way the trade unions wanted them to.
    I don’t wish to get into semantics but the councillors who voted to accept the Children’s Centres proposals are those councillors who are members of the Cabinet and not the full list that you have produced. I accept that those listed may have voted to accept the budget but there is a subtle difference. In any event, I am not going to defend the actions and voting decisions of any councillors. They receive handsome allowances for the responsibility of office and the decision-making that goes with it.
    Councillors are elected by their constituents to represent their views and ultimately they are answerable to them at the polls.
    I am not an elected member and personally I would not be able to vote for a cuts budget. There are one or two posters on here who are suggesting that the Labour group should have voted against the budget and refer to the Clay Cross Housing Finance Act dispute of 1972. I suspect the majority of posters on here would not espouse such an approach and would accuse councillors of abdicating their responsibility if they refused to set a budget. It’s easy to be in opposition as you can vote against the budget without offering an alternative but when you are in power you don’t have that option.
    The trade unions are opposed to all public spending cuts and believe them to be ideologically-driven by Central government. RMBC has had to find £23 million of savings this year as a result of central government cuts, which disproportionately affect places like Rotherham.
    UKIP are being promoted by many on here (not you Warren) as the party of opposition. It’s anyone’s guess what they would do if they ever found themselves in power. They would need bigger ideas than their popularist soundbites such as cutting Chief Executive pay if they were to avoid having to make similar damaging cuts to services.


    • Thank you for a quick response Robin. I may have some issues with your reply but once again you have my respect for replying at all.

      I do take issue with this statement though – ‘There are plenty of posters on here who would (rightly) be incandescent if elected councillors voted the way the trade unions wanted them to.’ My worry isn’t whether a few posters are incandescent about perceived union influence on a vote, it’s whether the service users are incandescent about trade union supporting councillors voting to remove vital services.

      As seems to be typical in the modern age, we all argue the ins and outs of the politics, whilst quietly in the background the cuts continue.

      On a previous post, you argued that we should all stand together and stop in-fighting, but it seems that this always entails us (the many) having to join with you (the few). That is, ordinary men and women supporting the aims and actions of a union or a party (of whichever colour) whatever IT chooses to do, rather than the union or party supporting us in what we want them to do. That can’t always apply obviously, but when it comes to children’s centres, the union supporting councillors above chose the wrong side.

      Sadly, UKIP understand this, and are giving the people of Rotherham the impression that they are the only ones on our side. That they stand up for the service users, that they will fight corruption, that they can save the day. Nonsense of course, but when you look at the list above, you can’t blame people for wanting to believe it, especially if you’re a Unison member stood with a banner protesting outside the Town Hall whilst inside, other Unison people are voting against you. Farage called for his people’s army to fight the political establishment and I’m afraid that establishment now seems to include the trade union movement.


      • We have never asked the many to join in supporting the aims and actions of the union. The reality of the situation is that the people who are most likely to bring about a change of direction by the Council on children’s centres are the people who use them rather than those who work in them. Through our campaign we have attempted to coordinate and provide a focus for community activism. Parents at one children’s centre said they were in a state of panic when the proposed closures were announced and they didn’t have a clue what to do. They were grateful for the leadership that we attempted to provide. The practical support that UNISON has provided to centre users has included providing the contact details of the councillors in each ward together with times, dates, venues of their surgeries. We have told them which councillor is up for election in May and encouraged people to lobby them. We have provided a model letter to be sent to councillors. This has not been done to further THE UNION’S aims but to try to support communities to further the aim of keeping ALL children’s centres open.


  3. I totally agree with the sentiments here. I too belonged to a working class movement that stood together in hard times, took action to defend each other and stood shoulder to shoulder to protect the very things our families, friends, colleagues and communities fought so hard to establish. Unfortunately, as you so rightly point out, those days have gone, the Labour Party is gone and from what I see regularly, the trade union movement has also been usurped by careerist, yes men/ women. They walk hand in hand with their councillor friends, colleagues not in unity for the people that they represent, but to protect their own interests, non jobs and facilities time! I was there in Rotherham the other Saturday to watch these people fawn over Sarah Champion, a finer example of this kind of ‘Labour leader’ as you can find! It was nothing more than a pantomime performance, great PR for Champion. If people really want to save their local children’s centres, I recommend organising themselves as community members and expose these so called representatives of the people for what they are, leaching pretenders who care nothing for the communities or workers which they are supposed to represent. These parasites care only for themselves! The price of losing children’s centres, jobs, local facilities and services come from the very Labour Councillors who want your vote next month. Tell them what you think by electing people who care for you and your community instead of this motley crew!


    • It is regrettable that some posters see fit to post such acerbic comments yet aren’t prepared to reveal their identity (or even use a pseudonym). Personally I wouldn’t direct such insults towards people I don’t know. Leaching pretenders and parasites are terms that I would not bandy about in such a cavalier fashion. Anyway, far from caring nothing for the communities and the 200 children’s centre workers that I represent, I am working to harness public opinion and directing it the right way. The naive suggestion that people should organise themselves as community members is ill-conceived. The children’s centres will close in April 2015 i.e. a month before the local elections. Even if Labour were wiped out in all 21 wards in this year’s local elections they would still hold power and it is clear that they could not lose their majority before the closures in April 2015. A different strategy is required if we are to keep the centres open other than bashing Labour and the union! For all your vitriol, bile and insults I don’t see anybody else doing anything to oppose the closures other than UNISON.


  4. As the person who brought up the subject of the Clay Cross councillors let me just give you a flavour of the cowards in Rotherham who pretend to represent us. At the sham that was the consultation for the Dinnington and Anston children’s centres the deputy leader of the council was there. When I said that there is an alternative to the closures, the cowards at the town hall can refuse to implement the cuts, councillor Akhtar virtually told me I was crazy. He said that if the council did this the government would send in people who did not know Dinnington or cared about it. My point to him and the rest of the money grabbers is this at least they wouldn’t pretend to care in order to keep their snouts in the trough. Robin Symonds should know this as well the councillors of Clay Cross were never seen as abdicating their responsibility, they were seen as having the guts to protect the people they were elected by; some thing our Labour councillors wouldn’t understand. The Clay Cross councillors were surcharged, some thing that can’t happen today, and so were made bankrupt. This council could have refused to implement the bedroom tax but this would have meant them being suspended from office and the loss of their lucrative unearned income. Robin Symonds when you are in power you do have the options you can get some principles and say no. Surely it is better to break the law than break the poor.
    Dave Smith


    • As Bakunin said, “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called the People’s Stick”. As I posted earlier, I would not personally be able to vote for cuts as I would not be able to reconcile my mind to the idea of making public service cuts on behalf of a Tory government. However, Labour councillors are between a rock and a hard place as a council cannot legally set a deficit budget and, having witnessed at first hand central government intervention in the running of a single service within a local authority, I would not relish the prospect of Eric Pickles sending in an intervention team to run the whole of Rotherham council.


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