Monday, 18 March 2013


Furness Against the Cuts is not dead - just dormant and is likely to remain so for a while despite the mounting number of assaults on local services and on the standard of living of the Furness population in general.  It is possible that, at some time in the near future, an individual volunteer might choose to stand in the town centre, hand out leaflets and appeal for local support to restore FAC but, based on previous experience, this is unlikely to achieve anything noteworthy. 

The recent 'Thousand Voices' campaign to halt downgrading of the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital,(FGH), initiated and led by Mandy Telford, wife of Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, was most successful and culminated in a Public Meeting attended by almost 400 members of the public some of whom raised several other issues of concern such as ward closures and other cost-cutting measures such as enlisting porters as 'deep clean' staff - a very responsible job for trained nurses who 'deep clean' contaminated surgical areas - seen as a cost-cutting ploy because porters are paid much less than trained nurses.  

The meeting was informed that steps had been taken regarding staffing of the Maternity Unit and there would now be no 'downgrading'.  This was followed by a warning that UHMBT (University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Trust) was required to make savings of £50 million over the next five years; this would involve ending some services (such as specialist vascular services) and the transferring of others (such as urology services) to Kendal, and the possible closure of three wards - one medical, and one surgical and gynaecological.

As stated above, the Thousand Voices campaign was a 'single issue' campaign - saving maternity services at FGH - but this leaves other matters untouched.  It is a bit like celebrating having put out a fire in the kitchen and ignoring the smouldering fires in other rooms of the house resulting in a sudden and catastrophic conflagration.  - the FGH building will not be destroyed but the National Health Service as we have known it will cease to exist.  What is more, if privatisation is completed (and given the apparent apathy of the ENGLISH public this is most likely) then under the privatisation rules of the European Union the NHS will be lost to Big Business for ever even though they will cynically retain the NHS logo.

Private health will only apply in England - Wales and Scotland retain the principles of the NHS 'free at the point of need' hospitalisation, free care for the elderly, free prescriptions and no hospital car parking charges. (And no fees for higher education, either!)

But none of these things are mentioned by the local press.  The editorial (Our View) of the Friday 8th March NW Evening Mail carried the glib heading 'Tough times lead to tough choices' and went on to defend the proposed merging of porters and staff qualified for 
'heavy duty cleaning' and that this move will not present any dangers for patients.  (Where have we heard that one before? Muddz) However, not content with leaving it at that, the poisonous individual who wrote the piece could not resist an opportunity for a bit of 'politics bashing'....
'We must be careful not to mix politics with people's emotions'  Yes, mention politics - that's a good ploy to squash somebody's view.  And so original - NOT.  And how naughty of the union to upset people with warnings about the health risks of 'cheap' solutions.....
...followed up with the inevitable well-worn old-fashioned 'union bashing' thrown in for good measure....
'There are legitimate ways for the unions to raise their concerns - but scaremongering must not be one of them.'  Now that's really rich coming from this little nasty hypocritical rag of a paper when, some time ago, it backed a completely fictional campaign by that local political opportunist, Jamshid Hamezeian, who claimed there was a threat to maternity services at FGH (based upon a report by Labour councillor J. Piddock in which this came up as just one of several options for consideration which he knew would be dismissed as unacceptable) This was made clear at a full council meeting but it did not deter Hamezeian or the Evening Mail from continuing their outrageous scam - the Evening Mail to increase its circulation figures and Hamezeian to enhance his chances of being re-elected onto the town council.  
Maybe if there had been some genuine scaremongering by the unions in this town then some of our townsfolk would not have later fallen foul of Legionnaires disease.  (The result of yet another 'cost-cutting' measure - but who really cares?  Muddz)

It has been announced just recently that the oncology unit at FGH is to close - much to the surprise of our MP, John Woodcock. (I wonder what he might have said if this news had been released before the public meeting?  And what did I write - above - about smouldering fires in other rooms? Muddz)

Until FAC returns to campaigning status, matters regarding local cuts issues will appear on -
to view, click on the link but be warned.....this is a website dedicated to the wellbeing of all who depend solely upon a wage or a salary to earn a living and, subsequently, the smashing of the capitalist system of exploitation.  So, if you are not a worker or a socialist, the site will be of little interest to you.

Friday, 2 November 2012


What ought to have been the Annual General Meeting of the Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association turned out to be an extended ordinary meeting - including an invited speaker who talked about aspects of the work of Age UK in Barrow - and this left no time for discussion on Matters Arising from the previous AGM or for any propositions that could have resulted in important changes to the Constitution.  The rot has truly penetrated the structure of this organisation.

I shall be resigning from B&FPA in November and devoting my time and effort in areas where there is at least some degree of opposition to this government and to the weakness of the party of opposition.  However, should it ever arise that members of B&FPA are to take action in the town I will attend and give such assistance as I can.  Something tells me my services will never be called upon.

I salute the secretary, Margie Arts, who works tirelessly for the organisation and keeps the members informed even though members never actually use that information to achieve anything of significance.  I also salute the memory of Ken Arts, husband of Margie and  chairman of the association who regularly, in all weathers, campaigned on the high street against the cuts until just a few weeks before his death.  And the members of B&FPA were content to let him get on with it whilst they sat at home infront of their TVs munching biscuits and slurping tea.  If the members had any sense of shame they'd be out on the street campaigning in honour of their former chairman. But they have not, so they are not.

It is with regret I predict B&FPA will only continue to exist if it changes its name to Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Fun Club and erases all reference to 'campaigning' from its constitution.

Friday, 24 August 2012


The August meeting of the Pensioners' Association fully exposed the true position of the membership.  

Several had already (in July) terminated their membership over a spat about payment of conference admission - the admission fee was included in the cost of the Blackpool visit.  The admission fee was £5 per person but members were only charged £3 - the association paid the balance of £2.  It was assumed most of the thirty 'delegates' to the Pensioners' Parliament would, in fact, attend the several organised workshops on pensioner issues and would then provide feed-back at a future meeting but only THREE attended - the rest went off 'shopping' throughout the visit.  The vast majority had absolutely no interest in being involved in the parliament or of being part of a campaigning organisation.  Many of them had never been members of B&FPA but had always been very keen to attend the annual subsidised Christmas lunch.

At the August meeting, members devoted much time and effort to discussing where and when they could hold a 'dinner' and by how much the cost ought to be subsidised by the association.  This sudden 'flurry of interest' was generated when the Treasurer (me) gave details of the funds held by the association - well over a thousand pounds.  Members were reminded that this money was for promoting pensioner matters....campaigning for better pensions, allowances, health care, etc., by holding public meetings, advertising events in the local press, purchasing leaflets, posters, and placards and paying the expenses of any invited speakers.... NOT for partying.  If partying, bingo, raffles, sing-alongs, and day trips was what interested them then there were plenty of other pensioner groups in the area already providing these.  Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association always was, and remains, a campaigning organisation - not a social club.

This message has been delivered several times during my six-year membership of the association yet that message consistently falls on deaf ears.  The fact of the matter is that they do not want a campaigning organisation (which is why they never attend a leaflet distribution in the town for just two hours once a month) and, through non-cooperation, hope to change the constitution of the pensioners' association to that of a social club.  Holding a monthly business meeting for members such as these, who hope to be 'entertained' and have a good carping session, is of no benefit to any pensioners' campaign and just a waste of activists' time and effort.  

Personally, I can't see B&FPA continuing for much longer.  Either it becomes a social club or it gets wound up altogether and matters will surely come to a head at the Annual General Meeting in October.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Groups prepare for the march to Winter Gardens, Blackpool
It is sad that only two persons attended the June planning meeting but it would seem that people are 'voting with their feet' to demonstrate their level of commitment for the campaign.

The Pensioners' Parliament is being held in Blackpool next week and, this year, Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association has attracted a group of thirty to travel to this seaside town.  Whether most of them will actually attend the parliament remains to be seen.  And what is taken on board by those who do attend will be revealed in the months that follow (will they respond to the calls of the leadership of the National Pensioners' Convention for a broad campaign or will they simply carry on as normal - chat, cup of tea, raffle, then go home until next month?)

It is certainly time to place responsibility in the hands of those sections of the community who wish to be represented at any street gathering or presentation.  Indeed, this move is now long overdue.  So, from now on, a stall will only be made available if at least one group actually requests it and can guarantee the presence of at least two persons to attend.  This means showing up at a planning meeting and formally requesting the stall be set up on a specific date and for a specific start time and finish time.

In the meantime, it is reported that more people are beginning to suffer the consequences of the government's austerity measures - but clearly not suffering enough to persuade them it's time they did something about it.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


This weblog has always presented things as they actually are and not as we would wish them to be.  No matter how carefully some things may be planned for, such plans can be overtaken by 'events' beyond the control of the group and that is what happened today (Saturday 19th May).  Matters are made worse when so much depends upon the efforts of so few - if ten are campaigning and two must drop out then this has little affect but if only three are able to campaign and two must drop out....

Yes, it's something of a set-back because the next available date is not until next month which means there has been no campaign in May.  Breaks in continuity could affect public perception of the campaign and can, in certain circumstances, undermine the confidence of the campaigners themselves.  So far, there is no evidence that such breaks in the past have caused either of these but this does not mean damage will not be caused in the future - hence the need to reassess the structure of FAC.

The next meeting of the FAC planning group will be held at Greengate Children's Centre on Wednesday 6th June from 6.30 until 7.30pm.  All who are against the cuts are welcome to attend.   

Tuesday, 15 May 2012



The Furness Against the Cuts campaign will continue - it is the structure that might change.  It is certainly not what I wanted to happen but a general unwillingness (and even point-blank refusal) to assist with the campaign undermined the principle of this being an open, democratic and participatory group with no hierarchical structure (chairman, secretary, treasurer, etc). Calls for assistance with the stall were largely unheeded and nobody wished to submit anything for the weblog. So, having been left 'in charge' this past year, I am considering 'taking charge' and deciding - without discussion - how the stall will be organised from now on.  

The statement that nobody supported the campaign is not strictly true for there were two exceptions - the secretary of Barrow & Furness Pensioners Association (retired member of the union, UNISON) has provided consistent support for the campaign as has a solitary member of the Socialist Workers Party (and member of the GMB union) and both will still be welcome to use the stall as a focal point for their own organisation's interests eg to recruit for the Pensioners Association and for the promotion of the Socialist Worker weekend newspaper and any of its leaflets. Communist Party material will also be made available to the public.  

So the big change is that the stall will no longer be 'apolitical' (ie no specific political content) but 'political' in that it will permit socialist and communist pamphlets and magazines to be on display.  Should other organisations not wish to be associated with either of these then they can go and set up their own stalls.  The stall will, of course, continue to condemn government austerity measures and its attacks on pensions, the welfare state (public services) and the National Health Service.  Peace and environmental issues will only be addressed in the context of 'the cuts' - how reduction of armaments production and adoption of an alternative 'diversification' programme could create long-term, sustainable growth in employment and the  economy of Furness.  

There is just one thing that would disuade me from taking such a step and that is if the stall on Saturday19th May (10am until 12 noon) has trade unionists handing out their union's pamphlets, Barrow TUC attends to voice opposition to the government, local community organisations and charities have their representatives explaining to the general public what affects the cuts are having on the most vulnerable members of our society and religious organisations are there to condemn growing poverty.  I think it's fairly safe for me to say that I shall be solely in charge of Furness Against the Cuts as of Sunday 20 May........

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Barrow Soroptimists on Jubilee Bridge      


Barrow Soroptimists were joined by members from Windermere for a gathering on Jubilee Bridge, Barrow, to mark International Women's Day.   The mayor, councillor John Murphy and his wife, the deputy mayor, attended the event but had to leave for another engagement after the photo opportunity provided by the local press photographer.
Around twentyfive women and one solitary male were present on what was a cold, wet and miserable afternoon, and stood exposed to the wind and the rain for just over one hour.
The Soroptimists are a 'women only' organisation and campaign on issues that are of specific concern to women but they often hold events to which men are invited.  Barrow Soroptimists meet on the first Tuesday and Thursday of each month at Michaelson House, Fairfield Lane, from 7pm and any woman is welcome to attend.
No other organisation in Barrow arranged any commemorative event for the occasion and, had it not been for  the Soroptimists, the day would have passed by without notice just like other special days pass by such as 28th April (Workers' Memorial Day), 1st May (May Day - Workers' Day of International Solidarity), 6th and 9th August (Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days), 21st September (UN International Day of Peace) or 1st October (International Day for the Elderly), for example.

Although it was impossible to hold the usual Greengate Street planning meeting at the beginning of this month it is hoped there will be some type of FAC activity in the town centre before the end of this month but this will depend upon how many persons will be available to support an event.  
The next Planning Meeting of Furness Against the Cuts is due to be held at Greengate Children's Centre, Greengate Street, from 6.30 until 7.30pm on Wednesday 2nd May.  ALL WHO ARE AGAINST GOVERNMENT CUTS ARE WELCOME
email -
Facebook - Furness Against the Cuts
Phone: 07596 721 405