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


Portland Walk, Barrow,  Saturday 10th March
A combination of wet weather and the illness of a couple of anti-cuts campaigners meant that the activity in the town centre was reduced to just two persons distributing People's Charter leaflets at the entrance to the indoor market from 10am until 12 noon on Saturday 10th March.

Surprisingly, the event turned out to be especially fruitful in terms of leaflet distribution and engaging in conversation with individuals and couples who were shopping in Portland Walk.  Most shoppers were of pensionable age and some were disabled but not many young, able-bodied people were about and, of those that were, very few accepted a leaflet willingly.

Unless Barrow Trades Union Council, individual unions, charities and community organisations finally decide to lend their voices to the local campaign then Furness Against the Cuts cannot be sustained for much longer.  If FAC folds then there will be no sign of any local resistence to the Con-Dem government's austerity measures.  Unfortunately, each individual organisation seems hell-bent on working alone, having a one-off, small and very brief protest and then 'disappearing back into the woodwork.'  Just what they think this approach will actually achieve in the long-term is never disclosed.

The Easter holiday has caused cancellation of the April Planning Meeting at Greengate Children's Centre so the next meeting will be held on Wednesday 2nd May.

It is noted that no support for the anti-cuts campaign was offered by any delegate attending the meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council held on Tuesday 3rd April.  


Friday, 3 February 2012


The Steering Group, which met at the usual venue on Wednesday 1st February, agreed support be given to the RMT's 'No to McNulty' campaign and that FAC would seek to obtain signatures on the A5 sized postcards 10am until 12noon at the front of The Forum, Barrow, on Saturday 4 February.

The postcards are to be sent to the local MP but our MP, John Woodcock, cannot sign an Early Day Motion because he is a member of the Front Benches.
So, completed postcards will instead be delivered to nextdoor Copeland MP, Jamie Reed.  If our own MP cannot defend our services then we must approach one who might. (There has been insufficient time to determine this MP's position on the McNulty review)

The Steering Group also considered several issues brought to light in the columns of the Tues 31 Jan 2012 edition of the NW Evening Mail.  FAC is constantly watching for anything that could reduce the standard of living and quality of life of local people and this edition was spectacularly rich in (possible) examples.

Page 2   A health watchdog is asking people who have received emergency care at Furness General Hospital to share their experiences.  There have been deaths of babies in the Maternity department, examples of neglect of elderly and infirm patients, and a very recent case where a badly injured cyclist was to be sent home diagnosed as 'winded' when, in fact, he had sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung.  Are these events the result of poor management or medical incompetence? Or are they the result of stressed overworked staff trying to cope with impossible demands caused by financial cuts?
Note:  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) wants to hear from anyone who has experienced any type of emergency care or treatment at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Furness General Hospital during the period 1 April 2010 to 13 January 2012.  The Barrow meeting will be held on Tuesday 21 February at the Abbey House Hotel, Abbey Road, commencing 3pm.    

Page 4  Small businesses in Cumbria are ready to call it a day, according to a report.  Cumbria's small businesses are feeling the heat of the economic downturn, with many considering ditching their companies, a report from the insurance group Aviva has found.  According to the study, one in three firm owners in Cumbria and the north west were considering returning to the workforce as an employee.
The closure of businesses means job losses; this is not socially or economically healthy for any community and this is why FAC is concerned.  Local enterprise and regeneration organisations have been eliminated as funding was discontinued.  The Marina Development project was abandoned.  Despite these, local 'officials' continue to spout upbeat messages whilst Furness Labour MPs , past and present, declare that 'something should be done to create jobs.'  Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise.

Page 5  Trident will have nowhere to go if Scotland votes for independence, a report by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said......the Scottish National Party says, come independence, Trident will go because alternative sites to Faslane and Coulport will be found in England.  But a study by the MoD in 1963 had ruled out other sites, including Barrow.  CND said "..a site that could be considered is Barrow where the submarines are built.  This might be suitable if the navy only deploy Trident when there is a full moon and a high tide.  Walney channel is too shallow for a submarine base."
The implications for workers at BAE in Barrow are obvious but local 'leaders', instead of embracing alternatives, doggedly stick to that old flea-bitten line "Trident means jobs. It is an essential deterrent."  It doesn't and it isn't.  It is obsolete, it provides no defence against terrorist attacks and is a criminal waste of vast sums of money.  It offers nothing for the longterm development and prosperity of Furness. Unfortunately, except for some relatively small-scale high-tech enterprises, developmental courage and imaginative job creation are in short supply in this region.

Page 10  More than 3,800 families living in 'oversized' social housing across South and West Cumbria are set to be hit by government plans to tackle under-occupancy.  Ministers want to tackle the problem and reduce the housing benefit bill by stopping residents of council or housing association property from having an extra bedroom.  Under the current rules, one spare bedroom is allowed.  Analysis by the National Housing Federation shows 807 families in Barrow will be hit at a cost of £531 a year and 1,989 in Copeland for £505 a year.
The unelected ConDem coalition government races ahead with imposing austerity upon the non-millionaire members of the population and the Labour 'opposion' opposes nothing - indeed, agrees with the cuts!

 Page 20 At the lunch, Jackie Arnold, BAE Systems Submarine Solution's head of financial governance and strategy, who also represents specialist manufacturing on Cumbria's Local Enterprise Partnership board, said LEP had been meeting with other boards in the north west to see "whether other LEPs should collaborate."  (That should be good for having business lunches and dinner parties for the next ten years!)  But then she continues..."We have been working with Furness Enterprise in supporting GlaxoSmith Kline in Ulverston with growth plans."  JUST A MOMENT!  Furness Enterprise will soon be defunct and the future of GlaxoSmith Kline is not looking too rosey - read Page 23 below.

Page 22  Hundreds of shops and commercial premises in Barrow are set to benefit from a free revamp.....the council has pledged an extra £100,000 which will allow businesses to apply for (free) grants of up to £2,000 to replace their shopfronts.  Councillor Dave Piddock (Labour) leader of the council..."Even though we are facing extremely difficult times, we still need to support our local businesses.  The scheme improves the look of the towns in the borough and supports the high street."  Commercially this is just cosmetic - how many new, decently paid, long-term jobs will it create?  What's the point of a nice-looking town of empty shops and no work?

Page 23  (Stuart Klosinski - industrial development manager for Furness Enterprise)
Potential for bioscience investment at Ulverston faces a new Scottish challenge - Glaxo's Irvine site now has Enterprise Zone status - we are examining the implications.
Look, Stuart, anyone possessing a single brain cell knows what the implications are.  Only ONE of the Glaxo sites will get the nod from the American owners for new pharma developments.  Glaxo at Ulverston has already had big job losses.  The Furness transport systems (road and rail) are not fit for the 21st century.  There is no 'enterprise' money available for Furness.  Irvine now has loads of dosh for  commercial investment and development incentive, and it has good road and rail links.  Other than death itself, I know nothing is certain in this life but, somehow, I get the distinct feeling that Ulverston is in for another spell of unemployment. Don't you?
There is much more (from this one edition) that could have been included here - perhaps this is what Cumbria Newspapers intended....swamp a single edition with loads of pie-in-the-sky and snippets of 'possibles' and 'maybe's' so there's lots of material but little of any substance.  A classic case of vacuousness.