Thursday, November 15, 2007

Victims of an old-fashioned stich-up!


During breaking for coffee at a meeting with a senior Southampton City Council Officer recently, she commented that she was surprised how good a press the new Conservative administration was receiving in comparison with previous administrations. Oops! Today the press bit back with a front page spread on the Southern Daily Echo continued on page two and rounded off with a highly critical editorial.
The background is that the Conservatives, mindful of the fact they have no overall control (Labour & the Lib-Dems can easily combine to outvote the Tories or even remove them from office) and that the council is facing the most difficult revenue support grant settlement in its history, decided to published its draft budget months early for consultation. The rationale behind this is that it will lead to hopefully a more transparent and better informed budget making process. It also shows the other politicalgroups what the council is up against and not least demonstrates our political priorities.
One feeling Conservatives feel particularly concerned about locally is the plight of the elderly. It is those on modest fixed incomes that have been hit hardest by council tax increases since Labour came to power in 1997 and of course those on pension form a disproportionate number of this group. One way of alleviating this hardship is to introduce what we called the 10% discount for households where all the occupants were over 65 and paying the full level of council tax. From the reaction of The Echo you would think we were advocating a policy similar in social policy terms to the sacrificing the firstborn!
They certainly didn't hold back. Their central beef is 'Almost half of Southampton's pensioners will miss out on a promised ten per cent discount on their council tax'. They go on to accuse the Conservatives of ‘conning pensioners for votes’ -strong meat indeed, especially as it doesn’t happen to be true!
I would have thought that for the article to be fair they would have also felt obligated to point out that the reason most of those pensioners who are not eligible to get the discount is that they are having their council tax paid for by benefit anyway! You can hardly give someone a discount if they are not paying it anyway. While everyone is entitled to their view on the Tory budget and indeed its political priorities, I feel that the use of emotive language and misinformation is hardly productive.
It is interesting to speculate on the source of the story. My pet theory is that Matt Tipper, the local UNITE regional industrial organiser got onto them and fed them a few lines as he is bitterly opposed to the Conservatives and all there works. a hunk of old Socialist heavy metal, Tipper was a leading light in the decision to spend his members money on urging the public to 'Vote Labour' in a full page advert in the said Echo last May. readers may be interested to note however that despite being written to to ask for their views, Unite still haven't responded to our request for consultation on our budget proposals, despite us writing to them weeks ago- except in the press that is !


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matt

Good of you to acknowledge me in your blog although I believe that you are attempting to mislead people and some of your comments are wholly inaccurate.

Firstly, the date set to begin consultation with the Conservative group was 15th November and has been in my diary for some weeks and I was present at that meeting to ask relevant questions of your colleagues. The point of me being behind a full page spread backing the Labour Party with Union members funds is incorrect and libelous but your Parties budget proposals will ensure that the trade unions will have a big influence on the upcoming elections.

Finally I have been talking with the local press but this was only after contacting Councillor Matthews (Conservative) with some questions regarding an open letter he sent me in July stating that it was not the position of the local Conservative Party to privatise without reason, a position that your Party seems to have done a huge U Turn on in the space of 4 months!! Councillor Matthews did not reply by the way.

Your point about my socialism was probably the only accurate statement made.

Matt Tipper
TGWU section of Unite

12:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your proposal for a pensioners discount is squarely aimed at well off pensioners. One fifth of pensioners have an income of £20,000 or more and this will give them money which could be better spent on reducing the £10m of cuts you are introducing.
My mother is a pensioner who receives a modest income but she will derive no benefit at all as she already receives 100% council tax rebate. She will however suffer from the cuts in service you are proposing.

5:05 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Mr Tipper,
Thanks for replying to my article.
On the substantive point, I am correct in saying that one of the trade unions took a full page advert in The Echo on election day urging residents to 'vote Labour'. I imagine this must have been paid for from members funds?
On the privatisation issue, I think you will find that the main reason for the privitisation of what might loosely be described as 'customer service' functions within the council was to save money and provide greater value for money for the taxpayer- hardly pointless!

7:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matt

After reading your latest comment and taking some legal advice I am requesting that you remove the libelous aspects contained within your journal 'Victims of an old-fashioned stitch-up!'.

The full page advert in the Echo urging it's readers to vote Labour was funded by Unison, not Unite. I personally have never had any role within Unison so was not a 'leading light' in that decision.

Also your comment regarding Unites failure to respond to consultation, we were present at the very first consultation over the Conservative budget proposals and will continue to be a part of the consultation process.

Kind regards

Matt Tipper
TGWU section of Unite
Regional Industrial Organiser

4:13 pm  
Blogger Matt Dean said...

Mr Tipper,
I'm sorry if you I have misled you as a result of poor writing but I'm not suggesting that you or your union stiched me, my party or the council up; it wasn't you who wrote the story in The Echo!
For the avoidance of any doubt to you or readers, there is no allegation that either Mr Tipper or his union have acted in any way inproperly. Anyway, I've re-read the article in the light of your comments and I don't think a non-partisan reader would draw any other conclusion.
Mr Tipper is absolutely right that the one-page advert in the Echo was indeed paid for by Unison, not Unite, I struggle to keep up with all these new union names!

6:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting how Unite seems to take such offence at being linked to UNISON. Whatever happened to workers of the world unite? Matt Tipper might like to look the word up in a dictionary. Perhaps it is because the trade unions are so fractured that they are so powerless.

4:08 pm  

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