By Clare Connerton / EducationOpinion / 0 Comments

I couldn’t help but groan and bang my head on the table last week when I read that Kent County Council’s leader Cllr Paul Carter believes that part-time workers prioritise their families and “are not focussed on their jobs.” As a mother of two, I’ve worked both full and part-time since becoming a parent eight years ago. So, I’m intimately familiar with statements like this which I associate with what has become known as the working mother penalty.”

If reports in the local media are accurate, Cllr Carter said, in last Tuesday’s personnel committee meeting, that the reason part-time workers aren’t assessed to be as competent at their jobs as full time workers is that;

“Their priorities are different from their jobs because their primary role is to make sure that their family is right and appropriate.”

“This is the same for some men with paternity leave when they are sharing all those roles and responsibilities in the modern world and way.”

And so part-time Kent County Council workers are awarded performance based pay at a lower rate than their full time counterparts.

What Carter doesn’t say explicitly, (and I wish he would) is that he is talking about women working part-time. Euphemistically he refers to parents, but he would do better to address the problem head on because then we can call this what it is – a gender pay issue. Women do disproportionately make up the majority of part time workers. This can be to balance paid work outside the home with unpaid work caring for their young children or for other family members (spouses, parents). And women are punished for it despite our economy absolutely depending on this unpaid labour. Twenty years after the birth of their first child, a woman’s hourly wage will on average be a third lower than the hourly wage of a man with a similar level of education.[1]

Earlier this year research published by the IFS and funded by the Joseph Rowntree foundation found that women working part-time contributes massively to the gender pay gap because the effect of part-time work is that it simply shuts down wage progression. This is what we are seeing here in Kent County Council. And it is infuriating when this bias is simply justified as “right and appropriate.”

That Councillor Carter made these patronising and outdated remarks about part-time workers prioritising their families over their work is not surprising. He is on the record as saying their is no glass ceiling for women at KCC despite a gender pay gap of 12% and only one woman in his cabinet. He doesn’t want to recognise the problem is there. And if he won’t acknowledge it how can we count on him to address it?

Rather than relying on his own biased assumptions, I call on Cllr Paul Carter and other council leaders to try to understand this complex issue more fully. Why aren’t part-time workers at KCC valued as highly as their full time counterparts? To what extend is this is down to a sexist double standard? I call on Cllr Paul Carter to educate himself about the working mother penalty and the realities of the gender pay gap and seek to address these issues within KCC as a matter of urgency.

By Canterbury Labour Party / Opinion / 0 Comments

As part of the University of Kent’s ‘In Conversation‘ series, journalist, presenter and Chancellor of the institution, Gavin Esler, interviewed Owen Jones at the Gulbenkian Theatre on Monday 23rd October. The event had sold out, perhaps indicative of the renewed appetite for politics in the City following Rosie’s record-breaking victory, a triumph that Owen alluded to in his opening speech referencing the ‘People’s Republic of Canterbury’, received to healthy applause.

 

Owen Jones was born in Sheffield in 1984 and grew up in Stockport. He is a columnist at The Guardian and author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment – And How They Get Away With It.  Jones describes himself as a democratic socialist, indeed, socialism used to be a term the Labour Party was more than happy to champion. In its historic 1945 manifesto, Labour announced that it was “a Socialist Party, and proud of it“, with the ultimate objective of establishing a “Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain“.  However, socialism came to be seen as a swear word.  Thatcher  made it abundantly clear that she was at war with what she regarded as socialism.

 

Jones factually explained that if socialists really were running the show in Britain, they would be building a society run by, and in the interests of, working people. Our banks would be taken under genuine democratic control, forcing them to operate in the interests of society as a whole. Our booming wealthy elite would be forced to pay a fair share of tax and our utilities would be taken into social ownership.  A socialist government would bring down welfare spending, not by kicking people at the bottom, but by building social housing, introducing a living wage, and creating jobs and they would reverse the scandalous lack of rights that workers have in the workplace.

 

Jones described the Tory party as one driven by personality not policy and recounted the incredible political landscape both pre and post General Election, citing the phenomenal polling lead Theresa May held earlier this year.  She had almost the entire support of the British press and her allies presented the Labour opposition as an amusing joke. The Tories genuinely believed they could get a 180-seat majority yet as we all know now, the Tory campaign was a shambolic mess, notable for its U-turns, a manifesto that often disintegrated and robotic mantras open to ridicule.

 

Let’s not pretend that Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity and success was due to May’s calamitous performances, Jones reminded us. June’s General election saw the highest turnout in 25 years, as nearly 70% of Britons voted and Labour won the majority of seats where turnout was up by more than 5% suggesting a late surge of support. Jones referenced YouGov stats which found that more people voted Labour because of the party’s Leader with just 6% of Labour voters backing the party because of their local MP. In response to questions regarding the media, Jones pointed to the effective use of grassroots movements and Labour’s social media campaign, particularly Momentum videos, seen by 1in 4 on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

 

For Jones, the turning point in the General Election was Labour’s manifesto, a manifesto for the door-step. Millions were inspired by a radical (and leaked) manifesto that promised to transform Britain, to attack injustice and challenge the vested interests holding the country back. Voters were attracted to Corbyn’s steadfast leftwing vision, a vision that promises investment in the NHS, in childcare, in schools, in social care, in renationalizing utilities and economic security and hope for ordinary families, a hope that has been absent for a long time.

 

Corbyn, like Attlee, has read the mood of the people and had understood the appetite, especially among the young, for a genuinely collaborative, participatory kind of politics – politics that invest in the common good and value citizenship. Jones explained that millions of ordinary people had simply had quite enough of the consequences of unregulated privatisation, of outsourcing, of zero hours and the 21st-century scourge of in-work poverty. Voters up and down the country wanted investment in schools, hospitals, houses, police and public services. Voters didn’t want young people to be saddled with debt for aspiring to an education.

 

Question time also allowed the opportunity for Jones to give his opinion on hot topics including the EU Referendum, Freedom of Movement and Brexit. “It’s what I call the Hackney and Hull problem for Labour, both Labour heartlands, 80% of Hackney voted to Remain, 70% of Hull voted to Leave.” Jones continued, “People in Hull are often older from semi-skilled, skilled working class backgrounds, think ‘I’ve got my country back’.”

Jones declared that we need to find a way to bridge the gap between those who voted ‘leave’ and ‘remain’.  Jones passionately championed the value of our European friends, family, colleagues, loved ones and lovers and strongly criticized the divisive nature of Trump’s presidency. Looking to the future, Jones is an ardent champion for the compulsory education of politics and democracy in all Schools and the lowering of the voting age to 16.

 

We are living in troubled and unique times with Owen stating that ‘this is an age of unpredictability’. Change is in the air, capitalism no longer works and a grassroots campaign has been inspired by a vision, a socialist vision which those in the audience on Monday night, many of them Labour supporters, will never give up on.

 

By Canterbury Labour Party / Opinion / 0 Comments

I’ve just clicked “send” on my personal submission to the City Council’s Community Governance Review. You switched off yet?

The truth is that the Community Governance Review is extremely important and yet no one is talking about it.

Currently 70% of people living in Canterbury district don’t have any sort of town or parish council. The other 30% have parish councils who demand an additional £50-60 a year which they spend on public spaces, local facilities and a more local approach to planning. The consultations asks the 70%, is this fair and do you want a new system?

For someone lives in a town which has lost its Christmas lights, seen its local festivals changed beyond all recognition and public land dubiously sold from under the nose of the local community – it would seem that government closer to the ground might be a good thing. But this is not the place to outline the four suggestions the Council give to solving this problem. Rather as I clicked “send” I wondered; am I the only one under 35 doing this?

Rumours online are that this decision which could effect over 100,000 has had as few as 150 online submissions and I would wager most of those are over 60.

When I recently attended the local Area Members Panel to hear more about the proposals I was, bar the twelve year olds sitting in their football kit petitioning the council to not flip flop on letting them build a new stadium, the only one under 35. The meeting was long, disorganised, aggressive and everything which turns people of politics.

Last weekend I went camping with a friend whose in market research and over the fire we talked about how the council could have reached out better. We talked about the importance of mixed media rather than long complicated forms you need a degree to read, the importance of local champions, pop up stands on the high street, using the mailing lists of local schools, doctors and community centres, better use of the newspapers and even a catchier name. Online I’ve heard local Conservative Councillors suggest Facebook advertising which strikes me as obvious, not innovation.

We both concluded that whilst democratic, “town hall style meetings” simple don’t make the grade. People who are busy with the kids, scared of going out at night and worried about the cost of public transport simply won’t go. Those who might need a lot more encouragement that seeing a raggedy poster on the community notice board. Hell you could speak to more than 200 people sat outside Tesco for a couple of hours.

If the plans for a town council does go through – I can see some people complaining that they weren’t consulted about a decision which could cost them another £100 a year in council tax. Ironically, an exercise designed to explore whether or not we need government at a more local level has only provided more evidence that the council doesn’t have its ear to the ground.

If you haven’t filled out the survey yet, please do. You have until the 8th October to have your say at https://www.canterbury.gov.uk/cgr