A combination of unemployment, the withdrawal of funding for youth facilities and the selling off of playing fields, drugs, and police indifference has left the vulnerable in many communities frightened to leave their homes. Burglaries, street crime and joy-riding have destroyed morale in many working class communities, making it all too easy for politicians to sit back and manipulate the situation to their advantage.
The IWCA will work for:
- The drawing together of all sectors, including official agencies, toward the goal of the working class ownership of local communities
- The reforging of pride in the community by organising clean-ups of estates, removing graffiti, and getting burnt-out cars taken away
- The ending of curfews for young people
- The proper funding of youth facilities
- The isolation by the community of those who persist in making life intolerable for the community
Community Restorative Justice
Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) is a new way of dealing with antisocial behaviour. It is a cost-effective way of tackling the causes behind crime and the resulting breakdown in the relationships which connect people with a community.
It also brings attention to the imbalance of resources within the current justice system. At present the bulk of investment is spent responding to crime on a retributive basis—fines, court orders, prison.
By comparison, when CRJ is used, tiny amounts are invested in trying to resolve problems in a long term way. CRJ works to bring people together to resolve differences within a mediation process. It can play a vital role where the police and
local authorities have lost the respect of local communities and where there
is a stigma attached to cooperating with them.
- The IWCA will encourage the establishment of Community Restorative Justice
Schemes within working class communities
Nationally and locally the war against drugs has proved disastrous for working class communities in general. In some areas the drug culture has destroyed community cohesion, setting young against old, neighbour against neighbour.
Despite all the talking from politicians and experts, the situation continues to deteriorate. Overwhelmingly, working class communities carry the cost of this failure. At issue is not whether some drugs or all drugs are bad, but how the resulting problems can be managed.
As part of a broader review, the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which introduced the prohibition on buying and selling drugs and the criminalisation of drug users, needs to be assessed to determine what role the criminalisation of drugs may have played in the subsequent massive rise in heroin addiction.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- The isolation by the community of drug dealers who prey on the community
- The proper provision of locally based and funded detox centres
- The establishment of a social contract with users for the proper disposal of needles etc.
- The decriminalisation of cannabis
- GPs to be allowed to prescribe heroin in order to administer dosages safely, remove the need for ineffective methadone substitutes and undermine the criminal black market
- A review of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act
According to research, as many as one in five adults has difficulty reading and writing. As funding for comprehensive schools continues to be reduced, the middle classes continue to opt for private schools and government subsidies follow them.
There is no other country in Europe where private schools represent a fully fledged alternative to the state school system.In Britain there are currently no less than 2,300 private schools with an income from fees of £3.2 billion. Moreover, schools such as Eton are registered charities and pay no tax at all. Such subsidies allow them to
spend twenty times more on each pupil than the state sector.
Though a mere 7% of all children go to private schools, they account for
50% of places at Oxford and Cambridge. Working class children in turn have less than a 1 in 100 chance of reaching top universities. Private education is a consequence of class privilege and a condition for its continuation.
The IWCA is committed to asserting community ownership of our schools through:
- Education and community representatives being encouraged to work together for the fullest possible use of school facilities by the wider community outside of school hours
- An immediate halt to the selling off of school playing fields and the extension of existing sports facilities to compensate for those already sold off
- An end to the growing role of the private sector in public education
- The return to local geographical admission catchment areas. This will help to re-establish the community-school link
- An end to state funding of religious schools of any denomination*
- Majority-elected parent representation on school governing bodies
*This policy does not apply to Scotland at this time.
This country is presently experiencing a housing crisis. The current level of house building is the lowest since 1924. The selling off of council houses in the early 1980s should have led to the re-investment of the proceeds into local affordable social/council housing.However, the Conservative government of the time, with a view to fully privatising council housing, refused to let local authorities re-invest in much needed council housing. Despite calls at the time from the Labour Party for all profits to be re-invested, the current Labour government has continued to allow private investors to profit from building affordable social housing.
The privatisation of council housing stock continues. In addition to this, for some years the perception of many inner city communities is that their housing needs are being deliberately denied to make way for private development at some time in the future. In short this means ordinary people being forced out of an area to make room for the middle classes who want to move in. In certain cases, supporting amenities (schools, libraries, and youth facilities) have been sold off or deliberately run down to facilitate this gentrification. Some have described the strategy as a policy of social cleansing.
This has come on top of the long-term council policy of effectively denying the children of residents the right to council housing in the areas in which they have been reared. This often means that families are broken up and the impact on the integrity, solidarity and sustainability of communities, leading to a situation where neighbours often hardly know each other, is socially disastrous. Not only are children often brought up without regular contact with uncles and aunts, but their grandparents, without family nearby to look out for them, are all too often prematurely forced into hospitals or homes at tremendous cost to them emotionally as individuals and to the NHS economically as an institution.
The IWCA is committed to:
- The restoration of social housing to meet local needs
- The fight against council house privatisation and social cleansing
- Working with tenants who voted for stock transfer to ensure their new landlords deliver on the promises made
- An end to ‘daylight robbery’ where the government takes billions of pounds from council Housing Revenue Accounts each year
- The restoration of the ‘sons and daughters’ policy
- The capping of rents in the private sector
- The payment of an ‘empty homes tax’ for those private properties deliberately kept unoccupied
With many simply believing their vote does not count, the first past the post system of elections is forcing down working class participation. Increasingly, local democracy is being eroded, with funding coming almost entirely from national government which in turn dictates to local government on the policies deemed acceptable. Existing
structures are also being increasingly centralised at local government level, thereby reducing the decision-making to a handful of ‘cabinet’ or ‘executive’ councillors. Eventually this may result in all decisions being taken by unelected quangos.
Rather than council wards being increased in size, the IWCA favours smaller wards. Rather than less democracy, the IWCA believes in the extension of local democracy. On the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ the voting age for national regional and local elections should be lowered from 18 to 16. The minimum age to stand as a candidate should be the same as the minimum age to vote. Voters, not the law, should decide who is mature enough, or not, to be an elected representative of their community.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- The return to progressive taxation at a local level, with the wealthiest and large businesses, who profit through being in the community, being taxed accordingly
- Council Tax to be abolished and replaced with an income rather than property-based form of local taxation
- The setting of local tax rates to be decided by local councils
- The reduction of ward sizes to make councillors more accessible and ccountable to their constituents
- The introduction of proportional representation for all national, regional and local elections
- The minimum age to vote and stand in all elections to be lowered to sixteen
- Future elections to be held over Saturday and Sunday to maximise voter turnout
Please note: Outside of reimbursement for genuine expenses, IWCA members elected to local government are not permitted to pocket councillors’ allowances. Representatives will channel all additional monies into IWCA projects beneficial to the local community. IWCA councillors who work full-time for their constituents may accept reimbursement for loss of earnings.
At present the police nationally cost almost £9 billion a year. But do we get value for money? In all too many areas the perception of people on the ground is that working class areas have been abandoned.
Meanwhile the police constantly call for more money and more recruits even though some surveys show that as few as 5% are on duty at any one time. Even then, they rarely serve the needs of, and are not accountable to, working class communities. On one level there is apparent police indifference to antisocial behaviour and on another we are witnessing the militarisation of the police.
The police are not seen as being a part of the community but as a separate and external agency with interests and an agenda of its own. To work effectively a police service must be in the ownership of the people.
- Police forces must be representative of the communities they serve
- The police must be community-based
- Police forces need to be made directly accountable to local community forums incorporating councillors, tenant association representatives, and youth workers
- All investigations into complaints against police deaths in custody or unlawful killing should be conducted by what is accepted as a totally independent body
The IWCA calls for:
- The police to return to being a civic service.
- 50% of any future additional police funding to be diverted to youth provision in the most neglected communities, starting with the 8000 plus wards identified in the government’s own index
Race & class
For many years racism was opposed because people recognised that it divided the working class. Increasingly, however, there are calls for the state funding of religious schools, for segregated schooling and for segregated housing. All of which is promoted in the name of anti-racism.
However, experience shows that the funding of social projects purely on the grounds of race can only foster an us and them scenario, with the result that instead of being united by anti-racism, the working class can just as easily be divided by it. Multiculturalism, which insists everyone be treated differently, also undermines the concept of fairness at the core of anti-racism. For example, in America recent research has found that the application of the multicultural strategy has increased segregation in many cities and created a black middle class, often directly at the expense of the black working class.
The IWCA is against any strategies that artificially divide the working class against itself. In order to rectify past mistakes there will need to be recognition that:
- Orthodox models of equal opportunities racialise social questions in such a way as to set communities against each other.
- Equal opportunities models which assume there is a uniform access to power by all white people and a uniform denial of access to power by all black people must be rejected.
- Systematic cuts in youth and community provision and a subsequent rise in racial tension are often linked by a straightforward relationship of cause and effect.
- Anti-racist strategies that are not broadly accepted as reasonable and rational by working class communities are counter-productive and can deflect attempts to tackle the most extreme forms of bigotry.
- Multicultural strategies which promote or result in segregation, particularly in housing and schooling, must be scrapped.
- Organised and systematic racial violence needs to be dealt with from a political as well as criminal perspective.
Asylum seekers & immigration
As with official anti-racism, immigration and asylum policy can prove similarly divisive. As a rule political refugees are housed in the most under-funded areas which are duly expected to share out already meagre resources with the new arrivals. Across the country, the government is shown to have repeatedly short-changed councils to whom refugees areallocated. The interests, concerns and sensitivities of local communities are also routinely dismissed. Unsurprisingly this can be a source of suspicion, tension and resentment.
The IWCA will fight for:
- The allocation of political refugees to areas that can most easily accommodate them.
- Consultation with local communities regarding new arrivals.
- Appropriate financial compensation from government to local authorities.
- Additional government grants to facilitate integration.
- Extra housing provision to take account of any extra demands on housing stock.
- The safeguarding of tenants’ positions on existing housing lists.
- The right to work or study for political refugees while their claims for citizenship are being processed
Regeneration strategies such as the New Deal have been launched by the government as a means of revitalising Britain’s most deprived communities. Millions of pounds of public money being made available to working class communities should be something to be welcomed.
However, with the Government decreeing that the main vehicle for change will be Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) consisting of councils, police authorities, health boards, private enterprise etc plus a few community representatives, the reality is usually that decisions and resources remain in the hands of the big boys. Quite literally, the local elected community reps are often out-numbered, out-voted or out-manoeuvred by the political and professional classes who dominate the regeneration industry, ensuring the old top-down approach prevails.
In addition, where deprived neighbourhoods are located within particularly sought after inner city and riverside areas, the word ‘regeneration’ has become synonymous with ‘gentrification’ as council tenants are forced out and their homes either demolished or privatised in order to make way for exclusive luxury developments.
As an alternative, the IWCA supports the call from some community-based development workers for the establishment of a National Neighbourhood Fund which would lead to greater democracy and empowerment within regeneration strategies.
The IWCA fights for:
- All decision-making members of local regeneration bodies to be elected by a ballot of the local community
- The role of various un-elected consultants, council representatives and ‘partners’ to be restricted to an advisory capacity, to be called upon if and when the elected community representatives require them.
- The quick release of regeneration money to allow it to flow into supporting the various existing community and voluntary networks, as well as initiating new, urgently-needed schemes
- Local councils and government offices to give an undertaking that they would not seek to undermine any position arrived at by a local regeneration body which has been shown to have genuine community backing
As an alternative to present national regeneration strategies, the IWCA
- The establishment of a National Neighbourhood Fund empowered to
allocate money to neighbourhood trusts in every deprived area
- The devolving of powers to neighbourhood trusts to set local targets and then distribute grants to community projects to pursue them
- The election of members of the neighbourhood trusts, to take place within their respective areas. Neighbourhood trusts would elect members of the National Neighbourhood Fund
During the 1980s successive waves of cuts in public spending meant thousands of adventure playgrounds, drop-in centres and play centres for children and young people just disappeared.
Towards the end of the decade youth workers, who often had contact with difficult and damaged young people, saw their funding withdrawn. Add to this the further closures of swimming pools and leisure centres and the wholesale selling-off of school playing fields and it is not difficult to see how this deliberate decimation of youth services has contributed to the breakdown of social cohesion within already hard-pressed working class communities.It should also be noted that short term funding of projects causes massive problems. Returning to permanent provision of decent services would instantly lead to a better quality of life for people of all ages.
The IWCA advocates:
- The immediate establishment of a network of youth services within each of the 8000 wards featured with in the government’s own poverty index, backed-up by sustained, long-term funding
- A special emphasis placed on providing the training necessary to allow young people from the local community to fill youth work positions themselves
- After-school clubs, half-term and summer play schemes to be openly available to all regardless of income
- Free access to leisure facilities for all under 18s
Women & Childcare
Despite the promotion of feminism for over thirty years, the empowerment that women have enjoyed had has been largely restricted to middle class career women.
There needs to be recognition that in working class communities women are often at the forefront of campaigns and are the best placed to improve the communities they live in.
However, it also needs to be recognised that an absence of universal childcare provision is the primary stumbling block in preventing the majority of working class mothers enjoying a richer life by playing a full role in their communities.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- Free childcare for 1-12 year olds from 7am-7pm, Monday to Friday
- The widespread expansion of drop-in childcare facilities
- Direct involvement of local women in the planning and setting up of all aspects of after-school clubs and child care facilities