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Message from the NG7 Foodbank

Dear Supporters Happy New Year.

Since our last update in early November the number of people fed has now reached over 3,000. This festive period has been particularly outstanding in terms of financial donations, leaving us in a healthy position going forward into 2014. Thank you for your ongoing support. Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness can be the most humbling. One Friday we fed a man whose benefits had been delayed going into his bank. Once paid the following Friday he walked from Aspley to bring 2 cans of soup for us.

Here’s a few of the things that have been happening?

Due to the impact of welfare reforms we have increased the referral places to our main referral agency Nottingham Law Centre to 25 places each week. Please note we’re still not taking new referral agencies on at present.

We are now feeding on average 55-70 people per week.

Once again we have declined an offer from Channel 4 to take part in a documentary they are currently making about poverty. We made this decision for various reasons, particularly after their last invitation to be a part of the documentary “Skint”.

After asking NCC the question “why can’t people who have had a Benefit Sanction access the NCC Discretionary Emergency Hardship Scheme (DEHS).” We met with the senior staff who implement this decision; Lisa Black and Liz Jones. We asked directly for them to change this decision and we await their responses.

We continue to direct our food resources to asylum seekers awaiting NASS support, refugees awaiting NI numbers, those with NRPF (No right to public funds). Local families; people who have taken out pay day loans or used other unscrupulous money lending outlets. People affected by DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) benefits sanctions. Women/ families fleeing domestic violence.

We are still being asked about why and how we differ with the Trussell Trust Food Banks so just to reiterate the points made in March 2013 update.

We are not a Christian led food bank but work across the range of faith groups.
We are a collective of different political organisations, campaigns and local individuals who work around deprivation and poverty within the city.
We operate on a referral only program: This process is designed to maximise our resources to reach the hardest pressed groups within the city. The referral agency works closely in addressing the individual’s/ family’s problems, hopefully to the point of a positive resolution.
We encourage users of the food bank to get involved in its’ running and assisting others.
We believe that food banks should be the last line of defence for people experiencing food poverty. We seek to find our own community solutions but recognise we need to put pressure on local government policy.
The NG7 food bank will not to be co-opted by state agencies who have resources for interventions available to them. Neither will we monitor/ share information with them.
Finally a massive thank you to the following: The Basket Brigade, NCC staff donations from Canning Circus Xmas lights event, another amazing fundraiser from the QMC School of Health Sciences for the donations from the “World Feast Holiday Treats”.The fantastic cash donation from The Church of the Holy Spirit West Bridgford- Christmas Fair.
The many local individuals that give us food and money, the Friday volunteers and food collection drivers, Bike repair man and his friends. Inter Varsity Press, Nottingham Interfaith Council, Hope Nottingham and Trussell Trust network, UNITE, UNISON, City Care, Mary Potter Health Centre, Nottingham Law Centre, St Ann’s Advice Centre, The Sumac Centre, Nottingham Solidarity Network, Veggies, Partnership Council, NCHA, Metropolitan HA, Framework HA, Sherwood Methodist Church, Our Lady of Grace(Cotgrave), St Barnabus Catholic Cathedral, Evangelical Free Church (Radford), Seventh Day Adventist, The Baha’i Community, Himmah, The Friends Meeting House, Nottingham Hebrew Synagogue, Nottingham Progressive Synagogue, The Derby Ashram, Guru Nanak Satsang Gurdwara. The many other Churches in Nottingham who we don’t have the names of.

Forest Fields Primary School, Seely Primary School, Bentinck Primary School, Mellor’s Primary School, Djanogly ( Sherwood Rise),  Ali’s Fruit and Veg Store, Kemet FM, St Lukes Surgery Radford Health Centre. I’m Not From London, LeftLion. The Place Sherwood. Madni Trust. Radford History Group, Shoosmiths Solicitors, Clarion Choir, Bronwyn’s Choir, Sherwood Singing for Fun Choir, The Parish of Radford, Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs, Flo Skatepark, NGCircle, Medina Stores, staff at MCN Bentinck Rd. The Maze/ Amazement Festival Crew, Masters Management Services.    

Food donations can be taken to 

Park House (Framework), 20 Bentinck Road, Radford/Hyson Green, NG7 4AD, 9am to 9pm Monday to Sunday
Sure Start, Mary Potter Centre,Gregory Boulevard,  Hyson Green,  NG7 5HY,   8am to 6pm Monday to Friday

For further information please email ng7foodbank@gmail.com   Tel 07534167354
Facebook: NG7 Foodbank              Twitter: @NG7Foodbank

Collective Action Gets Results

Our friends up in Glasgow have had a recent success in their fight against a letting agency. Vivien and Hartwig received the £187 that the agency took off them as “administration fees” – illegal under Scottish Housing Law – in a cheque on Friday after a demand letter delivery in December and a brief internet campaign in January. A great outcome – all thanks to great support from a great many people.

Similarly a victory for those fighting against workfare. This time in Scarborough where two weeks into the new year the Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!

Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including

Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.

Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure.
A couple of fine examples where collective action is already paying off in 2014.
Workfare is a range of schemes run by the Jobcentre, which force people who receive welfare to work without proper pay. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. Anyone who refuses to comply will find they get their benefits sanctioned (cut) for weeks, months and in some cases years.
For the full stories and more information look here:

* http://glasgowsolnet.wordpress.com/
* http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Housing benefit and rip-off landlords

Housing benefit has been in the news a fair bit recently thanks to one particularly couple of greedy buy-to-let landlords, Fergus and Judith Wilson in Kent. Over the last 20 years they’ve used their wealth to acquire more than 1000 houses to rent out. This sort of speculation has pushed up house prices and is the reason why many people are living in rented accommodation rather than homes that they own themselves.

In January the Wilsons sent eviction notices to each of their 200 tenants who was claiming housing benefit. Fergus then made some bizarre statements to the press, first off announcing that people on benefits should “go out and get a job” (this coming from a multi-millionaire who speculates with his wealth rather than working for a living) and then suggesting that northerners should move to the south for work. By “Northerners” we can only assume he means anyone north of London (or west for that matter). He then blamed the government’s plans for housing benefit for causing the uncertainty which forced him to act in this way. Whilst its true that the coalition seems intent on not only slashing all benefits but also creating as much confusion as possible, we also think that landlords must take responsibility for their own actions. The Wilsons have chosen to evict 200 families simply because those families are already struggling to pay the bills.

Will landlords in Forest Fields and elsewhere in Nottingham follow suit?

Care.data

You’ve probably had a leaflet from the NHS through your door in the last few weeks titled ‘Better information means better care’. It’s about a scheme called care.data, although its never mentioned by this name. Under this scheme a government agency, the HSCIC, will be first of all collecting all primary care data (patient records) and compiling them in a huge database, and then selling access to this database. Currently all patient records are confidential and do not leave your doctor’s office, so this is a big change.

The changes are worrying for two main reasons. First, there is the obvious issue of privacy – it will be very possible to identify individuals from this database. Second, there is the concern over the creeping privatisation of the NHS – this information will be bought and used by private healthcare corporations to advance their business at the expense of the free nationalised health service.

First, the privacy issue. There will be three levels of anonymisation of the data:

“Red” – Clearly personal identifiable data – This will be uploaded to the central database (unless you object) but will not be up for sale in the first version of care.data. However, it will be available to be sold at some point in the future to “approved” researchers.
“Amber” – Pseudonymized or potentially identifiable – Your name will be stripped from the data, but your DOB, postcode and entire medical history will be there, so it is likely that someone would be able to reconstruct the stripped data by cross-referencing with other datasets, eg the census or the electoral register. There is no external oversight over who the HSCIC sells this data to.
“Green” – Anonymised – This is aggregated data, which means that it would be impossible or very difficult to identify individuals. It can be sold at any time, at any price, to anyone, to be decided by HSCIC.

Government agencies have shown time and time again that when they collate data they also end up losing it. There is also a worrying lack of oversight on who the data will be sold to and where it might end up.

This leads us to the other main issue. This scheme is part of a wider picture of piecemeal monetisation and privatisation of the NHS. Successive governments since Thatcher have been eyeing up the assets of the NHS, a truly huge and immensely valuable organisation, and coming up with ideas on how to strip assets to sell off to make short term economic gains. This data is a core asset of the NHS, coming as it does from years of work with people all over the country – its a unique resource, and selling it to the competitors of the NHS (private healthcare providers like Virgin or Serco) will allow those competitors to market themselves more effectively. Its part of a wider Tory desire to see free markets triumph despite the fact that in this case they will be triumphing over a unique organisation which we own and which still provides free care at the point of delivery. The NHS is an institution which previous generations fought for and which we should be proud of and we should defend.

So, what can you do? You can opt out of this scheme – all you have to do is let your GP know, by writing, that you do not wish for your records to be shared, or else send them an opt-out form. Go to the link at the end of this article to download an opt-out form.

http://medconfidential.org/how-to-opt-out/

The Bedroom Tax in Nottingham

Its fortunate that Nottingham City Council (NCC) is so wholeheartedly opposed to the under-occupancy penalty, A.K.A. the ‘Bedroom Tax’, which was introduced by Cameron’s Tory government in April last year. The Bedroom Tax is a reduction in the amount of housing benefit received by social housing tenants who have a ‘spare’ room. This effectively means that hard-up people who have an apparently ‘spare’ room are having to stump up extra cash for their rent payments. It is affecting around 5,500 people in Nottingham and 35,000 in the entire East Midlands region.

The ‘tax’ ignores the many legitimate reasons for having a ‘spare’ room, such as living with a disability that requires room to store essential equipment, being a separated parent and needing a place for children to stay at weekends, or just because there are no one or two-bedroom properties available. At the same time, the tax is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in the country, i.e. those surviving on low incomes, disabled people and carers. But most ludicrous of all is that people on low incomes are expected to suddenly juggle all their finances to be able to cough up 14%-25% of their rent. This comes at the same time as Council Tax Benefit being cut, resulting in an increase in the amount required to pay towards Council Tax. All in all its not looking great for people who who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Deputy leader of the Labour lead Nottingham City Council did recently make a motion against ‘cuts in welfare and local government spending’, calling on the Government to reverse the bedroom tax. All well and good, but in the words of hereandnow in their comment on the Evening Post article – “Bit blinking late now!”

What’s unfortunate is that NCC do not seem to have any spine when it comes to actually making a stand against the things they claim to oppose. Did they refuse to implement this unfair legislation? Did they promise to prevent any evictions of people from their homes? Did they increase their budget for Discretionary Housing Payments? In short, no. There is a petition.

Other than a lot of hot air, the only action I can see being taken is a protocol that has been created by the big social landlords (Asra, City Homes and NCHA) and the Council which will offer tenants ‘every option to prevent eviction.’ This essentially says that an eviction shouldn’t happen if tenants are engaging with either debt advice agencies, or with landlords’ tenancy sustainment teams that manage arrears. Every tenant who goes into this scheme will also receive a Discretionary Housing Payment (a pot of money allocated as an emergency hardship grant) which will have to paid back over time.

During the last 25 years, since Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme, much of the council housing stock has been sold on to tenants. Regardless of your opinions on this the reality is that most local authorities in the UK now only have a relatively small stock of social housing. In our fair city its mostly managed by Nottingham City Homes with some owned and managed by housing associations. As this pattern has continued it has become common to prioritise social housing for the most vulnerable individuals in society, for example, people with disabilities, health problems, single parents, the elderly, etc.

Social housing should always be fought for and preserved while it still clings to existence, but when social housing is understood as being primarily for the most vulnerable people in society I find it very difficult to see any justification for an aggressive economic policy demanding additional rent contributions from social housing tenants. The Bedroom Tax represents the latest in a long string of methods by which the nation’s many economic shortfalls are being passed onto local communities while also being targeted at some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. All the while big business and the rich are allowed to accumulate more and more wealth thanks to the gift from government; of economic freedoms, concessions and tax breaks, to the wealthiest individuals and their businesses.

In short it seems that Nottingham City Council are making some small efforts towards supporting individuals and families who are being affected by this unfair tax, but they are playing it very safe. And in the mean time they are implementing their own measures to grease the way for this money to be taken from the 5,500 social housing tenants being affected in Nottingham. Nottingham City Council should be putting their money where their mouth is and taking a much firmer stand against the Tory Bedroom Tax.

Our advice is simple – appeal! Everybody has the right to appeal any decision made by the council or jobcentre. Come along to one of our Tuesday Sessions 10 – 2 at Forest Fields Advice Centre if you want any support with it.

Here’s some suggestions from Notts Campaign Against Bedroom Tax

What should Nottingham City Council Do?
* Use all means possible to cover the Bedroom Tax shortfall
* Use all of its Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) budget and apply for more from the government. In August it had only used 20% of its budge
* Put £700,000 of reserves into DHP budget (as permitted by government)
* Refuse to take tenants through the eviction process – saving £6000 per attempted eviction,
avoiding unnecessary homelessness, strains on social services
* Use its reserves (£133m) to temporarily cover the shortfall
* Work out the time, monetary and social costs of implementing the Bedroom Tax and present
this to the government to show that it is imprudent to spend £6000 to evict each household and
incur even more costs
* Build a campaign with the people of Nottingham. Work with other councils and social landlords
to demand that the government covers the shortfall for the Bedroom Tax to prevent these costs
* Don’t set up the community against each other by saying that they will have to cut other public
services, or increase Council Tax in order to prevent evictions – Fight for full funding for ALL services
How much are the council prepared to spend attempting to evict
vulnerable people to implement this unfair policy?

Payday Loan Sharks

Got no money and need a loan? No problem. The payday lenders will sub you the cash instantly… at huge rates of interest.

At this time of year, when the bills don’t stop but there’s Christmas to pay for too, a payday loan might be the only option. They provide fast, short-term loans to people with bad credit history. This can be a lifeline. But there’s a catch.

Such easy-access cash is underwritten by huge repayment rates. This might not be a problem if you can repay what you borrowed (borrowing £150 over 30 days with wonga.com means you pay a total of £202.15, for example). But not making the repayments lands further fees, greater debt, more stress… (some companies have annual interest rates of 5000%, for example).

Its the huge rates of interest that makes this kind of lending so profitable for the companies that do it. They cash in on what has been called the poverty premium. The poorer you are, and the less of a safe bet you are for the lenders, the more you pay. The lenders can justify this by claiming to be doing a favour to those who other lenders deem too risky to lend to. They often present their loans as an amazing opportunity. But if anyone really had a choice, why would they opt for such high-cost credit? Since when was debt an opportunity?

If you’re facing a payday loan that you can’t repay, there are things you can do. First. Don’t panic. On their website, National Debtline England remind people that a payday loan is a non-priority debt. Because of this, you cannot lose your home, any essential service or go to prison for non-payment.

Second, get the ball in your court. On their website, the Citizens Advice Bureau make a number of suggestions:
Don’t feel forced into borrowing more – pay day lenders aren’t allowed to pressure you to take out another loan to cover debts, or to ‘roll over’ your existing one
Stop the payment – you have the right to cancel any direct payment to the company, for example by cancelling a direct debit or standing order.’The Payment Services Regulations make it clear that you can withdraw your permission for a payment, or series of payments, to be made using your debit or credit card’.
Contact the lender – offer to pay a regular amount that you can afford
Make a complaint – if your lender doesn’t follow the rules in the Good Practice Charter, make a complaint. If you feel that the company have not handled your complain fairly, take your case to the financial ombudsman
Name and shame – if you see an advert for a payday loan that you think is irresponsible or misleading, share your ad using #paydaywatch on Twitter.

If your thinking of getting a payday loan, there are some alternatives, to the payday sharks, such as credit unions.

Credit unions are non-for profit community banks that people can join. Credit unions are co-ops, which mean they are owned and run by their members and not by shareholders. Anyone can become a member as long as they live or work in the local area. You can and you can become a member (and then save and borrow with them) usually by buying a share (often around £1). They are often fairly local. There is a Nottingham Credit Union, for example. Because credit unions are not-for-profit, they lend at very low rates of interest. Being member run means they are likely to be able to respond more flexibly to the individual circumstances of their members.
Find out more at www.nottinghamcu.co.uk

Useful links

The National Debtline have a freephone line providing debt advice
0808 808 4000
www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

The debt charity Stepchange provide free advice on debt problems
www.stepchange.org

The Citizens Advice Bureau do the same
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/paydayloans

The consumer group Which? have info on how to make complaints about payday lenders at
www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/how-to-complain-about-a-payday-loan-company

Have you had an experience with payday loans and wanna share it? Wanna respond to this article?
Email Robin Hood Solidarity Group at info@robinhoodsolidarity.org.uk
Call us on 07747 431859
Visit us (Tuesdays 10-2) at Forest Fields Advice Centre, Wiverton Road

New Community Centre

For the past few years the residents of Forest Fields have been without a community centre to call their own. In 2014 this is going to change with the reopening of the building located on Sturton street, as mentioned in the previous Robin Hood Solidarity Newsletter. It still has not been decided who will manage the centre, and discussions on this issue are currently underway. There are three suggestions being talked about, which we lay out now.

The first option will be familiar to anyone who has heard anything about other council owned community centres in Nottingham. This is to put the management contract of the community centre out to tender. This means that any organisation within the city can put forward a plan of how they would finance and maintain the centre as well as fill certain community service obligations that the council has decided are necessary. This plan minimizes the possibility of resident involvement and control over their community centre, and gives organisations with no roots in Forest Fields an opportunity to profit from what should be a community resource.

To their credit, local councillors O’Neil, Jones and Ibrahim have made small steps towards offering another option. This was talked about briefly in our previous issue, and revolves around the formation of a consortium made up of Forest Fields based groups and organisations, who would join forces and push the community centre into a more resident-led direction. Whilst there are many positives to this solution, issues surrounding the speed in which this consortium could be put together are highlighted by the fact that there has been no resident’s meeting nor follow up of any kind to the meeting held in November which first raised this possibility.

It is this lack of residents involvement that causes us at the Robin Hood Solidarity Group the most alarm, and leads us to option three, that it be placed in the hands of only those who are residents or work in the neighbourhood, that involvement in the centre is open to all who are Forest Fields based and wish to become involved. We need to begin having well publicised and numerous public meetings around this issue in order for us to come to some community agreement on what we would like the centre to be for and how it would best serve our needs. This public process could be tied into the consortium process, and could impact and guide how that consortium functions or it could be something entirely separate.

As a resident of NG7 for 25 years I have witnessed the dismantling of community centres by this council, and seen money for community projects squandered. Buildings once meant for community use now stand either empty or used for only a select few. I feel it is of massive importance that this does not happen to the new community centre in Forest Fields, and encourage all residents to make their voices heard by attending any public meeting they hear about and contacting local councillors with your demands for community involvement in our community centre.

If you wanna carry on this discussion, or have any comments, get in touch
Email info@robinhoodsolidarity.org.uk
Call us on 07747 431859
Visit us (Tuesdays 10-2) at The Forest Fields Advice Centre, Wiverton Road

The Bedroom Tax

Its fortunate that Nottingham City Council is so wholeheartedly opposed to the new under-occupancy penalty, A.K.A. the ‘Bedroom Tax’, which was introduced by Cameron’s Tory government in April last year. The Bedroom Tax is a reduction in the amount of housing benefit received by social housing tenants who have a ‘spare’ room. This effectively means that social housing housing tenants who are deemed to have a ‘spare’ room are having to stump up extra cash for their rent payments. It is affecting around 5,500 people in Nottingham.

Apart from the many legitimate reasons for having a ‘spare’ room, which are ignored by this legislation, such as living with a disability that requires room to store essential equipment, being a separated parent and needing a place for children to stay at weekends, or just because there are no one or two-bedroom properties available. This ‘tax’ is one that is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in the country, i.e. those surviving on minimal state benefits or low incomes. But most ludicrous of all is that the people on low incomes or state benefits are expected to suddenly juggle all their finances to be able to cough up 14%-25% of their rent.

This comes at the same time as Council Tax Benefit being cut, resulting in an increase in the amount required to pay towards Council Tax. All in all its not looking great for people who who are already struggling to make ends meet, as I’m sure many of you will be aware…

What’s unfortunate is that the predominantly Labour Nottingham City Council do not seem to have any spine when it comes to actually making a stand against the things they claim to oppose. Did they refuse to implement this unfair legislation? Did they promise to prevent any evictions of people from their homes? Did they increase their budget for Discretionary Housing Payments? In short, no. There is a petition.

Other than a lot of hot air, the only action I can see being taken is a working protocol being created by the big social landlords (Asra, City Homes and NCHA) and the Council which will offer tenants ‘every option to prevent eviction.’ This essentially says that an eviction shouldn’t happen if tenants are engaging with either debt advice agencies, or with landlords’ tenancy sustainment teams that manage arrears. Every tenant who goes into this scheme will also receive a Discretionary Housing Payment (a pot of money allocated as an emergency hardship grant) which will have to payed back over time.

Since Thatcher’s reign and the Right to Buy scheme much of the council housing stock has been sold on to tenants during the last 25 years. Regardless of your opinions on this the reality is that most local authorities in the UK now only have a relatively small stock of social housing. In our fair city its mostly managed by Nottingham City Homes with some owned and managed by housing associations. As this pattern has continued it has become common to prioritise social housing for the most vulnerable individuals in society, for example, people with disabilities, people with health problems, single parents, the elderly, etc.

Social housing should always be fought for and preserved while it still exists but when social housing is understood as being primarily for the most vulnerable people in society I find it very difficult to see any justification for an aggressive economic policy demanding additional rent contributions from social housing tenants. The Bedroom Tax represents the latest in a long string of methods by which the nation’s many economic shortfalls are being passed onto local communities while also being targeted at some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. All the while big business and the rich are allowed to accumulate more and more wealth thanks to the gift from the government, of economic freedoms, concessions and tax breaks, to the wealthiest individuals and their businesses.

In short it seems that Nottingham City Council are making some small efforts towards supporting individuals and families who are being affected by this unfair tax, but they are playing it very safe. And in the mean time they are implementing their own measures to grease the way for this money to be taken from the 5,500 social housing tenants being affected in Nottingham. Nottingham City Council should be putting their money where their mouth is and taking a much firmer stand against the Tory Bedroom Tax.

http://www.nottinghampost.com/Nottingham-City-Council-signs-fight-bedroom-tax/story-18313924-detail/story.html

http://www.nottinghampost.com/search/search.html?searchType=&searchPhrase=bedroom+tax&where=

New Community Centre to Open in Forest Fields

Early spring is the planned opening of the newly refurbished and resurrected community centre in Forest Fields. The centre, which is behind Forest Fields Primary School, has been closed now for more than a
year. The centre will be run by a consortium of local community groups. What the centre is used for – whether it is a space for baby and parents groups, kids clubs, ESOL classes, Asian youth or whatever else – will largely depend on this consortium.

There is so little space that people in the community can use in Forest Fields, and opening a new centre here at a time when welfare resources are being further and systematically decimated is an opportunity worth grabbing. Giving a centre like this a new lease of life could be a really useful resource that could help us to help ourselves as a community. If it is used by – and useful for – different parts of the Forest Fields community, then it could be a much needed injection of energy into the neighbourhood.

But there is always the risk that it will serve the interests of a select few and, if this is the case, ultimately fail to be what it says it is: a community hub. In particular, local politics can make things difficult. With community projects like this one, the usual practice of the council is to tender out the contract to competing groups, with one group coming out on top. When this happens, power tends to get concentrated in the hands of a few, with the residents having little say over what takes place. More often than not, the group is not even rooted in the local area.

As a means of making sure this doesn’t happen, earlier in November Toby Neal, Carol Jones and Mohammed Ibrahim, the councillors representing Berridge Ward on Notts City Council, called a meeting with an invited a bunch of community groups to discuss plans for the centre and co­operating as a consortium. Bringing groups together in this way is a positive step that could be a remedy to the usual political pitfalls. But we are concerned by some parts of the process so far. Why was it that almost half of the people who attended the meeting were not residents of Forest Fields? When will there be a chance for people living in the neighbourhood (beyond those involved in community groups) to have their say on this centre? How will residents be able to have a say over how the centre is run and, more importantly, what the space is used for?

In the coming months there are likely to be more meetings, including a public meeting some time in the new year. We’re holding out hope that the community centre will really be a space that is run by and benefits the local community. After all, what else is it there for? Lets hold our councillors to their claim to want it to be such a space.

What have our brave boys in blue been up to?

Well, locally, as ever they seem to be focused on harassing the youth. Whether its snooping on them with their CCTV van or moving them along from their hang­ out spots. Its very worrying when these young people are talked about as ‘perpetrators’ who are somehow an ‘other’ to residents. Lets not forget that these young people live here too.

In other news, Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Chris Eyre admits that the Police are not doing enough to challenge racism within the Force, “The Police Service as a whole needs to do more to recruit people from a range of different backgrounds to ensure policing accurately reflects the communities we serve.” If only it were that simple. Unfortunately we see ongoing proof that Nottinghamshire Police are an institution rotten to their core, with internal racism normal and unfair policing rife. In 2010 Nottinghamshire Police was named the worst performing force in England and Wales. While back in May the Sunday Times reported that Nottinghamshire Police had been attempting to solve crimes by “rounding up the ‘usual suspects’ without any evidence.” This behaviour has become standard particularly with the rise of ‘stop­and­search’ powers used by the police, which seems to be used against anyone for any reason, but is regularly used to terrorise black and asian youth in our communities.