Covid-Safe Workplaces?

I was a Branch Secretary for PCS trade union for 22 years and held other lay posts within that union and indeed its predecessor unions (IRSF & PTC) throughout my working life in the civil service. So it’s probably no surprise then that my now-retired eye was caught by the article below on the BBC website:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56647149

I’ve been troubled throughout this wretched pandemic about how safe UK workplaces really are and the telling thing for me has been that I’m yet to hear of any employers being prosecuted for unsafe C19 conditions. Trade unions, of course, will always be (or at least should always be) on the front foot should their members have concerns about unsafe workplaces.

Here’s what the Health & Safety Executive say about how they get involved with workplace Covid 19 concerns:-

www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/regulating-health-and-safety/index.htm

I’d heard about the Swansea situation a while back and it seems like my former trade union and indeed its members in that agency of government have decided enough is enough. Clearly, even if all guidelines are being followed by DVLA (and I’ve no reason to think they are not) something is far from right with such large numbers of staff falling victim to C19.

But just think for a moment about all those non-unionised workplaces across the UK and how safe the staff feel who work in them, over C19 or indeed other matters, if there’s no union to take their employer to task.

We generally have safe working conditions in the UK because of the efforts of trade unionists over many generations. It’s best to join a union in my view; indeed when I first started work in the civil service it was and had been government policy for a long time to encourage all civil servants to join their appropriate trade union. That was good advice to me.

Poverty – Our governments only manage it, with no intention of seriously tackling it

What has the UK become, how have we sunk so low? Poverty and food banks are now an everyday part of many communities.

I’m not religious in any way but the recent high profile BBC News story about what a Pastor and Priest have been doing to help the utterly desperate in Burnley disturbed me profoundly.

The fact that in one of the richest counties on earth they have to do it should shame us all. We’ve had government after government which are for the middle incomed and wealthy with the poor getting litte more than crumbs off their table. In recent times footballer Marcus Rashford has stepped up to call for change particularly with regard to feeding children but more benefits/increased benefits will only be yet another sticking plaster, it won’t deal with the core problem of poverty.

After 40 years in politics I am convinced that Universal Basic Income is the only real solution to poverty. Politicians, who oppose UBI whilst hiding behind a lack of willingness to find a way to fund it, are actually saying we will not be doing anything useful about poverty and are leaving those who can’t survive via our mean spirited benefits system for charities, volunteers and churches to look after.

Sadly, the Burnley story is being replicated across the UK whilst the well off and our leaders in Westminster spend time picking ridiculous trade fights with the EU over Brexit. But when we get all the independence, prosperity and opportunities promised by those who promoted and voted for Brexit how much of it will filter down to those most in need? If it’s little or nothing then what have we been fighting for; just to make the rich richer and poor poorer? Developing a society based on a significant percentage of that society having to live in abject poverty is hardly something we should be aspiring to yet it seems to be where we have arrived.

I am profoundly depressed by how we expect those with nothing to live off almost nothing. Growing an ever greater number of people who are destitute has been the result of political decisions and political indecision but we’ve been voting (or at least a significant number of us have) for politicians who have been in charge of this growing poverty crisis for many years now. Is it not time to chuck out those politicians who simply want to manage, ignore or even punish those in our society who are the most in need? Oh and please don’t assume that all the problem politicians are Tories because poverty is an issue that many politicians want to ignore and they get away with it bacause the poor often don’t or can’t vote.

£175m (or even £2b) sounds a lot for cycling & walking BUT it’s not much really

To start off this posting please have a read of the article linked below from The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport as it sums up where government thinking is seemingly heading quite well:-

ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/32879/163175-million-more-for-cycling-and-walking-as-research-shows-public-support?gator_td=%2beI1zBnIYuYG7%2bOgusqjWGu5ZZ3%2bV4keUCmq3%2feVfXUBQ1EUrl6iRYVbt8AMDZa8BuPYg2Qec9tbYFzDd%2bowb%2fmeXmxqN51hO%2bWqAMtRbYK5EFnIW%2bJZy%2b9Bbs2rbZFBkIYukuNJZwTa74yXG%2fFBsa%2bjmt1QPIrPybd7EcLO7FMQgicqJmz9PJ9zZ1EWozrzCiROVULmgTH4DSsQ8w1KBg%3d%3d

News that government is to invest more in cycling and walking has to be welcome but let’s be honest an extra £175M spread across the country is not going to produce much at all; it will address the tip of a very big and long under-invested in iceberg at best.

But stop grumbling Robertson and come up with ways it could best be spent in Sefton and West Lancashire where you do most of your cycling. Well my first and most important advice to highway officers at Sefton Borough and Lancashire County Council’s is DON’T use what little money you get from this fund to try to do big projects. If you do a small area will get a big improvement but most cyclists won’t benefit at all. Please, please look at the myriad of small things you can do to make cycling safer and try to connect up obvious places which real cyclists want to get to and from. Presently the cycle network, other than in places like York, is a hotch- potch of bits and bobs all over the place which rarely connect with anywhere at all.

Safe cycling routes to schools is an obvious one to tackle but so are safe routes to railway stations, shopping centres, museums, leisure centres etc. Oh and don’t forget that secure cycle storage facilities are required too at each destination.

This is of course a subject I’ve banged on about before – see links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/03/maghull-lydiate-melling-simple-cycling-fixes-for-sefton-council-to-undertake/

And I noticed another easy fix for Sefton Council only today on Maghull’s Liverpool Road North (the section with a service road from the Westway to Green Lane junctions) where a dropped kerb outside Cornmill Lodge would enable northbound cyclists to access safer cycling on that service road. Obviously suitable bollards would be required to stop vehicles following suit!

Yes of course the rather grandiose safe cycling project to connect up Maghull with Kirkby is welcome but it’s one hell of a big investment for not a huge benefit for the majority of local cyclists. And that’s my point here; get the small easy fixes out of the way first because they will make a big difference to safe cycling. Oh and make sure that all projects that go through highways departments are scrutinised by cyclists before they are approved or you end up creating new highway infrastructure that all but excludes cyclists like the terrible new Alt Junction on the A59 in Maghull.

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

By the way the reference to Councils having to consult (see 1st linked article above) on how the money is spent is both welcome and interesting as my understanding is that with the money released by government during Lockdown 1 there was an instruction from government to benefiting councils not to consult!

With thanks to Mike Perkins for the lead to this posting

Vaccine saves the day or does it?

The hopes that are being pinned on a new vaccine getting us out of the big pandemic hole that we are in are very high, probably far too high.

The dangers are that some folks will let their guard down thinking that all is now OK and they don’t need to take precautions much, if at all. The second danger is that some will think they’ll get a vaccination by the turn of the year when many will be waiting much longer.

Of course there’s also the issue of conspiracy theorists who are still taking to social media trying to persuade the gullible that the virus does not exist or that even if it does it harms few if any folk. Why some of them were even shouting outside a Liverpool school recently trying to stop children being tested! Yes I know, it’s beyond belief……

I was taken by this sober assessment of the situation by Jim Hancock – see link below

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

As is often the case Jim’s assessment is realistic and well thought through. So don’t get carried away by being too unrealistic and think things through. Oh and don’t fall for quack theories on social media………

We might be able to see a possible glimmer of light at the end of the very long Covid tunnel we are all in presently, but we won’t be getting to the end of the tunnel soon.

Mask wearing – Men in vans

As an observer of life in general one thing about our current pandemic has got my attention; men in vans generally don’t wear masks.

This is not intended to be a piece regarding the rights and wrongs of mask wearing but more about who does and who doesn’t comply with the rules.

I cycle a lot and in a similar way to walking you see far more than when we all speed about in vehicles. What’s become apparent to me is that you see men riding about in all kinds of vans, often 2 or 3 of them, and virtually none are wearing masks either in the vans or when they get out of said vans to go in shops. The odd ones may be in the same family bubble but that’s probably stretching it because my observations are that they are nearly always in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s age group.

I wonder why so many of them choose not to wear masks? I’m guessing it’s a bit like teenage peer pressure and not wanting to be seen as uncool and not fitting into a perceived male invincibility culture.

Yes, I’m sure there are some reading this who’ll want to cheer them on as they oppose mask wearing whilst many others will be concerned about the risks they are bringing into their households.

It’s clearly a cultural thing as I’ve seen so much of it. I wonder how many of them are trying to look macho whilst wishing they had the courage not to put their elderly relatives at risk? What I’m saying is that if it was seen to be cool to be wearing a mask they would be doing it.

And to close this short posting about what motivates human behaviour I was in a shop today when 2 men stepped out of a van and entered the shop with no masks on. One got what he wanted quite quickly and shouted to the other he’d wait for his mate outside. I’m guessing that he got rather self-conscious whilst outside as there was a short queue to get in and all those in the queue were wearing masks. So what did he do whilst waiting for his mate? He pulled his jacket over his nose and mouth trying to fit in with a different group as he did not want to be the odd one out? I did not see his mate come out but what’s the betting he let his covering drop when he saw his mate…….

Lydiate – Sandy Lane Playing Field

My previous posting of a few days ago regarding this subject refers – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/28/lydiate-progress-on-sporting-fitness-facilities/

The photos in this posting illustrate, I hope, what is happening. The lead photo shows where the outdoor fitness equipment (presently at LPC’s Lambshear Lane site) will be going i.e. along the line of the fence/hedge. The 2nd one shows the internal works starting to create a toilet facility within the old changing rooms. The last shot shows the land where the additional changing rooms will be placed. This will facilitate women’s football being able to be played at Sandy Lane. A door into the present building will also be created on the gable end to provide access to the new toilet and refreshment facilities.

More news as things develop.

Click on the photos to enlarge them