the pork-bolter
No 66, February 2005

Living on the brink of despair in ‘affluent’ 21st century Worthing

Town’s forgotten people

ACCORDING to the fat cats, the politicians and the media tarts, everyone in this country lives in a state of gorgeous carefree luxury.

We all spend our days plugged into broadband internet connections and costly digital channels, planning fancy home improvements and extravagant holidays and looking forward to a swanky old age with a generous pension. The millions of people on the other end of the scale are invisible unpeople whose less than glamorous lives must not be allowed to soil the illusion of our consumer capitalist paradise.

Who, for instance, cares that the DSS offices in High Street, Worthing, recently closed shop for two months? From now on, benefit claimants were told, all enquiries would have to be made by phone. And who cares that this is not a free 0800 number to allow the poorest members of our community easy access to the people who control their financial lifeline?

Who cares that calling the offices in Bognor (and inevitably being put on hold for lengthy periods) eats heavily into the meagre allowance they are living on and, if they rely only on a mobile, could easily wipe it out completely? If you are one of those no-nonsense Daily Mail readers who reckon that anyone out of work deserves nothing from society and is probably living the life of Riley at your expense, consider this account of a typical experience of one of Worthing’s forgotten residents.

The woman, in question, in her early 30s, suffers from mental health problems that have made holding down a job difficult over the years, but had managed to do so for some four years until she was made redundant on November 25 2004. She duly filled in the necessary forms and qualified for incapacity benefit. Nearly a month later, however, she had neither been contacted by the social services nor had any money paid into her bank account. She and a concerned friend went to the Job Centre, where staff were heroically trying to cope with some of the queries that would normally be dealt with by the closed office, on an unadvertised basis. This task took all afternoon - not an unusual occurrence as anyone who has ever claimed benefit will be able to imagine. Even the excellent staff found it a difficult process to speak to the right people in Bognor (imagine if that was on your phone bill!), but eventually they announced there had been an error and they would be handing the woman a Giro the next day, which they did. It would have been paid into her bank account as usual, but that would have been too late. When she got the money on Christmas Eve she had received nothing for a month.

What was she supposed to be living on in the meantime? What would she have done if she had not been able to borrow money from her friend?

But the story doesn’t even end there. On January 3 she received a letter from Bognor informing her that her doctor’s sickness certificate would be running out - on January 2, the previous day! In the meantime, she discovered that no money had been paid into her account. She went to the Job Centre on January 6 and, another few hours of tedious waiting around later, was told that money ought in fact to have been paid in on January 4, but instead a Giro would be ready for her the next day. At 11.30am on Friday she arrived there to find there was no Giro. Yet more hours later the answer came from Bognor that they were not going to issue a Giro after all because of the expired sick note.

This was not because they did not believe she was in ill health, or that they thought she could survive without the money. It was merely a bureaucratic decision, taken without any regard for the welfare of somebody medically certified as particularly vulnerable. Eventually, at 2.30pm, her persistent friend persuaded the office to issue a Giro with a promise that the new sick note would be on its way. So the battle had been won. Until next time, that is.

That’s life every week for those invisible unwanted people that don’t even appear on the personal radar screens of the smug and wealthy minority who have never had it so good.


Summer of discontent ahead as park is grabbed by the bowls!

FUNNY how Worthing Borough Council are always telling us they are there to represent us, have our interests at heart, have a mandate from the people of the borough etc, and yet when it comes to the crunch we’re the last people they care about.

Witness the latest insult revealed by the Worthing Herald on January 13 regarding the popular park area near Peter Pan’s playground at Beach House Gardens. In the summer this is a popular spot for all sorts of people to come and sit, have a picnic, kick a ball about or just lie back on the grass in the sunshine. It’s free and it’s pleasant. But Worthing Borough Council is planning to turn it into a car park for 120 vehicles for the last two weeks of August, the height of the summer holidays.

This is all part of its fawning attempts to butter up the English Bowling Association, which is again holding its national bowls championships at nearby Beach House Park. It is fair to say the bowls event is not universally popular with Worthing folk. For a start, the council spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of our cash making the park suitable for the tournament in the first place. Then we were delighted to discover that the park, which used to be always open to the public, is now closed off to us with security fencing and even CCTV cameras during the contest.

For the council to allow the bowls clique to steal yet more of the Worthing public’s green space by spreading over the road to the Beach House Gardens could well be the last straw for many. The council is already prepared to fork out large chunks of tax-payers’ cash on pandering to the bowls fraternity and the handful of businesses that benefit from their visit to the town, as well as wrecking the gardens. Said the Herald: "It will cost the council £1,500 to £2,000 a week to operate the temporary car park and small saplings may have to be uprooted and relocated for access purposes."

They may want to add on the cost of security to protect the bowls crowd’s cars from the fury of hundreds of miffed Worthing people who have been thrown out of their own park to make way for them. How long are the people of Worthing going to put up with being treated as second class citizens in our own town?


State turning rights into wrongs

THE RIGHT to protest is one of those things about the British way of life that people like to pride themselves on. No matter how badly the government might seem to behave, no matter how corrupt and deceptive our politicians, it can’t have got that bad when we are still allowed to stand out in the rain with a placard and complain about it. These days, however, it looks like that "right" is going out of the window as the government gets increasingly heavy handed in its treatment of those awkward folk who insist on expressing dissent. Here is a small sample of the sort of thing we’re talking about:

* A BRIGHTON anti-war activist awoke on December 8 to a dawn raid from Special Branch police. He was arrested for allegedly harassing company directors of EDO/MBM, which makes bomb-release mechanisms used in the illegal occupation of Iraq. Why? He had been (legally) downloading information from Companies House about the firm! More info: www.smashedo.bpec.org

* THE police were acting lawfully when they stopped three coachloads of protesters from attending an anti-war protest at an American air base in England used to bomb Iraq. That was the decision of the Court of Appeal in London on December 8. Said solicitor John Halford, for the ‘RAF’ Fairford protesters: "If the police really have this power, it begs the question whether there is a right to protest at all."

* FORMER Home Secretary David Blunkett had to backtrack in the House of Commons after making completely false claims about the Fairford protesters. He claimed in 2003 that the use of "anti-terrorist" powers at Fairford were justifed because protesters had weapons, adding: "I am talking about cudgels and swords." More than a year later, he was eventually forced to admit that the ‘weapons’ were not quite as he had suggested: "Contrary to my understanding at the time, I now understand that these did not include swords. During the security operation at RAF Fairford, police took items from 28 people as a result of searches that were conducted under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. These included a kite, white powder, controlled drugs, cameras and camera equipment and a scanner." (Hansard) In other words, the scare story about the weapons was a complete fantasy!

* POLICE banned pro-Palestinian protesters from demonstrating outside a branch of pro-Israel Marks and Spencer - because they might interfere with Christmas shopping. The BBC website reported (December 5) that restrictions were imposed in Manchester from November 29 to January 3, stipulating: "Demonstrations must be confined to the Peace gardens outside the town hall, not exceed three hours, start no earlier than noon and not consist of more than 20 demonstrators."


Ball: truth is revealed!

MANY of us in Worthing have long suspected a lot of dodgy stuff goes on at the Town Hall – now it’s been officially confirmed! The Sherlygate tribunal reported (Herald, January 20) that in 2000 the then chief executive Michael Ball and his assistant Keith Eales "claimed election expenses for which they were not entitled". Police were consulted, but eventually no action was taken. Eales resigned and Ball took an ‘early retirement’ with a £100,000 lump sum and a £32,000 a year pension for life at our expense (Porkbolter 29) . There’s justice for you!

Street of Shame

AS THE old year drew to a close, the Worthing Herald was rightly worried by what it described as the "town’s shame" – the news that Worthing had been named as the "race-hate capital of West Sussex" (December 30). Meanwhile, in the very same newspaper offices in Chatsworth Road, Worthing, Tony Mayes, editor of the Herald’s free sister paper the Worthing Advertiser, was treating us to his considered opinion on gypsies, having heard a traveller "moaning" on the radio about people’s attitudes towards them. Wrote Mr Mayes (December 15): "He was saying that the majority of people in the UK are now totally prejudiced against them. Good! Finally they might have got the message." Heaven knows where the bigots of Worthing get all their encouragement from...

Countryside quality?

HOPES have been dashed that two threatened pieces of precious Worthing countryside would win protection from the new National Park. The Countryside Agency has decided not to include parkland near Castle Goring off Titnore Lane or downland north of Beeches Avenue within its proposed National Park boundary. It ruled on the Titnore area that "the parkland is not deemed of outstanding quality", while the land near Beeches Avenue "does not meet the natural beauty criterion and so cannot offer a markedly superior recreational experience of National Park quality". We reckon the real question mark over quality concerns the Countryside Agency itself.

Easter Sinday

WORTHING’S veteran anti-sleaze campaigner Maurice Morrison, aged 128, of Christians Against Comedy has reacted with horror at plans to bring Jerry Springer to the Worthing Pavilion on Easter Sunday. He said: "To import such blasphemy and filth to our God-fearing town on that of all days just defies belief. The Lord would be spinning in His grave, if He hadn’t already risen from it some time ago." Anyone with any spare tickets for the event is asked to email Maurice on bigboy858@hotmale.com

PORK-SCRATCHINGS

SO THE celebrated Sherylgate feud at Worthing Borough Council has resulted in £80,000 a year chief executive Sheryl Grady losing her tribunal case for discrimination and former council leader (and council house privatiser) Sheila Player announcing she is quitting politics (Argus, January 15). Now that’s what we call a result. Happy New Year everyone!
* * *

NICE to know that Titnore Woods landowner Clem Somerset, aged 47, will be understanding when direct action kicks off against the 900 houses being planned for the greenfield and woodland site at West Durrington. He told the Worthing Herald (December 16): "If people want to break the law that is up to them."
* * *

IS WORTHING’S new police chief some kind of anarchist? It certainly sounds like it, judging from his comments in the Worthing Herald (January 13) about people self-organising in their communities to tackle crime and its causes, rather than relying on the cops to come and sort everything out for them. Said Chief Insp Jason Taylor: "If you look after your street, your patch, then the whole town looks after itself."
* * *

WITH concern now spiralling over the effects of Seroxat, the controversial "anti-depressant" drug produced by Worthing’s Glaxo SmithKline, victims have formed their own website at www.seroxatusergroup.org.uk
* * *

OH OK, we admit it, Clem Somerset’s quote above was specifically directed to fox hunting, the ritual slaughter of small animals being yet another example of his strong emotional attachment to the countryside and wildlife. But it’s OK, because he has got the foxes’ best interests at heart. He said: "Hunting people care more for the species than individual foxes. Whereas hunt protesters care more for the individuals than the species. It is beneficial for the species in that it controls and kills sick foxes. The healthy ones always get away." What was that Oscar Wilde quote again about the unspeakably sick in pursuit of the sickly uneatable?
* * *

WORTHING council seems very pleased with itself about the prospect of a new swimming pool at Teville Gate. But since they would be knocking down the existing Aquarena and building luxury seafront flats for the rich on the site, what would we, the people of Worthing, have actually gained out of the whole thing at the end of the day? That’s right. Pork all.
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WITH all the good causes in the world to give cash to, how nice to see that Worthing’s Freemasons chose to hand over £20,875, by far the biggest slice of their recent funds bonanza, to the town’s Air Training Corps - an organisation whose aims revolve not so much around helping other people, as in dropping bombs on them. Enthused the Worthing Advertiser (January 12): "What makes this even more special is that all the money comes from members, as they never go out collecting from the public." Errr, well they can’t exactly can they? They’re a secret society!
* * *

DESPITE the best attempts of the FBI to stop it (see Porkbolter 64), the global Indymedia network of independent non-corporate news websites is going from strength to strength and has a new South Coast site covering the Worthing area at www.southcoast.indymedia.org.uk
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NEXT meeting dates upstairs at The Downview opposite West Worthing station are Tuesdays February 8 (new Porkbolter video!) and March 1, 7.45pm.

Hate the G8, love to party!

Saturday February 12, 7-11pm

Labour Hall, Lyndhurst Road, Worthing


Warning: Don’t abuse your rights

"THE right to protest has always been a pillar of British life," said the Minister of Freedom yesterday, shortly before abolishing it. He explained: "People who abuse this privilege by coming together in large numbers to disagree with our policies cannot expect to be treated as part of the democratic tradition."

Our ‘no interest’ guarantee

THE PORKBOLTER is an independent volunteer-produced Worthing newsletter produced by people with no interest in bowls and absolutely no intention of parking their cars all over your favourite picnic spot this summer. To get the next six issues through the post send a donation of at least £3 payable to The Porkbolter. Drop us a line at PO Box 4144, Worthing, West Sussex BN14 7NZ. Send e-mail to porkbolter@eco-action.org. e-mail subscriptions are also available.

Published and printed by The Pork-Bolter, PO Box 4144, Worthing BN14 7NZ. No copyright, no parking on this newsletter please.


and finally ...
Reclaim Your Town, Reclaim Your Life!

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