the pork-bolter
No 44, Spring Special 2002

Town’s Hidden Shame

LOW pay, debt, unemployment, lone parenthood, alcoholism and despair - that's the shocking face of poverty in 21st century Worthing revealed in a new report. The official account of the Worthing Poverty Hearing held at Methold House in Worthing in October makes for essential reading - especially for anyone who still believes the lie about "prosperous Worthing". The event was staged by the Adur/Worthing Local People National Voice Group together with Church Action on Poverty, with the help of various other local groups. Around 100 people attended the hearing, primarily aimed at the Heene and Central wards of the town where poverty is rife and, as a result, life expectancy is nine years lower than it is in wealthy areas like Offington and Ferring. Some of the personal accounts in the report will be an eye-opener for those untouched by poverty - and depressingly familiar for many others. For instance, Edwin Winton writes of how he was once turned away from a Salvation Army hostel for not having enough money to pay them. He adds: "People often judge the homeless but just think about this; you may be a businessperson or someone well-off. If you suddenly lost everything who would you turn to? If you lost your wife, children, house or you became bankrupt. What would you do? Many people think it is only the poor that are homeless. This is not always the case. It can happen to almost anyone." Graham's Story includes a useful insight into the way that Worthing's church-run Byron Road hostel operates. He says: "When I first went to Byron Road I had no money whatsoever but they asked me to pay rent of £23 a week. The Worthing churches project gets paid £218 a week towards my accommodation expenses. I cannot work because if I do get a job then I will become homeless. I cannot save to get the deposit for a flat. I get £53 a week. £23 of that goes to Byron Road, another £10 goes on washing (I have to do this at a launderette). I smoke, that costs me another £10. That leaves me with about £10 to buy toiletries. So what chance have I got to save up for a deposit on a flat?" Graham adds: "Worthing council is willing to pay the churches £218 a week for me to stay at Byron Road but I am sure that Worthing churches could utilise that money in a way that would enable me to be part of society again. When you add up what they are paid a month it would be possible to get very nice accommodation for that which would give me a start or deposit for a place which would help me to be an individual person and part of society again. Everywhere I go there is a law or barrier placed in front of me." Another shrewd comment comes from Jason: "You cannot have a job without a place to live and you cannot have a place to live without a job, so you are stuck in a Catch 22 situation." An overview is provided by David Chapman of Worthing Citizens' Advice Bureau. He writes of the escalating debt problems in the town and suggests several reasons for this crisis: "1) The difficulties experienced by people with disabilities and ill health. 2) Poor levels of income. Those on low incomes pay higher interest on loans, higher electricity and gas costs, they pay more at the supermarket and even getting their washing done costs a lot more than it does for people who have a washing machine in the home. 3) The pressure on people on low incomes to provide the designer clothes and all the goodies of life for their children so they don't feel like they are the odd ones out. The media and advertising are also major factors which place pressure on people to have things now and pay later." And Professor Kees Van Der Pijl of the University of Sussex provides a shocking indictment of Britain since Mrs Thatcher's days - a "much harsher" society than his native Holland, he explains. "It is not a natural disaster that people are suffering from here. Britain is not a country where articulate people are suffering from the fate of poverty because the climate here is harsh. It is because politics has gone a particular way. Since the early 1980s there has been amazing continuity in pursuing economic competitiveness." And he warns: "The idea of Britain taking the lead in Europe as is sometimes threatened is a really frightening idea because for some reason or other British methods of slashing public services, reducing payment for education and all kinds of social services is spreading right across the whole of Europe."

Educated for a Long Life of Labour

THE MERGING of a Worthing college with a supermarket chain is a crucial step out of the educational dark ages. That’s the opinion of Benito Thatcher-Slime OBE, chief executive of prestigious county economical development agency Sussexploit plc. He said the days were long gone when the country’s wealth-creators were prepared to see their richly-deserved wealth frittered away on teaching youngsters "irrelevant head-in-the clouds namby-pamby nonsense" like literature, art, history, politics, archaeology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology or woodwork. Explained Mr Thatcher-Slime: "Today’s student is tomorrow’s labour unit and it is vitally important for businesses that these units come as cheap as possible, have few expectations of life and have already been fully trained at somebody else’s expense to perform whatever mindless and demeaning tasks we put in front of them. "I am looking forward to seeing useful and practical skills being taught at the new-style college, with young people gaining A-levels in Shelf-Stacking, Trolley-Manoeuvring, Bacon-Slicing and Floor Mopping. "In time I expect even university education to step out of the academic cobwebs of yesteryear and embrace flexible modern disciplines relevant to the broad spectrum of global industry. "By the time my grandchildren grow up I am confident that career-minded and aspirational students will be sponsored to take honours degrees in Burger-Frying, Data Inputting and Telephone Answering." Mr Thatcher-Slime added, as a fascinating footnote, that the need for this kind of training would in fact not literally apply to his own grandchildren, thanks to his family’s immense wealth and overwhelming genetic superiority.

REVOLTING WORTHING!

RARELY have the letters pages of the Worthing papers been so full of the views of angry local people as in the last month or two. It seems that wherever you look there is some new threat to our quality of life and our peace of mind. Our natural and urban environment is under threat at a more frightening rate than ever before and behind all of it is the love of money - not for nothing known as the root of all evil. But Worthing people are not prepared to take it any more. They are setting up protest groups, making placards and posters, circulating petitions and raising banners in defiance of the money-men and the tide of greed threatening to swamp their lives. In the last issue, we focused on the major threat to Titnore Woods at Durrington. Here we also take a look at some of the other issues on which the people of this town are declaring loud and clear - "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"

No to Asda!

FURY has greeted the news that Worthing Sixth Form College in Bolsover Road is hatching a £20 million deal with Asda supermarkets. A newly built college would go on what are now the football pitches, while the supermarket and a 500-space car park would cover the present college site. Residents and local traders are understandably livid and have been very vocal in opposing the plans. Worthing College principal John Robinson was gushing in his enthusiasm for the plan (Worthing Herald, February 21) with Blairspeak vocabulary such as "partnership" and "opportunity" much in evidence. He also made the inevitable promise of "450 new jobs" but strangely failed to mention the 450 (or probably more) jobs (possibly better paid) that would be lost elsewhere as a result of Asda’s arrival. His case was also backed by a misguided group of his students who apparently feel it’s all a great idea because "The government cannot provide this funding and Asda can." (Worthing Herald, March 21). Presumably it has not yet entered their young heads that the Government DELIBERATELY fails to fund education (and health) to force these sectors into the arms of big business vampires? Do they know, we wonder, that Asda happens to be owned by the notorious American group, Wal-Mart - described by writer George Monbiot as "one of the most ruthless corporations on earth"? Local traders like Strand greengrocer Anthony Oldfield should know that they are up against a business whose global sales equate to one tenth of Britain’s entire economic output and is notorious for wielding political power over bodies a lot more robust than pathetic Worthing Borough Council, which already has a long history of licking the boots of big business. Wrote Mr Monbiot: "From Connecticut to Washington State, American towns have waged ferocious battles against the company’s attempts to swallow their economies. Some have been won, most have been lost, as local authorities, state and federal governments bend to the company’s formidable will. "In the US Wal-Mart has been fiercely criticised for the appalling working conditions and pitiful wages in the factories in Nicaragua and the South Pacific which make its clothes. Like the British superstores, it has eliminated thousands of smaller retailers. Because it sells everything, no sector is safe." * The Worthing anti-Asda website is at www.fpara.org.uk You can vote against the scheme at the students’ "yes to Asda" site www.wildliquid.com or send them an instructive e-mail at asda@wildliquid.com

Two-vote Tory

RESIDENTS around St Andrew’s School in Broadwater have been left with a very nasty taste in their mouth following a row over floodlighting. But they are not giving up and are set to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman over the way Worthing Borough Council has handled their case. The controversy surrounds a planning application for a floodlit astroturf pitch at the boys’ school in Sackville Road which will be used by outside groups, particularly Worthing Hockey Club, at weekends. The residents sent in 117 letters of objection and a petition signed by 138 people - but to no avail in democratic Worthing. When the bid came up at the planning committee, there were initially four councillors in favour and five against. But then committee chairman and mayor elect John Livermore entered the fray. Not only did he vote for the floodlit pitch, but then used a special "casting" vote as chairman to swing round the vote in favour and pass the application. In other words he awarded himself TWO votes on the issue! Coincidence-lovers should know that Mr Livermore is a leading local Tory. They should also note that prestigious patron of Worthing Hockey Club is none other than Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and also, needless to add, a leading local Tory...

Don’t trash Titnore!

OPPONENTS of the massive development off Titnore Lane have been attracting heavy support within Worthing and beyond. Stalls have been held, leaflets and posters produced, petitions raised and meetings organised. Their case has also been backed by Ferring Council, which fears the development would cause flooding of the River Rife, which runs through their village. The big event for Titnore campaigners will be a protest on Sunday May 26, which starts at 2pm outside the Titnore Lane entrance to Northbrook College, Durrington - by the junction with the A259 Littlehampton Road and not far north of Goring By Sea railway station. More info from the POW! website www.worthinga27.freeserve.co.uk or send e-mail to pow@worthinga27.freeserve.co.uk

Hands off the Downs!

A BIG protest against plans to build 90 houses on downland west of Lyons Farm, Worthing, was staged by residents. More than 100 people with placards and banners took part in the demo in Beeches Avenue, which gained prominent coverage in the local press. The proposal to build on the open space behind Beeches Avenue and Pines Avenue was made by an inspector’s report into the Worthing Local Plan. Ironically, his argument was that it would reduce the number of houses planned for the Titnore site in West Durrington - as if we have to accept the destruction of our countryside by greedy developers at EITHER end of our town! The protest was also notable for the appearance of Tory MP Tim Loughton. Like other Tories, he has developed a great love for the environment now the Labour Party can be blamed for the relentless spread of the capitalist cancer over our countryside. He condemned the idea of "just building more houses regardless of our environment and the wishes of local people". Presumably Tim picked up this commendably ethical view of life while working as a fund manager and later director of City of London finance company Fleming Private Asset Management. Or perhaps through his membership of the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-wing capitalist think tank founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph to look at issues such as privatisation, free trade and education "reform". Or of the Selsdon Group, which "promotes the case for free-market policies within the Conservative Party". Are property developers not part of Mr Loughton’s free market vision? Or are we being naive in expecting any politician’s private opinions to correlate in any way with his public pronouncements to the gullible ballot-fodder?

Thumbs down for liberty

A LEADING privacy campaigner has called for a Worthing shop to be boycotted for demanding thumbprints from its customers. The Officer’s Club men’s clothes shop in South Street has been enthusiastically drumming up trade by treating its customers as suspected criminals. We drew the case to the attention of Brighton-based Privacy International, whose director Simon Davies is a leading expert on the growth of the police state. He told us: "The practice of demanding thumbprints is unethical and probably illegal - certainly with respect to the Data Protection Act. The shop in question should be boycotted. Its treatment of customers in this way is unnecessary, offensive, invasive, and disrespectful. There are quite adequate security measures in place without placing such an onerous burden on customers. This is someone’s wet dream, and it should be condemned and abandoned." The Officer’s Club has been implementing a scheme launched by local police which does not seem to have taken off in other shops. A reader contacted us to complain that he had been asked to give his thumbprint when trying to pay for his purchase by credit card. Refusing this assault on his civil liberties, he was told he would, as an alternative, have to answer some personal questions. When these reached the absurd point of demanding the name of his partner, he declined to go any further - and found that staff were unwilling to return his credit card! The situation was only resolved after a phone call was made to the card issuers to check he was not a fraudster. Subsequently, our enquiries found that the thumbprint demands have not gone down well with banks, which sell cards on the basis that they are easy to use - and of course hope you will spend as much possible on them! A spokesman for Barclay’s head office fraud dept advised their cardholders that, if asked to give a thumbprint, they should decline, refuse to fill in any forms and then contact their local branch and launch a complaint. They said the practice violates human rights and they distanced themselves from such "well meaning but tin pot schemes". They may even prosecute or impose sanctions against stores that carry out thumbprint schemes. When we phoned the police station, we were told the cop who has been liaising with local business on the thumbprint scheme was "not available for comment". * Latest nightmare police state plan is for everyone’s car to be fitted with satellite tracking devices, so the Government knows where we are going (The Observer, February 24). The pretext of this is to reduce congestion by charging for journeys but, seen in the context of other measures such as universal email monitoring and the likely introduction of ID cards, this is frankly unbelievable.

Outmoded wildlife

WHEN Tory-run West Sussex County Council launched its bitter campaign against the South Downs National Park (despite the vast majority of local people supporting the idea) it was very insistent on one thing. A Downs park, it stressed again and again, would offer no more protection to the countryside than it already got by being designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. How odd, then, to find the county’s main business organisation adopting a rather different approach. In a press statement put out on February 5, Sussex Enterprise attacked the National Park plans - for protecting the Downs from business expansion! Whinged head of policy Mark Froud: "The current plans will squash businesses along the south coast and allow little room for development. Businesses in Brighton and along the Sussex south coast are bursting at the seams. If they are not allowed to expand then we will be throwing away opportunities for jobs and economic growth. "There is a danger that the current plans from the Countryside agency will fossilize the area and we will end up with a Jurassic Park. Businesses would like to see a dynamic, modern national park that benefits the people who live and, let’s not forget, also work here." So what kind of national park is "dynamic" and "modern"? Not one with any boring old countryside in it, obviously, or full of old-fashioned and unprofitable wildlife, but perhaps one covered over in concrete and tarmac and packed full of gleaming new factories, motorways and executive housing estates? Heaven forbid that the Sussex people’s love of woodland, hills and fresh air should get in the way of the likes of Mr Froud and their psychotic obsession with the accumulation of cash.

Slap it on the old bill

COUNCIL tax bills in Worthing have gone up by nearly 10% - five times the rate of inflation. And the police force’s part of the bill has gone up even more, by an astonishing 18%. This includes £700,000 for forensic and DNA testing, £357,000 to modernise buildings, £260,000 for "intelligence analysis" and £195,000 for "the force operational review". Who says we don’t get value for money?

On course for disaster

ALARM bells are ringing over the future of two golf courses to be sold off by Worthing Borough Council. Reported the Worthing Herald (January 24): "Brooklands and Hill Barn golf courses will be marketed to help fund an estimated £16 million to £17 million leisure overhaul." Tory councillor Tim Dice is reported as saying a major part of this "overhaul" would be "investment from the private sector". As we all know, "investment" from big business always comes with many strings attached. What exactly are our council prepared to offer these non-specified companies in return for their capital outlay? What exactly is going to happen to the golf courses in the future? Can the council assure us they won’t be turned into yet more massive housing estates, access roads or industrial developments?

Views of the road lobby

BRIAN Lynn, Conservative leader of Worthing Borough Council, thinks that running a dirty great motorway across the beautiful South Downs behind Cissbury Ring would be a great idea. He reckons a massive new A27 road in the countryside earmarked for National Park status, some of it in a tunnel, would bring "environmental benefits" (Worthing Guardian February 8). He cannot understand the objection that this would desecrate the landscape and feels a motorway would "open up views of the Downs for those who travel along it" (Worthing Guardian, February 22). So presumably he would endorse a new six-lane road through his own back garden to "open up views" of the Lynn residence. And would he approve of a machete being sliced through his head to "open up views" of the bizarre working of a politician’s brain? (Legal note: This is a joke, not a threat!)

PORK-SCRATCHINGS

SO much for the golden age of integrated public transport once promised by New Labour in what seems like the very distant past. Not only are bus and train services as bad as ever, probably worse, but they are also being priced beyond many people’s reach. The latest blow was reported in the Evening Argus (March 26), as the privatised rail firms decided to do away with most cheap fares on the Network Card scheme. In future, the one third discount will not apply to journeys costing less than £10. The rail firms claim the network cards "lose" them between £5 million and £10 million a year. What a bizarre way to look at it. You launch a scheme to encourage more people to use off-peak rail travel and when they enthusiastically take up your offer you complain that they’re not paying full price! But then we have come to expect nothing better in the mad bad world of privatised Britain.
* * *

"A record-breaking 5,200 comments were sent to West Sussex County Council in response to the draft structure plan," reported the Worthing Advertiser (March 6). And will they take a blind bit of notice of any of them?
* * *

WORKPLACE rights are under threat across Britain, Europe and the world thanks to Tony Blair and his chums like Italian Prime Minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi - an unholy cross between Benito Mussolini and Rupert Murdoch. One Worthing GMB union rep, who shall remain nameless, was asked what he made of all this and whether he would be protesting against the tyranny of global capitalism on May 1. His reply? "I couldn’t give a f***, I’d rather go shopping". And you wonder why your works council didn’t get you that pay rise.
* * *

MAYDAY is nearly here again and once more thousands of people who have had enough with the corrupt rule of money will be reviving the ancient spring festival to celebrate resistance to the slow grey choking death that is capitalism. This year there will be a weeklong "Festival of Alternatives" in London and on May 1 itself, a Wednesday this year, there will be a fluid street protest to avoid getting trapped for nine hours by 2 million tooled-up riot police. Get the day off, be in the Mayfair area (the rectangle between Park Lane, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly) from 1pm and see what happens next! Info: http://www.ourmayday.org.uk
* * *

HOWARD Flight, Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs, is backing calls for a statue of Margaret Thatcher to be placed in the House of Commons (West Sussex County Times, February 22). But why hide the statue away? Why not put it in a public place so we could all display some good old British phlegm and give her the respect she deserves?
* * *

NEIL Bartlett from Angmering has been jailed for four years for making phone calls. The hoax bomb calls to animal abusing and environment-polluting firms were amazingly successful, with a call to Shell HQ halting the London Eye and closing Waterloo Bridge. Neil was caught by a tiny CCTV camera hidden in the phone box he used, which will presumably mean those committing similar horrible crimes in future will ensure they never use the same phone twice. Letters of support to Neil Bartlett FW7083, HMP Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1EA.
* * *

NEXT Worthing eco-action meeting is at 7.45pm on Tuesday May 7 at The Downview pub opposite West Worthing station.

Don’t Abuse Your Rights

DEMOCRACY is all about allowing those who know best to get on with the job, the Ministry for Public Education has confirmed. Said a spokesman: "We have a fierce tradition of robust debate and scrutiny in this country and it is essential that troublemakers are not allowed to rock the boat by taking these liberties to extremes and challenging the lines along which we chose to run the country. Stay indoors or you will be shot."

Pearls from the Swine

THE PORK-BOLTER is Worthing's foremost independent, sarcastic and rabble-rousing newsletter. It has nothing to do with any political party, global chain of supermarkets or other criminal organisation and its contributors do not live next to a golf course in West Chiltington and have to wind the electric windows up on their BMWs when they drive into the office in Worthing because of the unpleasant smell of the unwashed urban masses in the streets. To get the next six issues delivered to your door (or perhaps not, the way Consignia is going) send a donation of at least £3 payable to The Porkbolter, to PO Box 4144, Worthing BN14 7NZ. You can also pay a visit to our website at http://www.eco-action.org/porkbolter or send e-mail porkbolter@eco-action.org. e-mail subscriptions are also available.

Printed and published by The Pork-Bolter, PO Box 4144, Worthing BN14 7NZ. No copyright. No surrender to property developers and supermarket empires!


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

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