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Showing posts from June, 2010

SIC and SLC

The Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) has upheld my appeal against South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) - over my request for information about the council's in-house 555 job evaluation scheme. The decision says: "The Commissioner finds that South Lanarkshire Council failed to comply with Part 1 (and in particular section 1 (1) of FOISA in refusing to comply with Mr Irvine's request for information under section 14 (1) of FOISA. The Commissioner requires South Lanarkshire Council to respond to Mr Irvine's request for information in terms of Part 1 of FOISA, other than in terms of section 14 (1), by 8 August 2010." A right of appeal exists to the Court of Session - which can be on a point of law only and must be made within 42 days. The council argued that my request was 'vexatious' - but this was roundly rejected by the Scottish Information Commissioner. More details to follow soon - if any readers would like a copy of the full decision, this can be

Falkirk Council

Good news - the agreement reached with Falkirk (see post dated 16 June 2010) - has been officially approved and ratified by the council. So, revised settlement offers will start to be made in the weeks ahead - over the summer holidays. Please resist the temptation to phone the Action 4 Equality Scotland office asking for an update about your own case - or a definite date by which the process will be concluded. The nature and importance of these issues means that everything needs to be in writing - so phone calls to the office actually slow things down - instead of speeding them up. Also the holiday period is about to get into full swing - and this will inevitably have an impact. But on the positive side - all the uncertainty of recent months now appears to be over - and the next task will be to check and process all the paperwork. In the meantime, just sit tight and relax - because the office will be in touch with people on an individual basis - as soon as there is any news

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (4)

Some readers who have complained about Glasgow's action for expenses - see post dated 20 June 2010 - are receiving a rather strange reply to their letters and e-mails. The response is from senior officials of the council - even though people's letters were addressed to elected members - including the new council leader, Councillor Gordon Matheson. Now this may show a certain desire on the part of the elected members - to distance themsleves from the actions of their officials. If so, that would be very welcome - as a sign that cracks are beginning to appear in the council's position. But in any event the councils response is nonsense - and shows a complete ignorance of the law. Why? Because the action for expenses names the Glasgow 'claimants' specifically - no mention whatsoever is made of Action 4 Equality Scotland - which is hardly surprising since Action 4 Equality Scotland not a party to the proceedings. Put simply, Glasgow's officials have got it wro

East Dunbartonshire

A reader from East Dunbartonshire has sent in the following report from her local newspaper. " Loan for Equal Pay Council chiefs have borrowed more than £2.5 million to pay off equal pay claims in the next 12 months. The loan which has been approved by the Scottish government will be used as negotiations continue with employees' who believe they have been underpaid in past years. An East Dunbartonshire spokesperson said we can confirm that the council has arranged to borrow £2.7 million from the scottish government in order to settle any equal pay claims that arise in 2010/11." What the reader can't understand is - why it's taking the council so long to get its finger out - and settle these outstanding claims? Well that's a question for the council leadership to answer - because the loan from the Scottish government has not been approved willy nilly. The loan of public money has only been approved - on the basis that it's a legitimate cost wh

Get a Lawyer!

A regular reader from Fife has sent in the following report about a recent union workplace meeting to discuss equal pay. "Hi Mark, Thought this might amuse you. This occurred at a workplace union meeting in Fife. Question : What advice would you give to non bonus earning male employees regarding an equal pay claim. Answer : Get a lawyer!!!!! Priceless. Regards G"

Trade Union Democracy

The last time Labour's 'electoral college' was wheeled out was in 2007 - for the ballot over the deputy leadership of the party - which Harriet Harman won. How many people do you think voted in the trade union section of the ballot - which is worth one third of the total vote? 256,000 - is the answer - or only 8% of those entitled to vote, according to press reports. But only 215,000 of these votes were valid - due to union members not ticking the box that required people to confirm their support for Labour - so the participation rate falls to an even less impressive 7%. Well that's hardly surprising - given that trade union members are no different to anyone else in their voting habits. The majority don't even support the Labour party - and many are blissfully unaware that they are actually paying a political levy - in their weekly or monthly union contributions. When you first join a trade union - the political affiliation business is glossed over and not ex

More Kind Words

More kind words for one of our regular readers in North Lanarkshire - along with my reply - it's good to hear that Action 4 Equality Scotland can make such a big difference to some people's lives. "Hi Mark, I would like to say a huge thank you to you and your team for my settlement - it's been a long wait but well worth it. As a single parent, I have struggled and worried for years about money - my daughter is getting married this year and as mums do I wanted to buy her wedding dress and help her with her big day. Now I can get her dress and myself something nice as I am giving her away. Its not just the money its the fact that North Lanarkshire and the union who let us down have now recognised that the job the female workers do is just as important as the male workers and that a lot of females are the bread winners, and have mouths to feed. Thank you again from all my family - without people like you to take up fight for justice the fat cats will always win.

Wishaw Press

Here's an interesting article fom the Wishaw Press - about the activities of the GMB union in North Lanarkshire Council. Yes, these are the same people who have the bare faced cheek - every now and then - to try and poach clients from Action 4 Equality Scotland - th e 'brass neck' of some folks never ceases to amaze. " North Lanarkshire union members angry over lost pay claim documents Jun 23 2010 by Graham Miller, Wishaw Press A GROUP of North Lanarkshire Council workers may lose out on significant equal pay settlements because, they claim, their union have “lost” vital documents. Six female community centre caretakers allege that, in November 2004, they commenced equal pay claims through the GMB union. All the women were represented by the union at the internal grievance hearing stage of the process with North Lanarkshire Council. In recent weeks, the women have been made aware of colleagues and other NLC workers having their claims settled – with offers in

Four XXXX

Martin Kettle in today's Guardian has an interesting piece on the Australian Labor party's decision to install a new leader - a woman, no less, named Julia Gillard. Here's a extract which highlights the ridiculousness of Labour's electoral college in the UK. Point is that the Aussies wouldn't give a Castlemaine XXXX about ballotting all these trade union members - who have nothing to do with the election in the first place. Read the full article on line at - http://www.guardian.co.uk/ - better still buy a copy of the paper. "Seen from Britain, though, it just makes one weep. Why did Labour here not have the guts and the gumption to do the same thing when it had the chance. Brown dragged Labour down. His leadership perhaps cost Labour around 30 seats on 6 May. Under a new leader – and a better and a more honest one – Labour would have been in a much stronger position to shape the aftermath of the hung parliament, perhaps even forming a coalition itse

Short and Sweet

More kind words from a reader in North Lanarkshire - short, sweet and to the point. "Hi Mark Thanks to everyone at Action 4 Equality Scotland and Fox Cross Solicitors - for all their hard work in getting a fair settlement to my equal pay claim. I am very pleased with the outcome and appreciate the determined fight you have all put up on my behalf. Without you we would have been nowhere. CC"

Glasgow - Outstanding Settlements

A relatively small, but significant number of Glasgow claimants are still waiting for details of their settlement offers - several months after other people's claims have been resolved. Understandably, the people involved are extremely frustrated at the delay - and ring the office on a regular basis asking for an update. The position is that Action 4 Equality Scotland is doing everything possible to speed things up - and the council has been asked to put additional resources into the task of answering all of the outstanding queries. If you are one of the people in this position - rest assured that the office will be in touch as soon as there is a response. In the meantime, please try and resist the temptation of phoning the office to ask for an update - because there is nothing further to tell people at this point in time. As soon as that changes - we will let you know.

Clackmannanshire Council

Readers in Clackmannanshire report a sudden flurry of activity over equal pay. Out of the blue, letters have been issued - to say that that the council intends to settle eligible and outstanding claims - at the same time as implementing the 1999 Single Status Agreement. Well it's only taken them 11 years - but better late than never, as they say. The letter goes on to say that the council will be holding 'briefing sessions' over the summer - and will invite eligible employees to attend. Quite what all this means is a mystery, for example: What does eligible mean? Who will be at these meetings? Why doesn't the council just write to people setting out the details of their settlement offers? Why doesn' the council explain how these offers are to be calculated? In my experience, if something smells fishy - then always proceed with great care - and I for one wouldn't touch these 'briefing sessions' with a extra-long barge-pole. Because the council

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (3)

A head of steam is building up over the council's action for expenses - against some of its lowest paid employees - see post dated 20 June 2010. More and more readers make their views known to the new council leader, Councillor Gordon Matheson - here's another example. "Dear Mr Matheson I write with reference to the Employment Tribunal decision which found in favour of Glasgow City Council in respect of the`independent legal advice` given to us. Now the Council is seeking to claim an expenses award of £27,153.98 against myself and other claimants. The anger I feel at this action after 26 years of dedicated but low paid service in the employ of Glasgow City Council is only overshadowed by the disbelief that the council leadership could have authorised such an action against some of it's lowest paid workers who were foolish enough to believe the council were being fair with us when they provided the `free independent legal advice' which led to us receiving only

Edinburgh City Council

One of our regular readers has been in touch to ask what's happening in Edinburgh following the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision from Lady Smith - see post dated 21 May 2010. Well what's happening is that Edinburgh City Council is behing urged to stop wasting time and huge amounts of taxpayers money - which is what it's been doing for the past year and more. The council should either settle all the outstanding claims - or get on with defending them at a full GMF hearing in the Employment Tribunals. At a GMF hearing Edinburgh would have to explain and justify - the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs. Someone should ask the council - under a Freedom of Information (FOI) question - exactly how much Edinburgh has spent on external legal fees - in trying to frustrate and deny the claims of former APT&C staff. Bound to be a pretty penny. Edinburgh readers can play their part as well if they want - by raising these costly and ridiculous delay

Robin Hood in Reverse

The final salary pension schemes operated by Scotland's councils - are a fine example of Robin Hood in reverse. Why? Because they take from the 'poor' and give to the 'rich'. What happens is that low paid employees - end up subsidising much higher paid groups - including many senior and middle ranking officials. In effect, the part-time cleaner is subsidising the lifestyle - of the council chief executive. The system works in favour of senior council staff of all kinds - including many teachers. Let's take an example to illustrate the point - a chief executive paid £150,000 a year - now the person doesn't actually work at that salary level throughout his or her council career. But their pension is based on this final salary - even if they've only done the job for a relatively short time - as part of their overall service which can be a maximum of 40 years. The pension scheme rules changed in April 2009, but for the great majority of employees (i.e

WHAT'S GOT HIS GOAT?

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister - he set out to achieve a Government Of All Talents, or GOAT for short - according to his spin doctors. At the time, this was hailed as a wizard wheeze by Labour cheerleaders - as a sure-fire way for a sure-footed PM - to wrong-foot and confound his political opponents. The search for GOATS led to a Tory MP crossing the floor and becoming a junior Labour minister - and to other prominent Tory supporters joining the government via the House of Lords. Oh how the People's Party clapped and cheered - at the cleverness of it all. But now the boot is on the other foot under a new coalition government - things have turned sour. John Prescott, former deputy Labour leader, is decrying some of his former Labour colleagues as 'collaborators'. Strong words indeed - intemperate even, some would say. What has got John Prescott's goat is that the new Prime Minister has asked two leading Labour figures - John Hutton and Frank Field - to ca

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (2)

One of our regular readers has sent the leader of Glasgow City Council, Cllr Gordon Matheson, an excellent e-mail - which speaks the truth, gets straight to the point and pulls no punches. Let's hope more readers are inspired to do the same - the more people who do so the better - see post dated 20 June 2010 for further details. "Dear Mr Matheson I write with reference to the recent Employment Appeals Tribunal decision which found in favour of Glasgow City Council with respect to the “independent legal advice” supposedly given to many workers with regards the Equal Pay Compromise Agreement. I have been informed by FoxCross Solicitors Ltd that the Council has instructed their London QC to seek an expenses award of £27,153.98 which will be made against myself and the other claimants. I wish to express my utter disdain at such action. I cannot believe that the Council would embark on a course of action which would result in, the already acknowledged, low paid workers suffe

Glasgow's Lost the Plot

Glasgow City Council has raised an action for costs against some of its lowest paid workers - in the wake of the recent tribunal decision over the Compromise Agreements and settlement process - used by the council in 2005. The action is not being raised against Action 4 Equality Scotland or Fox Cross Solicitors - but against the thousands of low paid women workers who had the courage to complain about their shameful treatment - at the council's hands. I say the council's behaviour is a complete disgrace - they may have won the initial tribunal hearing - but their defence was based on narrow legal and technical points. What's not in question is that the many thousands of women who accepted Glasgow's original cash offer in 2005 - were poorly advised and badly let down by the settlement process. People did not know the value of their claims - and neither the council or the trade unions advised them properly on this score - nor did the 'independent' lawyers who

More Kind Words

More Kind words from oneof our readers in North Lanarkshire - who has some choice words to say about the trade unions as well as the employer. Hi Mark, I would like to thank yourself, Stefan and all the team for the fantastic settlement I received for equal pay - against North Lanarkshire council. I cannot thank you all enough. Looks like the GMB Union have sailed their members down the Clyde again - they have negotiated much lower offers than Fox Cross - looks like there still crawling up NLCs A**E. NLC has contracted SUPPORTA CARE to do a lot of our work and all overtime is given to them, some of their staff are working 82 hours per week. Is this legal? Gavin Whitefiled (the council chief executive) is earning more than the Prime Minister, and it's stuff us! Once I receive my cheque I think it's time for the local press to be involved - after all we do pay GMB and should not be sold down the river!! WA" The answer to the query about working 82 hours per week, b

Unions and Pianos

Some readers in Falkirk report receiving unsolicited letters from their trade unions - where have they been all this time? The letters ask people to fill in and send back a form - allegedly;y to 'protect' their interests over equal pay. But this is the usual old baloney from the unions - it's just the latest attempt to dupe people into transferring their equal pay claims. Yes, back to the same old trade unions who kept their members in the dark - and let them all down so badly - in the first place. If you have an existing equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland - then you can safely ignore these unsolicited letters. People's claims for the post-Single Status (job evaluation) period are already in hand - there's no need for you to do anything at this stage - certainly not at the unions' behest. T he trade unions', as usual, are at the coo's tail and - given their track record - you can trust them about as far as you can carry a piano.

Falkirk Council

The long drawn out settlement saga with Falkirk Council - is being given one final chance to succeed. Previous discussions with Falkirk led to an 'in principle' agreement with the council being reached. The agreement should have led to issue new settlement offers being issued to Action 4 Equality Scotland clients. But the council moved the goalposts at the eleventh hour - and everyone's hopes were dashed again. Having marched up and down the hill on more than one occasion now - it's impossible, dangerous even to make firm predictions about what will happen next. The current position is that the Full Council is meeting next week on Wednesday 23 June 2010 - and will again consider an 'in principle' agreement covering all of the outstanding cases. So, the ball is firmly in Falkirk Council's court - but for one last time. If they deliver it's all systems go - if they don't it's straight back to the Employment Tribunals.

Glasgow - Ongoing Claims

A regular reader from Glasgow has been in touch to say that a trade union has offered to take up an equal pay claim on her behalf. The same union that took the side of the council - when poor settlement offers were made to some staff - back in 2005. But the laugh is that she already has an ongoing claim - which Action 4 Equality and Fox Cross Solicitors are already pursuing on her behalf. So, here's the e-mail I sent in response to reader's enquiry earlier today: Dear Colleague Glasgow Enquiry If you have already received a settlement via Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross/Fox Cross Solicitors - then you have an ongoing claim which Action 4 Equality is already dealing with on your behalf. All the union is doing is trying to dupe you into transferring your claim to them - and that would be a very foolish thing to do - because the unions have let down so many of their members in the past - and will do so again given half a chance. The best response would be to

Justice Is Truth In Action

People often know the truth of an issue, but sometimes the truth itself is not enough - because what's needed is justice - the truth in action to deliver an outcome or verdict. Well, that's what The Saville Report finally delivered yesterday - justice for the families who waited for almost 40 years for their loved ones to be finally vindicated. As the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in parliament - their killings were 'unjustified and unjustifiable'. Likewise with equal pay - because people have known the truth about pay discrimination for many a year - but what they really needed (and wanted) was determined action to change things for the better. The employers knew that they were not facing up to their responsibilities - the trade unions knew they were not standing up for their low paid members. And council employees knew that they were being badly let down - by the craven behaviour of both the employers and the trade unions. In some areas councils are

Male Claimants

Just back from another highly successful meeting - with group of male claimants, i.e. male workers in non bonus earning jobs - such as janitors and drivers in education and social work departments. The trade unions have long neglected these male groups and - of course - the employers don't want these male workers to know that they have a potential claim in the first place. But generally speaking they do - depending on local circumstances - which vary from council to council. So if you are in a predominantly male job - one that never attracted the high bonuses paid to other male council workers - you may well have a significant claim. For further information and advice contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

A Man's A Man

Regular readers of the blog site have shown a surprising passion for poetry - in recent weeks. So I thought I'd publish the full version of Robert Burns insipring words - from A Man's A Man (Is There For Honest Poverty). See post dated 7 June 2010 - by way of background. Is there, for honest Poverty That hings his head, and a' that; The coward-slave, we pass him by, We dare be poor for a' that! For a' that, and a' that, Our toils obscure, and a' that, The rank is but the guinea's stamp, The Man's the gowd for a' that. - What though on hamely fare we dine, Wear hoddin grey, and a that. Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine, A Man's a Man for a' that. For a' that, and a' that; Their tinsel show, and a' that; The honest man, though e'er sae poor, Is king o' men for a' that. - Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord, Wha struts, and stares, and a' that, Though hundreds worship at his word, He's but a

Boys and their Toys

A regular reader has been in touch to ask why Tony Woodley's top of the range Range Rover - failed to get a mention in my recent post about Unite - the largest union in the UK. See post dated 6 June 2010- 'In Charge of the Office'. True, the general secretary's fancy car does seem a bit excessive - newspapers report the cost at a whopping great £45,000. But what people do with their own money - by and large - is their own business, in my opinion. And if boys want to spend large sums of money on grown up toys - then that's up to them - I think. But if the car in question is being provided as part of the general secretary's remuneration package - then that's another matter altogether. After all, why should Unite members pay for such extravagance out of their union contributions? If Unite wants to set the record straight - I'm happy to share this information on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

The Meaning of Words

Do words actually mean what they say or - when it becomes convenient - can they be regarded as just a random jumble of letters? Evidently South Lanarkshire Council believes the latter - if its response to my latest FOI request is anything to go by - because here's what the council says about FOI on its publicly funded web site: "Freedom of Information legislation is designed to ensure openness and accountability. This means that wherever possible, we will make the information you request available to you." And, as promised, here's a copy of my latest FOI letter - asking for a review of the council's decision to reject yet another request for basic pay information - about male dominated council jobs. Maybe this Labour-led council will reflect on one of the party's better slogans from the 1990's: 'Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say'. 7 June 2010 South Lanarkshire Council FOI Review Request Team By e-mail to – foi.reviews@southlanark

Daylight is the Best Disinfectant

Last year I asked South Lanarkshire - via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request - to explain the hourly rate of pay for certain categories of male dominated council jobs. As usual with requests about equal pay - the council refused to provide the information - on the basis that this was personal data covered by the Data Protection Act. I asked for a review which is part of the FOI regime - arguing that the information did not amount to personal data - because it was requested on an anonymous basis and could be used to identify any individual. In essence, the request was about the job and not the person - but at the eleventh hour the council suddenly changed tack - and decided that this was not really a matter of principle after all - but a simple matter of cost. South Lanarkshire claimed it did not have to provide the information - because the cost of doing so would exceed £600 - allowing them to claim an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. In my view, this was a co

Fox Cross Solicitors

Great news for people seeking help and advice. Fox Cross Solicitors now has a web site which is going live this weekend. The web site contains a wealth of information - on a wide variety of subjects including: Equal Pay Equality and Discrimination General Employment Law Trade Union Members Foreign Workers Have a look at the web site by visiting - www.foxcross.co.uk - h ere's what the web site has to say about Carol Fox and Stefan Cross. Carol Fox Carol is a qualified solicitor and is an Accredited Specialist in Discrimination Law by the Law Society of Scotland. Carol is dedicated to representing claimants and ONLY represents employees and workers. She leads the team in the Edinburgh office. Before establishing this law firm Carol was Head of Litigation for Scotland at Stefan Cross Solicitors, and prior to that Carol was Head of Equality for Scotland at Thompsons Solicitors. Through her strong advocacy skills Carol has successfully achieved many hundreds of positive outcom

Edinburgh - New Contracts

Edinburgh City Council has issued 90 days notice to employees covered by the 1999 Single Status Agreement. The council is also threatening to impose new contracts of employment - once the 90 days notice period is up. The reason Edinburgh is going down this path is because it has failed to reach agreement with the trade unions over Single Status - after 11 long years of negotiations. See post dated 5 June 2010 - 'Two Tales of One City' - for a more detailed explanation of what's been going on for the past ten years and more. The council will now invite employees covered by the 1999 Agreement - to sign up to the new package of pay and conditions on a voluntary basis. If people refuse to do so, the new package will simply be imposed - and work will carry on as normal under the new terms. Other councils have gone down this road already - it really is nothing to get worried or excited about. The best thing to do is not to agree to the changes on a voluntary basis -

More Kind Words

More kind words from another regular visitor to the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site: "Hi Mark My sister in law received her settlement offer last week and she has asked me to thank you on her behalf. She could not put in to words how much this money will mean to her as her daughter is getting married next year and by yours and Stefan’s hard work there has been a great deal of financial pressure lifted off her shoulders. Thank You Very Much. KF"

An Affront to Democracy

The Labour party is in the process of electing its new leader - via a cumbersome, three-way 'electoral college' - which will operate over the summer. Now most modern political parties have a simple system for their internal elections - it's called one-member-one-vote (OMOV) - and it does what it says on the tin. Each member has the same and equal vote - for deciding important issues - like who should be the new party leader. But the Labour party has a rather different approach - which means that some members are much more equal than others. The numbers in the different constituencies can vary - but broadly speaking the numbers stack up like this - 258 MPs = 200,000 Party Members = 4,000,000 Affiliated Trade Union Members. How's that for equality? A better description would be car crash democracy. Each of the three constituencies or colleges have the same weighted vote - so MPs have the greatest say, followed by individual members (200,000 is a generous guess

Do the right thing

A number of women union members from North Lanarkshire have been in touch - all members of GMB, Unite and Unison. All of these women started up an equal pay claim with their trade unions - and all say they were represented at the internal grievance hearing stage of the process - with North Lanarkshire Council. But for reasons that have still to be explained - none of their cases were then registered with the Employment Tribunals - which means they have lost out on several years of their claim - money they can ill afford to lose. Now this is not the fault of North Lanarkshire Council or the Employment Tribunals - it's down to the unions who failed to protect their members interests properly. In the circumstances, you would think that the unions would put their hands up - admit their mistake - and agree to compensate people for their financial loss. After all the unions are great big organisations - with huge financial resources - compared to ordinary individual members.

What's In A Name?

The five hopefuls to become the next leader of the Labour party have just been announced - in alphabetical order the runners and riders are: Diane Abbott Ed Balls Andy Burnham Ed Miliband David Miliband Collectively, their initials spell out - DAEBABEMDM - which can be re-arranged into something far more interesting, such as: ME BE MAD, BAD! Let's hope this is not a bad omen for the future - but let's also wait and see who wins.

Dealing with Redundancies

As everyone knows, council spending budgets are in for a bumpy ride over the next few years. Some councils have already indicated that redundancies may be necessary - voluntary or otherwise - but either way it's an anxious time for many people. So, what are your rights in a redundancy situation? First of all, employers are obliged to consult with employees (and trade union reps) - as soon as possible. Second, employers must follow a fair procedure - they can't just make things up as they go along - or treat some groups more favourably than others. Third, employers must do everything they reasonably can to avoid redundancies - which should only be contemplated as a last resort. Fourth, employers are obliged to offer you 'suitable alternative employment' - if you are displaced. Fifth, employers are not judge and jury over what constitutes an offer of 'suitable alternative employment' - employers must try to address their employees reasonable concerns

Openness and Transparency

According to recent news reports the new coalition government is urging councils in England and Wales to publish all spending over £500. The government's says this will lead to greater value for money - and is part of their ongoing 'revolution' in being open and transparent. The aim is that by September 2010 all councils will be expected to publish details of spending above £500 - for the public to see and scrutinise for themselves. The government is also urging greater clarity on councillors' expenses and over the minutes of council meetings - to explain clearly what was discussed and decided. Now - setting partisan politics aside - that really is a grown up approach to good local government and good local decision making. Knowledge is power, but all too often in the past - knowledge and vital information were carefully controlled - allowing decisions to be made by small groups - in secret and behind closed doors. So, the more open and transparent the decision making p

"Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord"

Robert Burns hit the nail on the head in his famous poem - 'A Man's A Man'. "Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord What struts, and stares, an a' that Though hundreds worship at his word He's but a cuif for a' that" The House of Lords is still packed to the rafters with knaves and fools - 736 of them as of April 2010 - 89 more than the 647 strong House of Commons - with more to come as the new government brings in plans to 'reform' the system. The last Labour government had plans too - but after 13 years in power the second chamber was and remains largely unreconstructed - dominated by retired, unaccountable, second-rate politicians. Insult is about to be added to injury as the likes of John Prescott and Michael Howard are invited to don their ermine robes. John Prescott, former union rep, class warrior and deputy prime minister - will continue to have his nose in the public trough - along with Michael Howard, former Tory leader and Home S

South Lanarkshire

Readers in South Lanarkshire will no doubt be interested in the following article which appears in today's Sunday Herald. "Councillor in SPT expenses row lands new job" Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor 6 June 2010 "A Labour councillor who quit Scotland’s biggest transport quango during a row over expenses has been handed a new job by his colleagues in South Lanarkshire. Davie McLachlan stepped down as vice-chairman of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) in February after it emerged he claimed more than £10,000 in mileage in just two years. He went on a £17,000 SPT trip to New York and a £1500 trip to Manchester which coincided with Rangers playing in the Uefa Cup Final. Last week, a report by external auditors KPMG revealed much of the paperwork covering SPT’s corporate credit cards had been shredded. KMPG also questioned whether all McLachlan’s mileage claims were value for money. But before the report was published, McLachlan’s colleagues at

Freedom of Information

Glasgow City Council has a new leadership - following the sudden and unexpected departure of former council leader - Councillor Stephen Purcell One issue the new regime will want to get to grips with is highlighted today in a report by the Sunday Herald - here's summary of the article written by Tom Gordon. "Quango spent £50,000 on taking bosses to football, dinners and pop concerts" Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor 6 Jun 2010 "A controversial construction quango spent almost £50,000 on hospitality for senior managers, councillors and business contacts in two years, according to files obtained by the Sunday Herald. City Building (Glasgow) LLP, a spin-off of Labour-run Glasgow City Council, lavished thousands on sporting dinners, football matches, charity events and pop concerts. Senior managers attended gigs at Hampden Park by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Take That on the questionable basis it would help them drum up new work for the organisation. Bosses al

In Charge of the Office

The joint leaders of Britain's largest trade union - Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson - are a godsend to the headline writers. Unite's joint general secretaries are widely known to dislike each other - they are a dysfunctional double act - the trade union movement's answer to Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Unite's latest gaffe is widely reported today - as Tony Woodley flies of for a week in the sun - while his BA cabin crew members gear up for yet another week of strike action. Sensing the obvious criticism - Unite released a statement saying that Derek Simpson is in charge of the office - he's ready and willing to meet BA at any time in an effort to resolve the dispute. Yes, no doubt - but this is the same Derek Simpson who Twittered a running commentary on the last round of settlement talks. Secret, sensitive negotiations that were so rudely interrupted - and effectively broken up - by a rent a mob from the Socialist Workers Party. So, it seems a tad unlike

Two Tales of One City

The good citizens of Edinburgh are entitled to scratch their heads in disbelief - at the antics of their local council and trade unions - on the vital subject of equal pay. A ground breaking Single Status (Equal Pay) agreement was signed by all Scottish Councils and the unions over 10 years ago - in 1999. But ever since the unions and the council have been in 'negotiations' - to implement the agreement in full. The first deadline came and went in 2002 - the second in 2004 - but still the talks in Edinburgh continued. The latest statements from the two sides illustrate the problem perfectly. True, they may be talking, to each other - but in completely different languages it would seem. The council was upbeat in a recent announcement: "Delivering fair and equal pay across the City of Edinburgh Council took a significant step forward yesterday. Although no agreement was reached at the final day of Modernising Pay negotiations between the Council and trades unions,

Poet's Corner

Here's another piece of equal pay prose from one of our regular readers in the west of Scotland - all contributions gratefully received: "The Councils' stance is wrong They had us working for a song for when it's time to pay us they'd rather whip and flay us oh but when it comes to expenses they hide behind their fences squandering the taxpayers money they seem to find it funny when the little people want to know where the f @ *k did the money go in the end we'll have what's ours so they can't spend thousands on fancy flowers the game is up and they've been caught yet still no money.. d'ya think they've forgot? let's not forget the unions we pay that helped the councils' so we had no say we'll get the last laugh when we get our wages even though it's taken for ages there is a lesson to be learned for all the Councils' and those concerned you may flaunt the laws and the rules but Stefan Cross and the E.T. are no fools yo

North Lanarkshire - Male Home Carers

Lots of e-mails and phone calls from male Home Carers in North Lanarkshire - asking if they are included in the latest round of settlement offers. The answer to that is a definite - Yes. But as yet the council has still to send details of the individual settlement offers for the male Home Carers . When these do arrive - they will be sent out in the same way as the offers to female Home Carers. So, in the meantime sit tight - don't panic - and don't listen to the rumour mill.

Poet's Corner

The long, hard fight for equal pay has its lighter moments - for example, it has inspired the lyrical side of one of our regular readers - as follows: "On a cold and icy winter night up to St Bridgets we all did trot to get a letter from the "council" and find out how much cash we got It was a bit of an anti-climax but we thought it will be fine when a voice was heard: "Don't do it , don't sign the bottom line!" So we all went back to Pat's house, where Agnes explained things with all her might And after a few gin and tonic, we thought maybe oor Agnes was right So the next day, we got the ball rolling,and signed up with Stefan Cross but with all her texts and emails we knew Agnes was our boss After a long hard battle, they were wrong and Agnes was right we all got our money and the "council"was right in the sh**e So forget about your Browns and Camerons and all your dodgy political men I just wish we could vote for Agnes and get h

Edinburgh Male Claims

Some groups of workers fighting for equal pay continue to get a very raw deal - and one of the worst offenders is Edinburgh City Council. The position in Edinburgh is that male workers - in predominantly female jobs such as carers, cooks and cleaners - are still being denied settlement offers by the council. Even though their female colleagues - doing exactly the same jobs - were made settlement offers long ago. Action 4 Equality Scotland has been pushing the council for some time to settle these claims - and the Employment Tribunals have also been asked to set a date for a GMF hearing, if Edinburgh refuses to come to its senses. Because the council's position is plainly ridiculous - no other council in Scotland has adopted the same view. All other Scottish councils have made offers to male workers in these predominantly female jobs - at the same time as offers have been made to the female workers. Edinburgh has just lost another big decision at Employment Appeal Tribun

Who'da Thought?

Who would have thought the new coalition government - would take a more radical line on Freedom of Information that the last Labour government? But if the latest reports can be believed - that's exactly what Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat allies are planning. The new regime has announced plans to make more government information - including local government - more accessible to the public. Mr Cameron says he wants to rip off the "cloak of secrecy" around government and public services - and extend transparency as far as possible. Good for him - let's hope he sticks to his word - because that will put lots of councils in the spotlight - where they belong having tried everything to keep their employees in the dark - for all these years. Francis Maude, a Cabinet Office minister is quoted as saying: "I think this is ridiculous. It's your money, your government, you should know what's going on. So we're going to rip off that

More Kind Words

More kind words from a regular reader in Glasgow: "I received my cheque yesterday and want to say thank you to Mark, Stefan, and all concerned - for fair and equal pay and treatment. You are doing a great job and I appreciate all your hard work on my behalf. Many thanks again" SB"

North Lanarkshire Settlements

We've had lots of enquiries about the North Lanarkshire settlements - which started to go out last week. A common question is - "Why does the claim only go up to January 2007?" The answer is that North Lanarkshire Council is only prepared to settle your cases up to the date when the council finally introduced its new Single Status pay and grading arrangements. And this happened in January 2007. Everyone has an ongoing claim from January 2007 onwards - because of the protection period offered to the male bonus earners. Action 4 Equality Scotland is already taking this up on your behalf - so there is no need for you to do anything - just sit tight and this additional part of your claim will be settled in due course. But the point is that although the council is not prepared to settle your full claim now - we take the view that this initial payment - is better in your pocket than the council's bank account. We are continuing to fight for the rest people are owed

Old Habits v New Politics

The new Westminster Parliament is only just bedding down - a new coalition government is in place - but already there have been two incidents suggesting that old habits die hard. No sooner had the new MPs taken their seats - than it was announced that Labour MP Eric Illsley faced three charges under the Theft Act. Three other Labour MPs facing similar charges before the election - were dropped like proverbial hot potatoes - even though none of them had been found guilty as charged. But Eric Illsley is still with us - despite being accused of dishonestly claiming £20,000 in council tax and other domestic charges over three years - he is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on June 17 2010. Over the weekend another even bigger name fell to the curse of the MPs' expenses scandal - this time a Liberal Democrat MP David Laws - also a member of the government and Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Laws was exposed by the Telegraph for claiming £40,000 in renta