Hereford Heckler #21 out now!

The latest issue of the Hereford Heckler, and the last in its current format, is now available online and will soon be hitting the streets.

This issue includes;

  • An exclusive article on the council sell-off of all its service
  • Taxpayers to pay for £27m new road
  • Child poverty ‘significant issue’ for Herefordshire
  • ‘We’re back!’ – the low-down on the Heckler, what we’ve been up to and what we’re doing next
  • Charles Pickles, executive board member of ‘Hereford Futures’ and blood-thirsty huntsman
  • City printing firm closes
  • The campaign against the government’s Workfare schemes
  • The battle over supermarkets in the county
  • and much more

To view or download this issue, click on the image below-

Workfare? Let’s have a bit of warfare!

The ConDem government’s workfare scheme has come under fire in the last few weeks, with a national debate sparked by protests. Mainstream media finally picked up the story after a small group of activists, from the Right to Work campaign, were forcibly removed from a Tesco store near the Houses of Parliament.

Campaigners target Tesco

The Department of Work and Pensions scheme is part of the government’s benefits overhaul, with the apparent intention of “getting people back to work”. The ‘work experience scheme’ sees jobseekers employed in unpaid, temporary positions in exchange for their benefits. Essentially it means that those on benefits are forced to work for free for a company or have their benefits stopped.

The website run by campaign group ‘Boycott Workfare’ states: “Those who need welfare are forced into unpaid work for multi-million pound companies. Instead of a living wage, they receive only JSA – a tiny £53 a week for the under-25s – far below minimum wage. As a result of this, workfare means those in paid positions may see their jobs replaced by this unpaid labour. Why would a company pay for people to do these jobs when they can get free labour from the Job Centre?”

But the campaign against the scheme is gaining momentum, protests are spreading, and Saturday 3rd March saw a ‘day of action’ with protests across the country. Over a dozen high street companies have now suspended their part in the scheme as a result of pressure from campaigners. This includes Tesco, Argos, Superdrug, Waterstone’s and Sainsbury’s.

This issue is clearly something that we need to oppose, as most decent, right-thinking people would agree. This isn’t about opposing the ideologically driven programme of cuts by the government, but about the basic rights of workers and the unemployed. It would seem that major companies continue to benefit at the expense of people who are unfortunate enough to join the growing number on the dole queue.

Targeted and organised protest actions, such as those seen in Tesco and those carried out by groups such as UK Uncut, can put pressure on companies involved in this exploitation. They can also raise people’s attention by pushing this issue into the media, as we have already seen. To say we can defeat the cuts seems like a very unrealistic dream, but we can influence the path of the government and those companies involved in this case. We can stand up for rights of the workers and unemployed and results are already being achieved.

To find out more about workfare and the growing campaign against it, visit boycottworkfare.org

Lost in a supermarket

The battle lines have been drawn in two local towns over plans to build new supermarkets. Both Hay-on-Wye and Ledbury are currently in the midst of hard debate, with plans to build the new supermarkets bringing out those both for and against.

In August of last year, Powys Council revealed plans to sell Hay-on-Wye Primary School to developers, which it is believed will pave the way for a new supermarket to be built on the site. As part of the sale agreement, the developer will have to build a new school and community centre, which the council says offers an opportunity for new facilities and services to be provided without cost to the taxpayer.

It has not taken long for fears over the planned new supermarket to surface. On 19th December, around 50 people attended a ‘flash mob’ protest at Powys Council Headquarters, where councillors were meeting to discuss plans to sell off the school site. Protesters used handheld torches to hold a ‘silent light display,’ but councillors used side entrances to avoid the demo. Campaigners gathered in the foyer instead.

Last night, the campaign group that has been organising against the supermarket plans, Plan B, held a public meeting at the school. The plans of the council and the developers were discussed, and attendees heard how a recent survey conducted by the Hay and District Chamber of Commerce revealed that nine out of ten traders in the town were concerned about the prospect of a new town centre supermarket.

In Ledbury, the campaign against a new supermarket has been going on for quite some time now. Last year, Ledbury Opposes Tesco Superstore was formed, opposing the application to build a new Tesco near the by-pass in the town. Petitions were started, posters were displayed in the windows of many high-street shops and a rally attracting over 100 people was held at the Market House when a Ledbury Town Council meeting was held to discuss the plans.

In November Tesco withdrew their application. However, Sainsburys had also entered the race, with plans to build a superstore and petrol station opposite the proposed location for the Tesco site. Opposition continued, and LOTS changed its name to Ledbury Opposes out of Town Superstores. They have stepped up their campaign against any superstores being built, arguing that they would take trade away from the town centre, and destroy the unique, independent character of the town. Recently, Local residents have received leaflets through their doors, and campaigners have been hitting the streets with information stalls, and raising signatures for their petition.

However, another development in the story has recently come about, with campaign group LESS – Ledbury Supports Superstores hitting the ground. LESS, like LOTS, have set up a website, had leaflets and placards printed, which are on display in some parts of the town, and have also raised 1,000 signatures for a petition in favour of the Sainsburys store to be built.

Both sides in the argument are firmly dug in, and both have arguments that will sound very convincing to a large number of people. On the one side, local and independent traders are facing a multi-national company moving onto their doorstep, which they argue will take their custom and change the unique character of the town. On the other, you have the argument that the building of the new store will create much-needed jobs for the town, and offer families cheaper goods and more convenience, at a time when nearly everybody is economising. With this in mind, it is a fair assumption that this battle will go on.

A council meeting to discuss the Sainsburys store application is due to be held on 2nd February at the Market House, Ledbury.

For more information, visit:

Ledbury Opposes out of Town Superstores website

Ledbury Supports Sainsbury’s website

Tesco Pull Ledbury Store Plans!

Only a day before the planning application was due to be decided, Tesco have decided to shelve their controversial plans for an out-of-town superstore in Ledbury.

Tesco, which already has a store in the town, applied for planning permission for another town near the town’s bypass back in July. However, opposition was hot on its heels, and the Ledbury Opposes Tesco Superstores campaign group was formed. The group received considerable support from local high street traders who argued that the new Tesco store would take away trade and destroy the town. Posters supporting LOTS can be seen across the town, thousands have signed petitions and over a hundred turned out to protest against the plans.

In August the tale took another twist, when Sainsburys applied to build another superstore next to the proposed Tesco location. LOTS changed it’s name to Ledbury Opposes Out of Town Superstores, and vowed to fight the plans.

You can see more on the LOTS website.

Ledbury Superstore Protest

Up to 150 people joined a protest against the planned Tesco superstore in Ledbury last Thursday (18th).

The large crowd gathered at the Market House in the town centre to hold a ‘silent lobby’ of a meeting by Ledbury Town Council. The newly renamed ‘Ledbury Opposes Out of Town Superstores’ protest group called the lobby with only a few hours notice.

Earlier last week Sainsbury’s announced plans to build another supermarket across the road from the planned Tesco store on Leadon Way.  Traders and some local residents argue that the planned store will take trade away from already struggling shops in the town centre.

Rich Hadley from LOTS, who oppose both planned superstores, said the group was “fighting for the soul” of the town.

Councillors voted in favour of holding an independent survey on the possible economic impact of the superstores, and also voted to hold a public meeting at which Sainsbury’s would face questioning from local residents.

To find out more about the campaign against the superstores, go to the LOTS facebook page.