Episode 107 – On this week’s show: Dominic Grieve not beating but joining them, Where’s Boris?, Chris Failing and Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) speaks to Naomi Ridley at Hastings Furniture Service (@hfs_says).
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Episode 107 – On this week’s show: Dominic Grieve not beating but joining them, Where’s Boris?, Chris Failing and Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) speaks to Naomi Ridley at Hastings Furniture Service (@hfs_says).
Links and sources of info from Naomi’s interview:
All the usual ParPolBro stuff:
Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast, a podcast that takes a sideways look at the past week’s politics before realizing, oh wait, I’ve fallen over. This is episode 107, I’m Tiernan Douieb and this week as US President and Tigger onesi filled with macaroni cheese Donald Trump said pictures of crying children persuaded him to sign an order to stop kids being separated from their parents when crossing the border illegally, I’m wondering why that didn’t have the same effect on gun laws.
Yes, Trump did the kind presidential duty of making sure families detained at the US border can now stay together something that only wasn’t happening because of him in the first place. It’s a bit like if he took a huge dump in your kitchen then called you up the next day to warn you it was there, and demand you thank him for letting you know. Despite Trump saying that it was a Democrat policy under Obama that lead to this happening, it’s actually because of his Attorney General and the baby from the Incredibles when he’s old Jeff Sessions and his zero-tolerance policy. So, saying it’s a democrat policy is a bit like when Fargo says it’s based on a true story, but actually the Coen Brothers just made it up. Only difference is, it’s still more believable than Trump having any conviction at all, and everyone actually wanted a second season of Fargo. Since he’s changed the globally unpopular policy migrant children are of course still going to be locked up in cages by homeland security, only now they’ll be with their families. Something that as a new parent I feel is almost worse. Trump said he didn’t like to see families separated which is news to his rarely seen daughter Tiffany and his two ex-wives.
All of this is terrifying and if there hadn’t been such global pressure, it’s unlikely Trump would have stopped letting children be put in cages. In fact, if anything, he probably would’ve made the centers some sort of screening zoo for Ron Moore. The fact is, the notion that those seeking asylum are automatically classed as criminal is a hugely scary state of affairs and does now kind of make the statue of liberty redundant. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time known misogynist Trump has demeaned a powerful woman. First Hostage of The US Melania went to visit the border but was snapped wearing a jacket that said, ‘I Don’t Really Care Do U?’ Many were certain this displayed her true feelings towards the separation crisis, but I reckon it was just her trying to prove, yet again, that she’s definitely not her husband’s day nurse.
The US also announced last week that they are leaving the UN Human Rights council saying that it’s not worthy of its name. Sure ok, but then you should probably also scrap ICE as they are, judging by the past month or so, severely un-fucking cool.
Back in the UK Brexit is charging ahead like a dead hamster in an overoiled wheel, after MPs voted again to not have a meaningful vote on the final deal winning by 319 to 303 votes. I’ve never known so many people vote to not vote in my life. I’m betting they all love it when you unsubscribe from an email service and you get an email, just to say you’ve unsubscribed. Dominic Grieve, you know, the one who’s an extra from Rumpole Of The Bailey, decided not to vote for the second amendment that he proposed, once again proving Tory Rebel is as much of an oxymoron as affordable housing or compassionate Conservatism. Grieve has been called the Grand Old Duke of Politics for marching his men up the hill then back down again, but I’d say he’s more of a Humpty Dumpty because he got knocked off his high perch very quickly, cracked under pressure, made an eggy mess and is now going to stink out parliament for a very long time. 100,000 people march through London on Saturday calling for a public say on the final outcome of the EU negotiations. Thing is, we’ve trusted the public on quite a few things now and I’m really not sure that’s the wisest thing to do. I’m almost certain we’d end up still leaving with a very bad deal but it would just be called a Dealy McDealFace. Many of the marchers were asking where’s Jeremy Corbyn, but the Labour leader aka Earnest Giveaway, was in Jordan visiting a refugee camp which many said was convenient timing. Yeah typical World Refugee Day and Syrian Crisis all ganging together to make sure Corbyn couldn’t attend a march for something he’s ambivalent about and if he had attended would probably have been booed at. Typical. I can’t believe they’d have their homes bombed just to piss off some Brits. Gah.
Aeronautical manufacturers Airbus have announced thousands of job losses as it looks set to leave the UK because of Brexit. Yeah good luck with flying out of here when we won’t have sorted the Open Skies policy by then. Health Secretary and sticky googly eyes on a mop Jeremy Hunt said that is inappropriate for Airbus to make threats like that and that they should get behind the PM, a comment that only makes sense if he means to run her over as they prepare for take-off. It’s weird that the Conservatives think businesses should answer to the state. Next thing you know they’ll be trying to take the country back to the 70’s. Bloody communists. Foreign Secretary and vitamin deficient space-hopper Boris Johnson was overheard at a Foreign Office reception last week responding to a question about fears business leaders had about Brexit by saying ‘fuck business’. Many have disputed that he meant it seriously, but I differ. I don’t think he meant it all, and that ‘fuck business’ is just his term for sex.
Speaking of Boris, he was nowhere to be seen for the parliamentary vote on the expansion to Heathrow Airport. How ironic that despite his protest against a runway, that’s exactly what he did. Turns out that he had gone on a diplomatic visit to Afghanistan because that’s somewhere the UK has fucked up so badly already, there’s not much more he can do to ruin it. Meanwhile minister and Butlins sad coat Greg Hands quit as a Minister for State for Trade and Investment so he could go against the whip and vote no, but Boris told the Evening Standard paper that his resignation would achieve nothing. Isn’t that the perfect end to a career as a Foreign Secretary that has also achieved absolutely nothing?
But just before voting on the Heathrow Expansion, MPs voted to not back the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project. Yet further proof they’re afraid of stepping up to do stuff in-case it makes waves. It would have been the world’s first tidal power lagoon and an ambitious renewal green energy project, and a great investment for Wales, but it seems the government far prefer drowning.
Prime Minister and flexible fridge magnet Theresa May faces yet another in party threat as Defense Secretary and what if a distant member of the royal family had never seen the sunlight Gavin Williamson has said if he isn’t given £20bn towards the armed forces, he will topple her government. Something that is very hard to do considering it seems they’re already lying most of the time anyway. Military services have suffered harsh cuts over the past few years and Williamson says they need even a 10th of the money allocated to the NHS just to stand still. Sure standing still might work for the TA but I reckon it’ll make for a mega shit navy and air force. This does feel like an almost weekly threat now and I wonder if I should just get on board. May! Give me £20bn towards snacks or I’ll topple your government! Right fingers crossed she listens in.
And in Turkey, AK Party leader and shaved upright seal Recip Erdogan has won Sunday’s election with 53% of the vote so he will continue being President for another 5 years, on top of the 4 he’s already served and the 11 he did as Prime Minister before that and let’s face it, he’s unlikely to leave till he dies is he? Total jobsworth if you ask me. While Erdogan is seen by many and dictator like, with several human rights violations under his belt – a term that makes it sound like his genitals are really offensive – and now about to inflict his new greater powers as president that he won a referendum for last year, his main opponent was Muharrem Ince from the Republican People’s Party who is hugely anti-refugee and would’ve seen all Syrian refugees in Turkey being forced to leave. So Turkey had that fun choice of authoritarian power hungry dictator or racist border control mad bigot. Aren’t choices fun? So Syrian refugees in Turkey remain safe, while Turkish democracy doesn’t. Still you know what Erdogan and his government say, if you don’t enjoy it, there’s always prison for an indefinite period of time and a charge that probably doesn’t exist.
Lastly New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given birth to a baby girl, which the New Zealand public are naming the Prime Miniature. Arden is the first world leader in nearly 30 years to have a baby while in office, which is odd as I thought she gave birth in hospital.
Greetings ParPolBrods, and cheers to your ears for joining me once again for this week’s show. I am not going to lie, today’s podcast has been an effort in the making. It is day one of the heatwave or as us Brits refer to it the ‘oh god it’s too hot how can I do anything’ summer that we all enjoy and hate equally every year. The news said it’s 28 degrees in Edinburgh today, I can only assume half the population has melted. No one is used to this sort of rare occasion, what with it only happening every single year. Anyway, my headphones I’ve realized are essentially tiny Arga ovens that keep the heat around my ears warm and gradually increase the temperature until they slide off in a wave of sweat. I hope you enjoy that image, because that’s already happened 5 times during this record. The second reason is we suspect our daughter is teething because she is grumpy as hell today and so I have to keep the headphones on so I don’t hear her wailing. Basically, today is either cooked ears or damaged through baby screams ears. I’m tempted to cover myself in egg boxes to create a sound proof room. Or I could cover our daughter in egg boxes. The only concern is that it’s bin night and all the recycling goes out so that could mean one of us ends up in a skip. Still worth the risk I reckon.
Right, gotta do some apologizing for last week because firstly, you may have noticed I have little to no clue about the football. I thought I would do some world cup based gags on last week’s show and yet that gamble failed spectacularly as I said England had played Morocco, which they hadn’t. They’d played Tunisia. The worst thing about that was I had just seen the end of that match minutes before recording and still got it wrong. This week, despite England winning 6-1 yesterday I will not make any football related jokes at all, though I will say that with all Panama’s financial services I’d have thought they’d have been more interested in high net gains. THAT IS IT! I WON’T DO ANY MORE! I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS! WHAT IS OFFSIDE? The second thing is that a very nice person called Jobe emailed me asking why I have adverts for army recruitment on the podcast which shocked me because I didn’t know I did! I was temporarily worried I’d woven in secret MoD messages in amongst my gags. But no, it was one that was dynamically inserted by Acast who host this show. I have now asked them to block that one as it didn’t seem appropriate with this podcast. I can’t have you using the global political parts of this show to help you stage a war campaign somewhere. Anyway, Acast were very nice about it and look, if that happens again and you hear and advert and think ‘hang on, that doesn’t work with ParPolBro at all’ please let me know. Its not as if I get anywhere near enough listens to profit from them at the moment anyway so tough if the army think they’re gonna get free promo from me. Let’s just see Gavin Williamson try to come round and topple me, I’m oddly sturdy.
Loads of thank yous this week. Huge thanks to Mark for donating to the Patreon, and thank you to Dan, Kathryn, MC Macaulay, Optional Armstrong, Nicola, Somebody and Somebody for the ko-fi donations. Weirdly with the ko-fi donations, even if you put anonymous I still get an email from paypal saying who sent the donation which is hugely er, ungood. That’s the state of my sweaty eared vocab today. It is ungood for the privacy things. So I know who you are but I shall protect your identity somebody and somebody, you are not just anybody to me. Ahem. I did a slightly needy tweet last week because, long story super short, I’m having to go to court for two gig payments I’m owed at the moment which I can’t talk about but while it isn’t huge dosh, it’s enough to derail life slightly. So anyway, I reached out for anyone who wanted to donate to the show to maybe do it this week and several did and it’s hugely appreciated. If you want to help me tell dodgy promoters to go fuck themselves as I’ve got my ParPolBrods at my back, then please do donate at patreon.com/parpolbro or ko-fi.com/parpolbro for a one-off thingy. Also a thank you this week to Daisy who got in touch asking if I still need people to transcribe past episodes of the show for the website. I do indeed. Not the whole episode, just the interview bits. So Daisy is kindly going to do one or two and if you fancy picking one you maybe haven’t heard before or particularly liked, and would be up for popping the words into a doc so they can go on the ever growing resource that is partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk then please get in touch on the contact form on that site, or the twitter @parpolbro, the Facebook Partly Political Broadcast group or email@example.com. Oh and the last ask, god I’m needy this week aren’t I? I blame the heat. My last ask is why don’t you all just come round and spoon feed me because I’m obviously a man baby that can’t do anything for myself. Sorry I mean, is, as you may have noticed, I change the tagline for the podcast at the top of the show every single podcast. This is exhausting and stupid of me, so I need a permanent one. Do you have any you want to suggest? Is there a past one you particularly liked? Let me know. If I can find a way to do a poll or something I will, but until then, send me words with choices conveyed throughout them!
Oh and I forgot that goosesandmeese put a lovely review on the iTunes page, thank you for that and as part of the interview they mention they listen with their dad. This is amazing. More listening with relatives, friends, pets or anyone else you think may enjoy it. Its not like a film, there’s no sex scenes or abject violence that would cause weird tension while viewing. No, it’s all wholesome family fun, with swearing in. And if you want to review the show, please do that too at any of your podcast hubs where you digitally grab noise from. Last admin is that Tatton Spiller at Simple Politics only let me know on the weekend that he has a podcast, called aptly, the Simple Politics Podcast which he hosts with Hattie Schofield and it’s a lot of fun and hugely informative all about the upcoming week in politics unlike this podcast that looks back a week because I’m reactive not proactive. So check that out asap. Do it. Hurry up. Why haven’t you done it yet? Yeesh.
Things I’m not mentioning this week are the legalization of medical cannabis and that’s because if you go back to episode 70 where I interview Jason Reed from the Stop and Search podcast we discuss that there, and his excellent podcast covers it way better than I can do in a few mins. Also Trump putting children in cages is a horrific issue but as is often the case with the US right now, I’d need a whole extra hour just to cover half of it. I am up for doing a US update soon and if you’d like me to cover more Trump stuff, let me know but look basically, he locks up children, no it wasn’t an Obama policy, he did that all by himself and he’s an awful, awful man. So instead, now that I’ve lowered your expectations of what you might get on this show, I am interviewing Naomi Ridley, the CEO of the Hastings Furniture Service, a small independent charity that provide affordable furniture to those in need in the Hastings area. She is very good peoples doing good work and it’s a lovely chat, all in time for Small Charities Week, which was last week and therefore I am totally not in time for it. WINNING! Also, obviously, Brexit things:
Chris Grayling, the minister for transport and what it would look like if you drew a stupid face on a morph suit. It seems everything Chris Grayling does is shit. Just go back through his history in parliament. He was minister for work and pensions 2010-2012 and what happened? Tons of cuts to welfare budgets. Shit. Then Justice Secretary, the legal system went to shit. Now transport secretary, and the railways have turned into awful postmodern stationary art pieces that never go anywhere. I mean really, Chris Grayling? Chris Failing more like. But go back a step as it seems the work he did as Justice Secretary is still having to be fixed and costing millions to do so. Grayling privatized the prison probation service under a policy he called ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ something that sounds like a really edgy Michael Bay film, but was actually a reform that replaced the 35 individual probation trusts with a single National Probation service, responsible for managing high risk offenders, and the 21 community rehabilitation companies or CRCs or CROCS as they’ve turned out to be, that are responsible for low to medium risk offenders in 21 areas across England and Wales. These were all bid for by private companies and won by some very oddly named groups including Purple Futures which doesn’t sound good at all. The futures bruised, the futures purple? Sodexo Justice, Seetec and then the actually ok based on its name sounding Reducing Reoffending Partnership. But it seems 4 years down the line, a Justice Committee report has found many of the CRCs monitoring offenders only over the phone, staff being so overstretched they handle up to 150 cases each and convicts having to carry out pointless unpaid work like moving mud to different piles or turning up to job placements to find no one is there. Who came up with those? Sisyphus? Other reports include convicts carrying out high risk crimes while under CRC supervision for low and medium risk ones, which is the opposite of rehabilitation. If anything, it’s making them harder criminals. Thank god they weren’t in charge of the high risk to start with or we’d probably now be under the wrath of supervillains. CRCs were also meant to secure accommodation and employment for prisoners once they left prison, but many weren’t given either and were left homeless and broke, meaning many of them committed crimes for survival or alcohol and drugs abuse. The whole system was committed to before two pilot schemes were finished, which is the sort of confidence I haven’t seen since 1990’s channel 4 programming. It’s already failed so many targets the government have had to give an extra £342m to the project due to its losses and no financial penalties have been given. The National Probation Service for high risk prisoners is running better though and with any further reformed CRC contracts likely to costs millions more, its looking like the only option is for the government to nationalize it and take it back inhouse. Actually, I take it back you know. I did feel like a party who said time and time again that ‘we don’t reward’ failure shouldn’t still have Chris Grayling in a top position in a cabinet, let alone as an MP. But now it seems like he’s the best option for renationalization of public services in the UK. I mean, not that he wants to be, but that’s just how shit he is at everything.
INTERVIEW PART 1
When you hear about charities, it’s often the big ones, your Oxfams, your Amnestys. But living in the giving undergrowth below the feet of these giants are millions of small charities who all exist to aid local issues in small areas. Take for example, Hastings. In that area mostly known for a battle a while ago, they have been benefitting from the incredible Hastings Furniture Service, a small charity that has been running for 30 years re-using and recycling tons of unwanted furniture and providing it to those who could otherwise not afford it. Furniture? Yes. Furniture is really important. I mean, for example, without it, I’d be sitting on the floor right now unable to speak into this microphone because I’d be the wrong height. On no wait, I wouldn’t have a table either would I? So it’d probably be about right height only I’d likely have a bum cramp from sitting on the floor and trust me, you wouldn’t want to hear that anguish in my voice. What I’m saying is furniture is often something we take for granted but actually it’s often stupidly expensive to kit out your home and for people on low income it can be extremely tough to make where you live, well, livable.
I met Naomi, the CEO of the Hastings Furniture Service through the comedian Mark Thomas a while back, and just a few weeks ago I hosted a show at the De La Warr pavilion with Mark and other acts to raise money for the HFS, and I thought that what Naomi and her team do is so beneficial to the area, and that she’s such a fun person, that it’d be good to get her on the show to talk about it, and about why small charities are so, so important. It was small charities week last week and so I feel hugely on topic talking about it a whole week later when none of the hashtags are relevant anymore. I’m such an idiot. Anyway, the HFS really are great and I hope you find this inspires you to either donate to the HFS or check out the small charities near you and help them in some way. Oh and one thing I forgot to ask Naomi about entirely was the environmental benefit of reusing and recycling 300 tons of furniture every year, but needless to say there are loads. I don’t know what they are but just imagine some. Thanks. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chat. Here’s Naomi:
INTERVIEW PART 1
Tiernan Douieb: So, probably the best thing to start with is is just to ask you what the Hastings Furniture Service is and how it started.
Naomi Ridley: So, HFS is a charity and a social enterprise, it was started in the 1980s to try and help people with low incomes to furnish their homes. It started out with mostly volunteers from a really, kind of, derelict warehouse and it’s gradually grown, we’ve now got really big stores in Hastings and Bexhill that serve Hastings Borough and Rother District. Our van crews are on the road 5 days a week collecting and delivering furniture and electrical goods. We reuse about 300 tonnes of stuff a year and save it from landfill, and we run training courses and offer volunteering opportunities, supported volunteering for people who are out of work as well.
TD: 300 tonnes of furniture, did you say?
TD: That’s a lot.
NR: A lot.
TD: Yeah, that really is a lot. One of the things I found when I first heard about you that I found very interesting is why is it furniture? I suppose a lot of people think of aid as being food banks, that’s probably the immediate thing that we think of, that people in need would need food. Furniture isn’t necessarily a go-to but how useful is affordable furniture to people in need?
NR: Well, brand new furniture and electrical goods are so expensive that most low income households can’t afford to buy new. Also, when people are recovering from a crisis, like a house fire, or having to set up home after being homeless or being in a women’s refuge, they often need to furnish a home quite quickly. So, affordable, good quality, reused furniture is really, really important for people. Obviously food banks are important too, I wouldn’t ever say that they’re not, but furniture’s so expensive to buy that affordable furniture’s really important for people on low income.
TD: Is there a benefit to people having a furnished home? There’s something quite bleak about the idea of a very empty home, isn’t there, and I suppose if you’ve got some sort of furnishings, it just makes somewhere seem more homely, more comfortable and I’m guessing it’s got mental health benefits as well.
NR: Yeah, definitely. There are all of those benefits. There are also benefits around encouraging people to sustain a tenancy, so when they’ve come out of maybe an institution or from rough sleeping, and it’s quite a big adaptation to make to having your flat, and being able to make it your own and make it feel like a home is really important. It’s also part of resettlement for refugees, women who’ve come out of refuge who’ve been through domestic violence and they’ve maybe got kids with them, the idea of having to put their kids down at night on cardboard instead of having mattress is just another factor for them that deters them from leaving an abusive partner sometimes. So, being able to provide that is really vital.
TD: One of the things when we did the fundraiser for you a few weeks back, you were selling packs of cleaning stuff as well, it was cleaning and utensils and things, was that right?
NR: Well, we had them on display because what we do is provide starter packs of those items for people who’ve been homeless. So, our fundraiser was to raise funds for more of those packs, and we raised £4,000 thanks to your brilliant compering and all the other brilliant performers, a really fantastic performance, which will fund around 60 packs for households who, again, they’re starting with nothing. So, even things like a saucepan set, some cutlery, crockery, being able to cook and clean for yourself, towels so that you can actually wash and keep yourself clean, keep your kids clean, are really, really vital. The whole pack costs about £60, which isn’t all that much money but it’s more than a week’s income if you’re on benefits so it’s a really big help for people again in those situations where they’re having to try and start a whole house going or a whole household going with nothing.
TD: That’s what I mean, it’s so important that I don’t think a lot of people realise just how necessary these things are, a lot of people just buy the willy-nilly and don’t think about how needed they are or how expensive they are. Things like starter packs and that must be so hugely useful to people. I wanted to ask why is it set up in Hastings? I know you’ve got one in Hastings, one in Bexhill, is that a particular area that’s in need compared to other cities nearby such as Brighton? What was the reason for setting it up there?
NR: Yeah, I think it started in Hastings-, Hastings has always been a really deprived area. I think people might think of it as a pretty seaside resort but we’ve got a lot of poverty-related problems and we’ve got much lower incomes for households, even those that are in work, compared to the rest of the south east, even the rest of the county. It’s always been the case, unfortunately. Robert Tressell wrote The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists here, I can barely pronounce it, but he did, that was all about the grinding nature of long-tern poverty and low incomes and how difficult it was, and he talks in that book about people having to approach charities for furniture and I’m afraid it’s still the case. We are set up here. There are projects in other areas and obviously there are issues in other areas but Hastings is I think the 13th most deprived council area in the country. We rate in the top 10 for things like heroine deaths, really poor issues, and there’s a neighbourhood just up the road from us in Bexhill where two thirds of kids are growing up in poverty. So, it’s not all beaches and piers and things, it’s an area where there’s a real need.
TD: I had absolutely no idea about that with Hastings at all.
NR: I think there’s a whole range of factors that have, kind of, worked together here. There are factors around geography, just being really quite cut off, it taking a long time to get London, it takes a long time to get anywhere, whereas compared with Brighton where there’s a motorway and a fast train line, well, when Southern feel like it there’s a fast train line to Brighton. It’s just a lot more accessible, there are conference venues, there’s a lot more going on. So, Hastings is a lot more isolated and remote. That’s coupled then with, really, compared to the rest of the south east, we’ve got quite cheap housing still, we had particularly in the 80s, and there were London boroughs that decanted people, encouraged people to move out, so we’ve got a history of that. I think it’s also the jobs that there are, a lot of them are seasonal and low paid, so there aren’t a lot of really well-paid opportunities for people who live here. There’s also a history of our schools underperforming so people don’t achieve at school. So, it’s a combination of factors, I’d say.
TD: How does the Hastings Furniture Service survive? Is it entirely voluntarily run? How do you self-sustain as a charitable business?
NR: Well, we do involve volunteers, we couldn’t provide the service we offer without our volunteers, but we’ve also got a great, committed, hardworking staff team of 14. We have about 20 volunteers as well, and our trustees are all volunteers too. Financially, it’s mostly about selling stuff that we get donated so our stores are open to everybody but we give a discount and free delivery for a household if it’s receiving a mean-tested benefit, working tax credit, we do discounts for pensioners and students as well. So, people who pay full price are helping to subsidise the reduced prices for people who can’t afford it, that’s how it works. About half our income comes through the stores and sales, about a quarter at the moment from a contract but that’s about to end, and the rest is from grants and fundraising events like the gig that you compered, and they’ve helped towards our training costs and the projects that we run in the community.
TD: You said some it’s via a contract and that’s about to end, why is that ending?
NR: Yeah, the contract is to do with the local welfare assistance fund, that was funding that the government allocated to local councils to replace community care grants so they could help households in crisis. Again, it’s about helping homeless people, women moving out of refuge and things like that, and it funded essential items like beds and cookers and fridges and food and travel. Unfortunately, the government only allocated extra money for a little while and didn’t ring fence it or mandate councils to provide the service so there are on-going cuts to council funding that means things are under pressure all over the country. In our area the county council plans to stop the scheme this year, so the contract is that HFS and another local charity that we work really closely with called Furniture Now, we were contracted to buy in and deliver these essential items for people, the furniture and so on, and the funding included a bit of help with our core costs. So, the cut to the service affects our clients who won’t be able to get their essential items anymore to furnish their homes, and it affects our organisation because we’re losing the income. We know from the deliveries we’ve done over the last few years that, without the scheme, there would be mums and kids sleeping on card on the floor and without a way to cook fresh meals and stuff like that. It’s heart breaking to see the scheme end and there’s nothing to replace it at the moment. When in 2013 there were grants and people were entitled to apply, now it’s up to the whim of the council whether there’s a service at all. The only other financial support we get from our local authorities is actually just a reduction in our business rates. The government is running a consultation right now to review the tax arrangements for charities so I’m worried we won’t even get that soon.
TD: Oh my god. That’s awful because what that doesn’t take into account is obviously, without you helping some of your clients, they’re then going to need assistance elsewhere, it’s going to drain money from other resources anyway. It’s like the lack of money being put into social care that therefore has an effect on the NHS. This seems like very narrow-minded cuts and very short-term thinking.
NR: You’re right, that’s what’s happening across the board, funding is being taken away from preventative services and put into just crisis. All the statutory sector can do is respond to absolute crisis now, they’re not going to be funding preventative services and that’s across the board, like you say, it’s in social care and health as well, it’s going to happen all over.
TD: I realise I’m slightly off timing with this podcast because it was Small Charities Week last week but this is obviously affecting small charities all over the UK. How reliant are people on small charities? How much of an effect is this going to have?
NR: I think across the UK, charities are kind of size are finding it increasingly difficult. So, Small Charities Week, there were a bunch of reports that came out about the impact of the way that funding is going for small charities so, for example, now 84% of local government spending that goes out to charities goes to larger charities. The commissioning that’s being done is being done in big tranches so you need to cover a huge geographical area or have a really big bank balance to be able to go for a contract, so that discriminates against small charities and stops us getting funding. Also the financial crisis meant that trusts and foundations that we used to be able to apply to for some of our work, they’ve got less money to give out. So, it’s harder to get funding from them, the grants are smaller and a lot of them are really short term, so you can get funding for 6 months for a project and then you’ve got to try and find something else to replace that. Yeah, the government has cut funding to local authorities over and over so they in turn have been slashing the services that are provided by our sector where they used to contract out. We know that contracting on scale doesn’t work, we know that from Carillion to probation to Grenfell, big contracting doesn’t work for people, it doesn’t work for communities, but it’s not changing, the trend is for bigger and bigger contracts and for those to go to huge organisations. The issue to me about that is that, as a local charity, we’ve got a commitment to this local area, we want to provide the service that we have regardless of the whims of government, we want to be independent, and when we do get funding, we try and use it to invest in maintaining the service and maintaining our organisation so that we’re here in future years for people to call on when they need us. Whereas, if you give funding to a huge multinational organisation or national organisation, they will provide literally what it says in the contract, nothing more, nothing less, and when the contract ends, they’ll pull out, there’s nothing left in the local community, there are no benefits long term. That’s the really, really negative part of this for me, there’s a strategy from the government. Since 2010, charities are sort of size have been finding it increasingly difficult. In fact, there was a survey recently that said less than half of the charities that answered to this local giving survey were actually confident that their organisation would survive for the next 5 years because of austerity, because of funding cuts. So, it’s really good to see a whole week of events focusing on small charities because they’re really important. Oh, I had a bit for Brexit Fallout as well!
TD: Did you? What was that?
NR: I looked up EU grants to small charities, or actually to charities as a whole, they’re currently worth £300 million a year and go to 3,000 different charities. So, after 2020, there is no guarantee of that continuing, because the government said there would be a guaranteed continuation for a bit, didn’t they? But things like the European Social Fund fund a lot of projects, particularly in deprived areas like Hastings, ironically because Hastings voted to leave. It’s ridiculous. Actually, if you map out where ESF money goes against how the vote went, the ESF money is going into the areas that voted to leave. It’s really fascinating, it’s because they’re deprived and it’s unfortunately poor education being lead by the red top tabloids to think things that aren’t true and stuff that correlate, unfortunately. So, areas like Hastings will be the biggest losers from things like that from the EU, the ESF fund.
END OF INTERVIEW PART 1
And we’ll be back with Naomi in a minute, but first…
It was 2 years since the Brexit vote on Saturday and the government celebrated that occasion by bringing back some of our favourite adjectives without any substance. Oh good, just like the classic good old days of Brexit eh? What a nice trip down memory lane. Theresa May said we will definitely be having a smooth Brexit which sounds a lot like it’ll have a layer torn off and is prone to infection, or will be shaved down and include lots of cuts. Meanwhile Boris said we’ll be having a full English Brexit, which I take to mean that all options are fried. If that’s the case, we’re there already. Happy Brexit Day everyone!
So quick recap on last week’s Brexit. After the Lords made an amendment on the EU Withdrawal Bill for MPs to have a meaningful vote on the final deal, the Commons voted to reject that amendment, because the government made their own amendment which they said would be good but it wasn’t, which meant Dominic Grieve and other Tory rebels were appeased and then were absolutely appeased off all within the space of a day or so. Then the Lords made another amendment, which they called Grieve 2, but didn’t give it any fun tagline like Grieve 2: 2 Grieve, 2 Furious, or Grieve Strikes Back, or Judgement Day or Look Who’s Voting Now. This second amendment basically accepted what the government’s amendment said, and then said parliament could make propositions to their final deal like ‘there should be a people’s vote on this’ or ‘why don’t you all go fuck yourselves’ or anything constructive along those lines. And this was a good amendment as it balanced both sides and allowed for some sort of meaningful input from a parliament who is meant to be there to give meaningful input on behalf of their constituents. And then the vote happened and the government defeated the proposal by 319 votes to 303, a majority of 16. And that 16 included some Labour MPs such as Kate Hooey who’s surname proves nominative determinism and some Tory Rebels including ….Dominic Grieve. Yeah the person who’s amendment it was, totally bottled it and voted against it. Yeah I bet he doesn’t eat his own cooking either and probably won’t turn up to his own funeral. Grieve said it’s because he had obtained obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of parliament from the government, which is great because why not totally trust the very people who lied to you the week before? I’m starting to feel he may need an intervention.
So that’s it for the EU Withdrawal Bill for now, and what next? Well the government still have to present the final deal to Parliament and now it is up to Speaker Bercow to decide whether there will be a vote on it, and according to various reports, if anyone can bully people into doing something, it’s him. Ahem. So there’s still options for MPs to avoid a no-deal Brexit even though it seems May is really intent on that happening, which I’m sure is because in a country with no food or medicine, no one would notice her scurrying around at night eating the remains of the dead and she could finally get away with it. International Trade Secretary, Disgraced MP Liam The Disgrace Fox, told sky news ‘we’ve got to be free to in the negotiation to say if we don’t get the deal we want, there won’t be any agreement’, which I mean, you are free to say that, but it’ll just mean everyone in the UK will have a shit old time. Being free to say that, doesn’t mean you’re then free to hide somewhere secure when the post Brexit Purge happens, and everyone wants to fox hunt because he’ll be the first to go. If No Deal is the only likely option then rumours suggest there are at least 50 Conservative MPs who would employ a humble address, which sound like it’d just be ‘1 a home, a street, a place’, but is actually where the House of Commons directly petitions the Queen to force the government to produce documents or in this case, block a bill. Labour did it to get the government to release the papers on the impact of Brexit on the economy and we can see how well that went, so we should be fine.
Time for the return of this jingle:
Yes it’s Airbus and BMW, because nothing shows the UK is going nowhere fast like all our transport leaving without us. Airbus has plans, that if there is a no deal vote, they will fly the coop which could lead to the loss of around 110,000 jobs. A jobs first Brexit if you like, as Labour say they wanted, only I’m not sure they knew that’d just mean that’s what goes before anything else. Airbus say without knowing what deals the UK are making it could hinder their UK operations. BMW similarly have said they would have to close their plants in the UK, which would mean another 8000 job losses too. But it’s ok because they’ve aired these concerns and to allay any fears and show big industries that they should stay in the UK, the government got Jeremy Hunt to say on the BBC that ‘threats from businesses were completely inappropriate’. Great…oh wait what? The Conservatives no longer taking orders from business? Excuse me, what year is it? Who are those people? Where are the Tory Party we all know and hate? Hunt warned against anything that’d undermine the prime minister in Brussels, completely forgetting that includes all of the cabinet including him, everything they’ve done in the negotiations so far, and even just the weird grimacing face May does when she speaks. If you really don’t want May to be undermined in Brussels, don’t send her to Brussels. Former Chairman of the City Of London Corporation has said Brexit could cause the loss of 75,000 jobs in the city and over £10bn a year in city related tax revenue, but hey, that’s cool cos the imaginary magic sparkly Brexit dividend should cover that right? Guys? Guys?
Lastly, it’s been revealed by Home Secretary and stupid acorn Sajid Javid that EU Citizens will have to answer three simple questions online to continue living in the UK. These questions are 1) Do you promise not to send home reports telling everyone how shit the UK is now? 2) Yeah but do you really promise though? And 3) Please can you help, we have no idea what we’re doing. Are you able to be a doctor and a fruit picker all at once pleassseee? Ok, those aren’t really it. They are really prove your ID, prove you live in the UK and say whether you have criminal convictions of not. Then that will be checked against a government database and you will get an answer very quickly says Javid, and that there would have to be a very good reason for you to get refused! Phew! So chances are, only half of you will be arrested late at night in your homes, shoved into Yarl’s Wood and deported within days. I really hope the other EU countries don’t use these same questions for UK nationals living in their countries otherwise I’m pretty sure most Brits in Spain will fail on the last one and be sent back to Blighty in seconds.
And now back to Naomi….
INTERVIEW PART 2
TD: You must have such, and the HFS, a good local knowledge and an understanding of what people in that area will need and where people are coming to you from, from which refuges. That’s invaluable knowledge for a charity and it must enable you to do your work in a very caring and very efficient way as well.
NR: Yes, and most of our staff have experienced the very issues that they’re now dealing with as well. So, most of our staff come to us through volunteering and training programmes and have then found a job opportunity at HFS and continued to work for us, so we’ve got a really, really brilliant team of staff who really understand our clients and our area, they live in our area, they’re part of the community. It’s hard to separate local charities from local communities, they’re part of that network.
TD: Sure, you wouldn’t get that from a contractor, it just doesn’t work in the same way, does it?
NR: No. Carillion doesn’t really work the same way, no.
TD: Not at all. So what is good about a small charity? Why are they necessary?
NR: Well, I think the brilliant thing about a small charity is that they tend to be really dedicated to the area and the specialist cause that they were set up to tackle. So, they don’t tend to lose sight of that and they will find to make a difference, even if funds are cut or the situation changes or the government changes its mind about what’s important and in what way things should be tackled. If you are small and independent, you can work around that to some extent and you have the freedom to act quickly and effectively when there are opportunities for you or when there are problems with your community that you need to get involved and help out with. So, that independence is really, really important. Another great thing I would say is they tend to employ more women in senior positions than any other sector, so when I go to a meeting of local charity CEOs, I tend to be in a room with a lot of other really fantastic, inspirational women who want to collaborate and support each other, and you don’t get that at the Chamber of Commerce. It’s really, really fun to work for a small charity, I would say. The people I work with are fantastic, they’re just a wonderful team of people here who really muck in and work as a team. I guess there’s a lot of responsibility in the job but there’s also a lot of freedom and independence.
TD: That’s really fascinating about the women CEOs, I didn’t realise that.
NR: Yes, if you look it up, social enterprises and local charities employ a lot more women as CEOs than any other sector, so you can get better opportunities as a woman in this sector. It’s not your key reason, I wasn’t that cold-hearted that I looked and went, ‘What’s my statistical probability of becoming a CEO?’ but it’s something that’s really, really noticeable when you start working. I started working for a local Age Concern and I really noticed that there are lots of women working at quite high levels, ‘Oh, there’s a woman in charge of this organisation and that organisation. These are all really cool.’ So, you know, you do notice that, obviously. I have to say that you notice that as charities get bigger, the men start to appear, obviously the pay packets get more enticing or something. Yes, at this level, quite often you just have a meeting of charity CEOs and there might be just one bloke, so we get to be in the majority for once, it’s brilliant.
TD: I do like that I may have secretly uncovered that actually you’re just doing this all because you wanted to be a CEO, they’re your secret plans.
NR: Yes, I wanted to be one of the lowest paid CEOs in the world and I thought, ‘How can I achieve this?’
TD: You’ve got to have a dream. I’ve known of HFS for quite a while now, are there any other schemes like HFS in the country that you know of? I hadn’t really heard of furniture charities like yours before.
NR: Yes there are, there are hundreds of similar charities in the UK. If you just do a google search for your place name and furniture reuse or furniture collection, you’re pretty sure to find an independent charity near you that does this. They’re quite often in warehouses hidden away a bit so sometimes you have to hunt them out when you need them but there are, there are hundreds or organisations like us that all started at different times.
TD: The most important question I can ask you is what is the best way for people to support HFS? Wherever they are in the country, they can support you, that’s correct?
NR: Yes, they can pop on our website, hfs.org.uk, and there’s a page on there called ‘support us’, so you can see some ideas there, you can subscribe to our newsletter and stuff like that. If you actually live in our area in Hastings and Rother, you can shop at our HFS stores or donate furniture and appliances to us, think about getting involved with us as a volunteer. Also, in September we’re doing an event called Thriftfest where we’re bringing together loads of small local charities that provide services for people on low incomes, and opportunities like training, workshops, healthy eating classes, all kinds of stuff, all under one roof at the Hastings Centre on 22nd September. So that will be a really fantastic day to celebrate 30 years of HFS being established but also celebrate all the other work of all the other local organisations that we love.
TD: You mentioned earlier because, obviously, we did that fantastic gig for you that was a lot of fun and you’re doing Thriftfest, you’re really good at, sort of, finding creative and inventive ways to get donations in. Is that something charities are having to do and do you think that’s a particularly good way of getting people to know about a charity and to take part and get involved?
NR: Yeah, it really helps to raise awareness amongst people who aren’t necessarily your core users of the service but are community activists. Comedy nights particularly attract a lot of people who are really supportive of the organisation but maybe don’t actually need to use it all the time. So, they were coming along to that and buying our reuse manifesto poster and stuff like that and it gives them a way to actually support us and show their support for us as well as raising awareness of what it is that we do.
TD: Also, it’s a lot of fun, it’s definitely a great way to raise money.
NR: Also I get to see my dream line-up of comedians just in my local hall.
TD: Yes, excellent bonus. The last thing I want to ask you, which I ask all interviewees on this show, apart from HSF, are there any other small charities that you want to highlight that are currently doing really important work anywhere in the country that you think people need to know about?
NR: I’ll keep it local. There’s Seaview in St Leonards, which is a brilliant charity that helps vulnerable adults and homeless people, they run a centre where you can go for affordable lunches, activities, and they help people to get housing. Also there’s Hastings Advice & Representation Centre, HARC, which helps people claim the benefits they’re entitled to and also represents people when they have tribunals for ESA and VLA and we all know what’s been happening with the assessments for those, totally unfair assessments that need challenging. So, their advisors go along and challenge those at the tribunals, the benefit tribunals, and I’m a trustee there as well.
END OF INTERVIEW PART 2
Thank you to Naomi for taking time for a chat. Hasting Furniture Service, as you heard, are a remarkable organization and if you live nearby the Hastings or Bexhill centres you can volunteer with them, or arrange for your furniture to be collected and donated. If you don’t live nearby you can donate to them via the website hfs.org.uk via the support hfs tab. They are also on Twitter @hfs_says and on Facebook too. They have got an amazing manifesto poster which you can buy from the stores themselves which says ‘We believe reuse and repair are revolutionary acts in a materialistic world. We all belong somewhere, Everyone deserves a comfy sofa. We’re here to make a difference. Collective responsibility, volunteer, collaborate, connect. We can work together. We can be heroes every day.’ How ace is that? They are a fiver instore. I have one proudly displayed in my flat. And the ThriftFest that Naomi mentions is from 22nd Sept and all details of that are on the HFS website too.
I would love to hear from other grassroots and local campaigns and organizations so if you are part of one or know of one near you, please drop me a line as it’s hugely important to hear about local issues and the effects of national issues on local areas, in amongst all the global ones. Next week I’m interviewing Fred Carver from the UN on the cheery subject of Yemen, then after that one, Steve Tsang on China. But after that, I’ll still need more interviewees so what political subjects do you want to hear about, who would you like me to chat to? Drop me a line @parpolbro on Twitter, the Partly Political Broadcast group on Facebook, the contact page at partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you could pop your message in a pair of old trainers and sling them so they caught on a telephone wire above a street near me and then when they fall I’ll eventually see it, but chances are they’ll take so long to fall I’ll have moved out of the area by the time they do plus there aren’t any directly on my street and they’re all round the corner where they are mostly sat on by crows who’ll likely eat your message and not give a fuck. So as always, best to email.
And that’s all for this week’s Partly Political Broadcast podcast. Thank you for once again choosing to receive this into your brain via your head caverns. Don’t forget to give this show a review on your podcast app of choice whether that be Stitcher, Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Twitcher, BodPean or Papple Oddcasts, or you know, any others I’ve just made up. If you can donate to the Patreon or ko-fi accounts I will be your bestest friend forever, although probably not IRL as I’ve got shit to do, capish? And please do spread the word about this show to people you like, or maybe even, just listen with your favourite parent, distant relative or least creepy acquaintance?
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This will be back next week when I’ll be asking if Boris Johnson can keep just disappearing until we all forget who he is.
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