Banking on Social Entrepreneurs?

 

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As part of their feel-good efforts to undermine state welfare provisions, Dartington’s School for Social Entrepreneurs was founded in 1997 by Michael Young, a former Director of the pro-capitalist Political and Economic Planning think tank, who is best known as being the man who coined the phrase “social entrepreneur.” Initial funding for this project coming from HSBC Holdings plc, the National Lottery Charities Board and the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust. This uniquely-placed business school works closely with the Government to translate their Big Society agenda into practical policies.

Of note, the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ founding chairman was the late James Cornford (1935-2011). Having been a ruling class policy wonk for decades, James Cornford had acted as the first director (1989-94) of the New Labour think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research — the very think tank that helped provide the intellectual fodder to allow the Labour Party to dispatch with its working-class roots.

With expansionist plans at the forefront of their founders minds, just last year the School for Social Entrepreneurs completed their first year of work in Bristol, where they say they aim to “help address Bristol’s challenges and support the city in achieving its aspirations.” In this regard they will have their work cut out as earlier this year the Bristol Council budget was slashed by a killer £80 million – bringing the public to their knees courtesy of all the mainstream political parties in the city.

With financial support provided by Lloyds Bank, in October 2013 the first cohort of entrepreneurs graduated from the Bristol School for Social Entrepreneurs. Recall that it was the boss of Lloyds Banking Group, Antonio Horta-Osorio, who took a multi-million pound bonus last year “despite the bank (still supported by tax money) racking up losses of £570 million” the previous year! With public handouts to the super-rich and cuts for the rest of us it is little wonder that the ruling class is so obsessed with supporting a handful of social entrepreneurs.

According to their celebratory web site, each of the 17 graduates from the Bristol School for Social Entrepreneurs now “has either now a project up and running or about to launch, that will help make a huge social and/or environmental contribution to our society.”

Examples of projects started include Rob Wall’s cafe-cum-bike repair shop, Roll for the Soul, which opened in Quay Street in Bristol on July 1st 2013 to much fanfare with the help of Mayor George Ferguson who performed the ceremonial opening. Nealey Conquest, another graduate, founded Community Conscious, a not-for-profit project which offers crystal healing and the like to individuals and corporate clients which operates out of the Wellbeing Rooms at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft – which happens to be home to one of Mayor George Ferguson’s pet projects, The Canteen. Daniel Balla is another Bristollian entrepreneur who set up CoResist — “a fluid and evolving collective of artists, activists and educators; purveyors of inspiration and empowerment” — also based at Hamilton House.

Alexandra Toomb used the entrepreneurial school as a launch-pad for her special project, Into the Wild, which using:

“The ideas, founded on holism and eco-psychology, seek to re-orientate people to the natural world, recognising the inherent distress in the way we live and to change the narrative away from, ‘What is wrong with these people?’ to ‘How can we learn from the people showing us the inevitable and understandable result of endemic disconnection?.”

Inspired by a similarly bizarre way of thinking, Miriam Akhtar’s project Happiness Habits, is “a programme of simple… actions that build well-being and resilience to depression” which she delivers through the Happy City Initiative. Miriam is one of the leading practitioners of positive psychology, with her services much in demand by corporate clients like Rolls-Royce. (For a critical reflection upon the shallow virtues of the individualistic positive psychology movement promoted by Miriam read Barbara Ehrenreich’s excellent book Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.) Here one might only observe that one particularly interesting board member of the Bristol Happy City Initiative is Jules Peck, who in the not so distant past worked for two years as the Director of David Cameron’s Quality of Life Policy Group, advising the Conservative Party on wellbeing and environment issues.

Finally, one last go-lucky entrepreneur who has just graduated from the Bristol School for Social Entrepreneurs is Janine Charles who founded Nurture & Learning which boasts of taking “a unique holistic approach to the whole world of the child’s learning, from home to school.” Dubious inspiration for Nurture & Learning’s therarpy coming from the likes of Dr Guy Claxton, author of The Intuitive Practitioner, who served on the founding faculty of the New Age Schumacher Collge at Dartington Hall Trust, the birth place of the School for Social Entrepreneurs. (Incidentally, Dr Claxton serves on the mumbo jumbo inspired corporate consultancy, Mind Gym, which counts a board member of the Lloyds Banking Group, David Roberts, as their recently acquired chairman.)

With the nice-sounding work of the School for Social Entrepreneurs ever spreading across the country it is critical to remember what it is meant to be replacing: that is, publicly funded provision of vital community services!

 

Leicester News Round-Up #3

January 24: Campaigners working as part of Leicestershire Against The Cuts “are nearing 1,000 signatures on a petition aimed at triggering a referendum on scrapping Leicester’s elected mayoral post.” “The movement hopes to collect 12,000 names – five per cent of the city’s electorate – on the petition, which was launched before Christmas.”

January 25: “Councillors have rounded on Tesco after receiving a petition opposing the company’s plans to open a store in Clarendon Park. Campaigners presented Leicester City Council with the names of 2,000 people opposed to the company’s proposed conversion of a former Barclay’s bank in Queens Road.”

January 25: “Residents in Leicester’s Western Park say they are having to cope with the increase in cars in their streets as an unintended consequence of permits being introduced in neighbouring Westcotes last month.”

January 27: “Developers have submitted long-awaited and controversial £445 million plans to build thousands of homes to the north east of Leicester. The proposals would see 4,500 houses, as well as offices, factories, schools and shops, built on 890 acres of farmland, near Hamilton and Thurmaston.”

January 28: “Labour deselects Deepak Bajaj and Iqbal Desai pair for next Leicester City Council election.” Deepak Bajaj, who has represented Evington ward on Leicester City Council since 2007 ”has said he will be appealing against the decision to deselect him.”

January 28: Leicester City Council’s has spent £800,000 on its new customer service centre on Granby Street. “It has closed the old customer care centre at its New Walk Centre headquarters, which is to be vacated and demolished, as well its revenues and benefits officer in Wellington Street.”

January 29: Southend Care, “The company that took over nine former county council care homes is set to miss the deadline for paying the outstanding £2.4 million it owes the authority. The Conservative administration at County Hall agreed to sell the homes in 2011 for £3.2 million.”

February 5: Leicester City Council “has earmarked £35 million of its own money” for the various development schemes as part of its Economic Action Plan which was launched in November 2012.

February 5: Launched by Sally Skyrme, “Campaigners have set up a petition to change the name of Leicester’s new plaza from Jubilee Square to Peace Square.”

February 6: “Rushey Mead School set to become an academy.” “Ian Leaver, assistant secretary for the Leicester branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: ‘This is an appalling decision. It’s a bad move for the city and it won’t benefit the other schools or students at Rushey Mead. It will fracture the relationships between all secondaries in the city. There are no positives to this.’”

February 6: “Protesters standing outside Leicester Town Hall in just Bermuda shorts lasted more than 12 hours in bitterly cold weather.” They were opposing the Council’s brutal and unnecessary cuts agenda.

February 7: “A £400,000 water play area is to be developed at Leicester’s Abbey Park.”

February 10: “More than 130 posts are to be axed at 23 children’s centres.” This followed “a decision by Leicester City Council to scale back services to save £3.4 million.In total, 133 posts will go, out of 324.”

February 10: “Council bosses have proposed scrapping supervised play sessions in December and January and putting the contracts for running the 10 adventure playgrounds in Leicester out to tender, while bringing maintenance of the sites in-house.”

February 11: “A bronze statue by internationally-acclaimed artist Helaine Blumenfeld has been unveiled at the University of Leicester.” The Mercury article makes no mention to the student protest that interrupted the unveiling, see “Students demand justice”.

February 14: “The city council said it needs to cut its £2.4 million-a-year budget for funding wardens in registered social landlord accommodation by £700,000… The council has also considered axing the £16,500 annual funding for a “lifeline” alarm service used by 130 elderly residents in sheltered housing.”

February 27: “A demonstration against spending cuts was staged outside the Leicester Town Hall as councillors met to consider the budget.” Organised by public sector union Unison and protest group Leicestershire Against the Cuts, hundreds of angry people attended the protest.

February 28: “’Super academy’ plan for Market Harborough pupils is scrapped.”

March 1: Kiran Parmar, the Director of popular wedding venue, the City Rooms, was “granted a licence to open a lap-dancing club, despite neighbours’ objections.”

March 4: “Councillors on the county council’s cabinet are proposing to stop a £300,000 annual subsidy to the service, which would see the price of a meal go up from £3.25 to £5.71.”

March 6: “County Hall is looking to cut the £1.2 million worth of grants it gives to voluntary agencies across Leicestershire by 50 per cent.”

March 6: In the summer, Professor Paul Boyle will take over from Professor Robert Burgess as the vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester’. when he retires in the summer.

March 7: “Leicester City Council said it would save £106,000 by reducing services in Freeman, Aylestone, Knighton and Eyres Monsell wards.”

March 7: “About a dozen parents gathered outside Gartree High School, in Oadby, from around 9am. Some of them clutched banners stating “save our bus system”.”

March 10: “A Birstall school has been given the go-ahead to become an academy. Stonehill High School, which takes pupils from 11 to 14, has received its approved academy orders from the Government.”

March 11: Anne Bond, from Oadby, is collecting signatures for a petition to save a medical walk-in centre in Oadby. A consultation meeting in Oadby will be held on March 28, at the Walter Charles Centre from 10am until 12.30pm.

March 13: Sir Peter Soulsby announced a sell-off of up to 20 council-owned properties in Leicester over the next year to community groups for nominal sums such as £1 ; thereby taking publicly owned assets into the private market, ready to be bought up when said community groups remain unable to make-ends-meet.

For very recent national news concerning local activist Daniel Ashman that failed to make the pages of the Leicester Mercury, see “British activist indicts government officials for enabling war crimes.”

The Sharp Pain of Atos

Since May 2013, philosopher and a lawyer Lynn Sharp Paine has been a proud board member of Atos, the company that continues to punish the disabled to enrich the very, very few. Equally proud of her right-wing political heritage, Sharp Paine serves as a advisor to the influential militarist US-think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. However, what Sharp Paine is better known for is her commitment to ‘rationalising’ the insanity of capitalism, a political system that must by law place profit before all other ‘considerations.’ This is a noxious task that she took up with glee in her 2011 book Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of Business.

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In an interview given in 2011, Sharp Paine noted that the “Banks that precipitated the [financial] crisis got bailouts. Executives who arguably should have prevented the crisis got million-dollar retention packages. Meanwhile, innocent bystanders lost their homes and their jobs in the post-crisis recession.”

She continues, observing that: “The crisis also fed into a growing sense that our economic system is not so vibrant an engine of economic and social mobility as once thought and added to suspicion that the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy.” All true, but while socialists would argue that we need an alternative to capitalism, Sharp Paine is not quite sold on that egalitarian idea yet. Instead she talks “about the need for a surge in entrepreneurship” and “call[s] on business leaders to spearhead [such an] effort.”

Sharp Paine says that: “By setting standards for what people can expect of one another, a shared morality helps create the trust and cooperation necessary for common effort, which is essential to any human endeavor.” This is all very nice, but it is clear however that such morality does not apply to Atos, her current corporate home of preference. For corporations, while the promotion of morality (or so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’) is a key component of their public relations machinery, such ethics fade into complete insignificance when considered alongside profits. Pain is all corporate monsters like Atos are capable of providing to the global working class, and so Sharp Paine’s “ethical” whitewashing services will remain in demand at such corporations until the working class shed off the shackles of their global oppressors and tide in our socialist future.

Sack Arriva

Since July 2012 Arriva Transport Solutions have been providing non-emergency patient transport for Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Bassetlaw. Yet despite receiving a handsome £26 million contract to take patients to and from hospital appointments, today the Leicester Mercury reported that they have “failed to meet all its target times.”

Zuffar Haq, from the Leicester Mercury Patients’ Panel, said: “This contract has been a shambles from the start. It should now be withdrawn for failure to deliver and re-tendered.”

Of course these problems are hardly unexpected, and last year were examined at length by members of the Socialist Party in numerous articles.

Axing ambulance stations and privatising public services has always been a sure-fire way for benefiting the few at the expense of the rest of us.

Our ambulance services must be taken back under public control immediately, and provision not only reinstated to previous levels, but improved to meet increasing demand. There is plenty of money in this country, it is just that our politicians — be they Con-Dem’s or Labour — refuse to collect the tax that the super rich prefer not to pay each year (around £120 billion no less).

A Pay Rise for Some

In the entire country only 10 MPs signed a parliamentary motion opposing the proposed 11% pay rise pay rise. Funnily enough none of those MPs  live in Leicestershire, this is despite the fact that just last week the Leicester Mercury ran the headline that: “Leicester MPs Liz Kendall and Jon Ashworth condemn 11 per cent pay rise plans.”

The Mercury article provided ample space for Labour hot-air, noting how Labour MP for Leicester West Liz Kendall said: “it would be completely wrong for IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority] to decide to increase MPs pay by 11 per cent.” She added, “I oppose it…” Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth joined the melee with his own rhetorical opposition to the pay rise saying: “It can’t go ahead. We cannot justify MPs getting an 11 per cent raise at this time of austerity.”

It turns out that the reason why both Kendall and Ashworth were the only local MPs who felt able to publicly oppose the pay rise was because they are both members of the shadow cabinet, which means they are not allowed to vote in such early day motions.

Either way this case provides yet another example of how Labour politicians across the country pretend to do one thing and then do the complete opposite: much like when our Labour representatives shed tears and say they want to oppose the cuts but always seem to act in unison to attack our vital public services.

AMENDMENT: This blog post was corrected about an hour after initial publication as it has initially criticized Kendall and Ashworth for not signing the aforementioned EDM.

Socialist Inspiration

Socialism is always nearby; but unfortunately, its achievements are usually cast in shadow by the triumphant machinations of its foe, that corpulent edifice to individualism known as capitalism. From birth until death our minds are pummeled with messages of domination and competition, yet egalitarian principles still resonate strongly within our lives and communities. Indeed, in stark contrast to their greed-serving brethren, socialist ideals have always remained popular; but no multi-billion public relations industry is needed to propagate such laudable democratic ambitions, only word of mouth allied alongside a determined class struggle… CONTINUED HERE.

Cops Off Campus

With recent events calling attention to the brutality rained down upon peaceful protesters by the police at the University of London, yesterday afternoon students and staff convened at the University of Leicester to support the second national ‘Cops Off Campus‘ day of action. Around 30 students marched through the campus, and then held a rally in the main square, where staff and students spoke out in defence of education and basic economic and human rights… CONTINUED HERE.