Bantams Fans Fight for Affordable Ticket Prices

This Saturday, Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers supporters will take part in a protest at Valley Parade as part of the Football Supporters Federation’s ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign for lower ticket prices for away fans. You can find out more about the campaign locally at their facebook page – Bantam’s Fans Say Twenty’s Plenty

Below we reproduce the text of a leaflet produced for the event by local Bantams fans.
We are here today, Saturday, the 12th March because we support the reciprocal deal initiated by Doncaster Rovers to encourage other clubs to offer affordable football if they see Rovers offering the same too. On October 17th Doncaster Rovers were hosts to the Bantams at the Keepmoat Stadium and charged travelling Bradford City fans only £15. This was done one the basis that an agreement was thought to have been made as early as the 17th September, when it was published on the FSF website.

However it has emerged that there has been a misunderstanding of this deal and Bradford City rather than make the match day ticket affordable, they have agreed to work with Doncaster Rovers supporters in providing free travel to away fans wishing to the game intend to charge Rovers fans the club. In this way it is considered a ‘reciprocal agreement’ that benefits both sets of supporters.

It is welcome that Bradford City offer to pay for free travel and is supported by the FSF but we realise that many Doncaster fans will not be happy about having to pay the full price of £25 to watch their team at Valley Parade especially when they thought there was an affordable ticket agreement in September and over 2,500 travelling Bantams took advantage of the excellent £15 offer for a League One game at the Keepmoat.

Many Doncaster fans have thought about boycotting the game as a result of the recent developments. Free travel to supporters on the coach is limited, welcome though that offer is, and it is vital that clubs continue to work together with supporters and the FSF to develop reciprocal offers as a way of keeping the matchday experience affordable.

Away Fans Matter Is an FSF campaign highlighting the importance of away fans. It’s a ritual that many football fans of all strips, hoops and quarters hold dear. The contribution that we as a collective give to the game in terms of being the twelfth man for our team and the contribution to the atmosphere overall is something City fans pride ourselves on. We often hear ourselves making the noise, more so than the home team – from the drummer, to those participating in the songs and chants, to the flag wavers and those fans in their numbers watching the game – we all contribute to make the game what it is.

As the FSF puts it, away fans “bring noise and colour to grounds and often spark the home support into life, generating the atmosphere that appealsto TV audiences around the world. Without away fans we believe football would struggle to bring in these mega media deals; clubs would lose millions each”.

They are of course relating to predominantly the bigger Premiership clubs of course, but all away fans from all the divisions in the pyramid structure are just as valuable.

It’s great to see large home crowds again of between 17 and 18,000 plus at Valley Parade thanks to the £149 cheap season ticket offer. What we haven’t seen is greater numbers of away fans supporting their teams – a vital added ingredient to create a great atmosphere. Generally the number of visitors in attendance is never that great. Sadly the increase in the match day price this season, from £20 to £25 may well impact on travelling fans the most. It will also have an impact on young fans especially who don’t have flexi-cards or season tickets who may want to come to a game at Valley Parade on the off chance. Raising the match day price contributes to the general increase in matchday prices and whilst the majority view is we have affordable football at City, it is not necessarily for all football fans that come to Valley Parade. Bantams Fans say Twenty’s Plenty believe that the Club should reverse it’s match day pricing policy and will raise awareness amongst fans and lobby the Club until it does.

If you agree, ‘Like’ the Bantams Fans say Twenty’s Plenty campaign Facebook ‘Likes’ page and join the FSF for FREE at http://fsf.org.uk/join/

Socialist’s anti-war art on show in Bradford

Peter Robson and one of his paintings

Peter Robson and one of his paintings

Currently on display at the Bradford Playhouse is a series of paintings by artist and Socialist Party member Peter Robson. The watercolours cover a number of issues relating to war, from collateral damage to those ignored by the history books.

In advance of his publication of a new series of paintings about the World War One, Peter spoke about the role art can play in political movements.

“Artists have a right – a duty – to put up a mirror and reflect what’s going on in the world. What is the purpose of art if it doesn’t prod and agitate people?

“That’s what I’m passionate about my art doing. It isn’t always easy to look at, but hopefully it angers people and motivates them.

“Life can be hard for prospective artists, with confrontational work often ignored by galleries who want safer pieces that will be a more reliable attraction. But you have to be honest and unafraid – and to those looking for protest art then don’t give up searching, there are plenty of us out there!”

Ian Slattery, Bradford Socialist Party

 

Anger Against Plans to Close Bradford Libraries

The planned decimation of library services in the Bradford area of West Yorkshire has led to angry scenes at the recent ‘consultation’ meetings, where details about the possible closure of 11 libraries have been put on the table.

Blaming budget pressures, Bradford Council propose to fully fund just seven libraries in the region, with the other 11 to be run by volunteers or closed. There was no doubt amongst people at the meetings about the damage this will do. Socialist Party members are amongst those organising opposition to these plans, starting by setting up a steering committee that will be meeting shortly to set up a public meeting to give an organised voice to the anger that exists on the issue.

With the council debating the issue on February 25th these consultations leave predictably little time to regroup and organise resistance, but they will have a shock later this month if they expect that meeting to take place without a wall of opposition outside.

With Labour running Bradford council there is hope amongst some that a re-think may yet happen. As we made clear at the consultations, the £218m in available reserves held by them must be utilised as a first step to building a challenge to the government’s cuts. Labour councillors have recently received detailed letters outlining how to set a legal no cuts budget that would be the basis of this campaign, with Momentum locally also pushing councillors to resist the cuts. We look forward to hearing their response, or to them hearing ours on Feb 25th and beyond.

Ian Slattery, Bradford Socialist Party.

Bradford Protests Against Bombing Syria

Stop the War protest against bombing Syria

Stop the War protest against bombing Syria

Despite heavy rain, around 30 protesters joined a Stop the War protest against the bombing in Syria outside the new Broadway shopping centre on Saturday.

Iain Dalton, West Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser

Socialist Party members joined the protest with placards and leaflets, running out of the latter due to the broadly positive response the protest received from those passing by. Most people could see that the invasion and bombing a number of countries in the Middle East hadn’t made them more stable, but had in fact destabilised them and created the basis for ISIS to develop.

Socialist Party members on the protest against bombing Syria

Socialist Party members on the protest against bombing Syria

Plans are underway to relaunch Stop the War in Bradford and at the end of the demo those there promised to gather there again at 5pm on the day Cameron decides to go for a vote in favour of bombing Syria.

Hundreds Attend Corbyn Rally in Bradford

Jeremy Corbyn outdoor rally in Bradford

Jeremy Corbyn outdoor rally in Bradford

With rallies in Liverpool, London and other major cities running out of space, the organisers of Jeremy Corbyn’s labour leadership election rally in Bradford took the hint and opted for an outdoor rally.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser

Corbyn himself arrived to almost a rock star reception – to the tune of ‘The Final Countdown’, surrounded by paparrazi to a cheering crowd – except instead of a stadium, he was speaking to around 700 supporters on a cricket pitch.

Press photographers and cameramen buzz around Jeremy Corbyn as he walks to the stage

Press photographers and cameramen buzz around Jeremy Corbyn as he walks to the stage

Those gathered came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but the majority were those enthused by seeing a now prominent political figure that articulated their anti-austerity, pro-working class views, whether they were older activists disillusioned by New Labour or young people getting active for the first time.

Clearly with many of the reported 140,000 new members and 70,000 supporters signed up since the election been Corbyn supporters then it is possible Corbyn could win. But given the attempts to undermine his campaign by the right-wing majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and others, alongside the media – there would be obstacles even after winning the leadership election as the make-up of the platform of the rally showed.

For example, the rally was hosted by newly elected Bradford East MP Imran Hussain. Whilst Hussain gave quite a fighting speech at the rally, he had previously been Deputy Leader of Bradford Council until his election, where the council has recently passed eye-watering levels of cuts.

If Corbyn’s words at the rally saying that we can’t just accept another five years are to be put into practise then as well as MP’s voting to defend jobs, services & welfare, it also means councils refusing to pass on Tory cuts like Bradford Council have. Given Imran Hussain also remains a councillor, then we hope him and other Corbyn supporting local councillors will be voting against further cuts budgets come next February.

Also speaking was Unison regional officer John Cafferty, someone many Unison activists would not consider left-wing. Yet the platform also saw a young student union officer speak reflecting the refreshing change that many would view the anti-austerity, anti-war platform that Corbyn is articulating.

Hundreds attended the Jeremy Corbyn rally in Bradford

Hundreds attended the Jeremy Corbyn rally in Bradford

Speaking to several young rally attendees afterwards, then a number admitted having been turned off from voting Labour in the general election as many of the views articulated by party’s leadership seemed like a watered down version of the Tories, several of them had instead voted Green. This viewpoint was echoed at the rally by the left-wing MP for Leeds East, Richard Burgon, commenting that “Many people said on the doorstep ‘I’m not voting Labour as you’re all the same'”

A number of those attending had signed up as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn and see how things develop from there. On the platform a GMB speaker said of Corbyn “He’s the only hope for the Labour Party” whilst Imran Hussain commented “This opportunity (to elect a left-wing labour leader) will not present itself again in a generation”.

Yet the post-election anti-austerity mood, that the reception Corbyn is receiving reflects but also the big demos organised by Socialist Party members and others in cities such as Leeds and Sheffield, will not go away after this leadership contest. After the contest, Corbyn should call a conference of his supporters, but also of the trade unions which support a fighting anti-austerity programme (including those not affiliated to the party) to discuss where next to turn this mood & support into anti-austerity & socialist change.

(See also editorial from the Socialist on Corbyn’s campaign)

Bus Strike Solid on Second Day

Huge picket lines at Bradford First bus workers strike - photo Iain Dalton

Huge picket lines at Bradford First bus workers strike – photo Iain Dalton

Despite on-off hailstorms, the mood remained buoyant during the second day of the strike by First West Yorkshire drivers and engineers at the Bowling depot in Bradford.

Iain Dalton, West Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser

Bradford bus station has been eerily quiet as First run the largest number of services from the station, yet only a handful, operating out of other depots, are running. Whilst I was present, a delivery driver (an ex-bus driver himself)  refused to cross the picket line meeting huge cheers and applause from the strikers.

Metro poster showing the much reduced bus service in Bradford during the strike

Metro poster showing the much reduced bus service in Bradford during the strike

Hundreds of drivers manned the picket lines showing the tremendous support for the strike, officially against the transfer of the 576 service to Halifax depot with a loss of eight jobs, but in reality over deeper grievances with the company.

One shop steward explained to us how there used to be twenty spare buses for every hundred in use to maintain services with repairs, maintenance and breakdowns. Now there are as few as three, meaning that frequently buses services are cancelled altogether, leaving passengers waiting without knowing when a bus will turn up as well as increased passenger numbers on the services that still do run.

Shift lengths have increased, with new starters now doing twelve hour shifts on a lower pay rates. There have been 90 jobs gone and not replaced in the last four years to the extent that the services only function on overtime. A ban on this due to the strike, on Sunday meant a whole number of services didn’t run.

First bus workers striking - photo Iain Dalton

First bus workers striking – photo Iain Dalton

Given the close timing to the general election a number of local politicians came down to the picket line, including Respect MP George Galloway and local council leader David Green. Green said Labour would be re-regulating bus services, yet Metro had been discussing introducing ‘Quality Contracts’ for years and not moving forward with even this partial reform due to opposition of profit hungry bus operating companies.

The Socialist Party on the otherhand, whilst welcoming measures to check the profiteering of the bus companies, calls for the renationalisation of bus services, alongside all public transport. Operated under the democratic control of bus workers and services users, we could channel the money currently overflowing shareholders back pockets into investment in improving bus services, pay and conditions and letting fare prices.

Socialist Party members from Leeds and Bradford, including local TUSC candidate for Bowling & Barkerend Ian Slattery, visited the picket lines and sold several copies of the Socialist

Big Picket Lines As Bradford Bus Drivers Strike

Large First West Yorkshire bus driver's picket line - photo Ian Slattery

Large First West Yorkshire bus driver’s picket line – photo Ian Slattery

Over 300 bus drivers, engineers and support staff in Bradford said ‘enough is enough’ and came out on a 48-hour strike on Monday 27 April that will have a massive impact on their privatised company.

Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party

On the picket line there were stories of brutal management tactics and bullying. Whatever the right-wing press say, this action is not just about a pay rise. One driver on the picket line said: ‘I was assaulted at work and the company would not even call the police, they were more interested in whether I could continue the journey to meet standards’!

He continued: ‘We have to stick together’ and commented further that some years ago there were 500 employees, now this has been reduced to less that 400 with the same amount of work.

Also the bus stock is very old with some of the buses now reaching the 15 year cut off and beyond, again, raising serious health and safety issues for drivers and the public alike. First West Yorkshire stand accused of allowing services to ‘wither on the vine’. As far as the workers are concerned, the depot is being allowed to run down with the intention of closing it in a city that already has way above the national average unemployment and poverty.

Rosters have been changed without any meaningful consultation, causing anger amongst workers that barely see their families as it is. So it is not difficult to see why this action has been taken. As well as giving our support to the struggle of these workers, Socialist Party members received a fantastic response to the TUSC leaflets we gave out. One worker finished his comments with: We will not go away, this is our future and our children’s!