A combination of unemployment, the withdrawal of funding for youth
facilities and the selling off of playing fields, drugs, and police
indifference has left the vulnerable in many communities frightened to leave
their homes. Burglaries, street crime and joy-riding have destroyed morale
in many working class communities, making it all too easy for politicians to
sit back and manipulate the situation to their advantage.
The IWCA will work for:
- The drawing together of all sectors, including
official agencies, toward the goal of the
working class ownership of local communities
- The reforging of pride in the community by
organising clean-ups of estates, removing graffiti, and getting burnt-out cars
- The ending of curfews for young people
- The proper funding of youth facilities
- The isolation by the community of those who
persist in making life intolerable for the
Community Restorative Justice
Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) is a new way of dealing with antisocial
behaviour. It is a cost-effective way of tackling the causes behind crime
and the resulting breakdown in the relationships which connect people with a community.
It also brings attention to the imbalance of resources within the current
justice system. At present the bulk of investment is spent responding to
crime on a retributive basis—fines, court orders, prison.
By comparison, when CRJ is used, tiny amounts are invested in trying to resolve problems in a long term way. CRJ works to bring people together to resolve differences
within a mediation process. It can play a vital role where the police and
local authorities have lost the respect of local communities and where there
is a stigma attached to cooperating with them.
- The IWCA will encourage the establishment of Community Restorative Justice
Schemes within working class communities
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Nationally and locally the war against drugs has proved disastrous for
working class communities in general. In some areas the drug culture has
destroyed community cohesion, setting young against old, neighbour against
Despite all the talking from politicians and experts, the situation
continues to deteriorate.
Overwhelmingly, working class communities carry the
cost of this failure. At issue is not whether some drugs or all drugs are
bad, but how the resulting problems can be managed.
As part of a broader review, the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which
introduced the prohibition on buying and selling drugs and the
criminalisation of drug users, needs to be assessed to determine what role
the criminalisation of drugs may have played in the subsequent massive rise
in heroin addiction.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- The isolation by the community of drug dealers
who prey on the community
- The proper provision of locally based and funded
- The establishment of a social contract with users
for the proper disposal of needles etc
- The decriminalisation of cannabis
- GPs to be allowed to prescribe heroin in order
to administer dosages safely, remove the need for ineffective methadone substitutes
and undermine the criminal black market
- A review of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act
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According to research, as many as one in five adults has difficulty reading
and writing. As funding for comprehensive schools continues to be reduced,
the middle classes continue to opt for private schools and government
subsidies follow them. There is no other country in Europe where private
schools represent a fully fledged alternative to the state school system.
In Britain there are currently no less than 2,300 private schools with an
income from fees of £3.2 billion. Moreover, schools such as Eton are
registered charities and pay no tax at all. Such subsidies allow them to
spend twenty times more on each pupil than the state sector.
Though a mere 7% of all children go to private schools, they account for
50% of places at
Oxford and Cambridge. Working class children in turn have
less than a 1 in 100 chance of reaching top universities. Private education is a consequence of class privilege and a condition for its
The IWCA is committed to asserting community ownership of our schools
- Education and community representatives
being encouraged to work together for the
fullest possible use of school facilities by
the wider community outside of school
- An immediate halt to the selling off of
school playing fields and the extension of
existing sports facilities to compensate for
those already sold off
- An end to the growing role of the private
sector in public education
- The return to local geographical admission
catchment areas. This will help to re-establish the community-school link
- An end to state funding of religious schools
of any denomination*
- Majority-elected parent representation on
school governing bodies
*This policy does not apply to Scotland at this time.
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This country is presently experiencing a housing crisis. The current level
of house building is the lowest since 1924. The selling off of council
houses in the early 1980s should have led to the re-investment of the proceeds into local affordable social/council housing.
However, the Conservative government of the time, with a view to fully
privatising council housing, refused to let local authorities re-invest in
much needed council housing. Despite calls at the time from the Labour
Party for all profits to be re-invested, the current Labour government has continued to allow
private investors to profit from building affordable social housing.
The privatisation of council housing stock continues. In addition to this, for some years the perception of many inner city communities
is that their housing needs are being deliberately denied to make way for
private development at some time in the future. In short this means ordinary
people being forced out of an area to make room for the middle classes who
want to move in. In certain cases, supporting amenities (schools, libraries,
and youth facilities) have been sold off or deliberately run down to
facilitate this gentrification. Some have described the strategy as a policy
of social cleansing.
This has come on top of the long-term council policy of effectively
denying the children of residents the right to council housing in the areas in
which they have been reared. This often means that families are broken up
and the impact on the integrity, solidarity and sustainability of
communities, leading to a situation where neighbours often hardly know each other, is socially
disastrous. Not only are children often brought up without regular contact
with uncles and aunts, but their grandparents, without family nearby to look
out for them, are all too often prematurely forced into hospitals or homes at
tremendous cost to them emotionally as individuals and to the NHS economically as an
The IWCA is committed to:
- The restoration of social housing to
meet local needs
- The fight against council house
privatisation and social cleansing
- Working with tenants who voted for
stock transfer to ensure their new
landlords deliver on the promises
- An end to ‘daylight robbery’ where
the government takes billions of pounds
from council Housing Revenue
Accounts each year
- The restoration of the ‘sons and
- The capping of rents in the private
- The payment of an ‘empty homes
tax’ for those private properties
deliberately kept unoccupied
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With many simply believing their vote does not count, the first past the
post system of elections is forcing down working class participation.
Increasingly, local democracy is being eroded, with funding coming almost
entirely from national government which in turn dictates to local government
on the policies deemed acceptable. Existing
structures are also being increasingly centralised at local government level,
thereby reducing the decision-making to a handful of ‘cabinet’ or
‘executive’ councillors. Eventually this may result in all decisions being
taken by unelected quangos.
Rather than council wards being increased in size, the IWCA favours smaller wards.
Rather than less democracy, the IWCA believes in the extension of local
democracy. On the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ the
voting age for national regional and local elections should be lowered from 18
to 16. The minimum age to stand as a candidate should be the same as the
minimum age to vote. Voters, not the law, should decide who is mature
enough, or not, to be an elected representative of their community.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- The return to progressive taxation at a local level, with the
wealthiest and large businesses,
who profit through being in
the community, being taxed
- Council Tax to be abolished and replaced with an
income rather than property-
based form of local taxation
- The setting of local tax rates
to be decided by local councils
- The reduction of ward sizes to
make councillors more accessible and accountable to their
- The introduction of proportional representation for all
national, regional and local
- The minimum age to vote and
stand in all elections to be
lowered to sixteen
- Future elections to be held
over Saturday and Sunday to
maximise voter turnout
Please note: Outside of reimbursement for genuine expenses, IWCA members elected to
local government are not permitted to pocket councillors’ allowances.
Representatives will channel all additional monies into IWCA projects
beneficial to the local community. IWCA councillors who work full-time for their
constituents may accept reimbursement for loss of earnings.
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At present the police nationally cost almost £9 billion a year. But do we
get value for money? In all too many areas the perception of people on the
ground is that working class areas have been abandoned.
Meanwhile the police constantly call for more money and more
recruits even though
some surveys show that as few as 5% are on duty at any one time. Even then,
they rarely serve the needs of, and are not accountable to, working class
communities. On one level there is apparent police indifference to
antisocial behaviour and on another we are witnessing the militarisation of
The police are not seen as being a part of the community but as a
separate and external agency with interests and an agenda of its own. To
work effectively a police service must be in the ownership of the people.
- Police forces must be representative of the
communities they serve
- The police must be community-based
- Police forces need to be made directly
accountable to local community forums incorporating councillors, tenant association representatives, and youth workers
- All investigations into complaints against police deaths in
custody or unlawful killing should be
conducted by what is accepted
as a totally independent body
The IWCA calls for:
- The police to return to being a
- 50% of any future additional
police funding to be diverted to
youth provision in the most
neglected communities, starting
with the 8000 plus wards identified in the government’s own
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Race & class
For many years racism was opposed because people recognised that it divided the
working class. Increasingly, however, there are calls for the state funding
of religious schools, for segregated schooling and for segregated housing.
All of which is promoted in the name of anti-racism.
However, experience shows that the funding of social projects purely on
the grounds of race can only foster an us and them scenario, with the
result that instead of being united by anti-racism, the working class can
just as easily be divided by it. Multiculturalism, which insists everyone be
treated differently, also undermines the concept of fairness at the core of
anti-racism. For example, in America recent research has found that the
application of the multicultural strategy has increased segregation in many
cities and created a black middle class, often directly at the expense of
the black working class.
The IWCA is against any strategies that artificially divide the working
class against itself. In order to rectify past mistakes there will need to
be recognition that:
- Orthodox models of equal opportunities
racialise social questions in such a way as to
set communities against each other.
- Equal opportunities models which assume
there is a uniform access to power by all
white people and a uniform denial of access
to power by all black people must be
- Systematic cuts in youth and community provision and a subsequent rise in racial
tension are often linked by a straightforward relationship of cause and effect.
- Anti-racist strategies that are not broadly
accepted as reasonable and rational by
working class communities are counter-productive and can deflect attempts to tackle
the most extreme forms of bigotry.
- Multicultural strategies which promote or
result in segregation, particularly in housing
and schooling, must be scrapped.
- Organised and systematic racial violence
needs to be dealt with from a political as
well as criminal perspective.
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Asylum seekers & immigration
As with official anti-racism, immigration and asylum policy can prove
similarly divisive. As a rule political refugees are housed in the most
under-funded areas which are duly expected to share out already meagre
resources with the new arrivals. Across the country, the government is shown
to have repeatedly short-changed councils to whom refugees areallocated. The
interests, concerns and sensitivities of local communities are also
routinely dismissed. Unsurprisingly this can be a source of suspicion,
tension and resentment.
The IWCA will fight for:
- The allocation of political refugees to areas that can
most easily accommodate them.
- Consultation with local communities regarding new
- Appropriate financial compensation from
government to local authorities.
- Additional government grants to facilitate integration.
- Extra housing provision to take account of any extra demands on
- The safeguarding of tenants’ positions on existing
- The right to work or study for political refugees while
their claims for citizenship are being processed
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Regeneration strategies such as the New Deal have been launched by the
government as a means of revitalising Britain’s most deprived communities.
Millions of pounds of public money being made available to working class
communities should be something to be welcomed.
However, with the Government decreeing that the main vehicle for change
will be Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) consisting of councils, police
authorities, health boards, private enterprise etc plus a few community
representatives, the reality is usually that decisions and resources remain
in the hands of the big boys. Quite literally, the local elected community
reps are often out-numbered, out-voted or out-manoeuvred by the political
and professional classes who dominate the regeneration industry, ensuring
the old top-down approach prevails.
In addition, where deprived neighbourhoods are located within
particularly sought after inner city and riverside areas, the word
‘regeneration’ has become synonymous with ‘gentrification’ as council
tenants are forced out and their homes either demolished or privatised in
order to make way for exclusive luxury developments.
As an alternative, the IWCA supports the call from some community-based
development workers for the establishment of a National Neighbourhood Fund
which would lead to greater democracy and empowerment within regeneration
The IWCA fights for:
- All decision-making members of local
regeneration bodies to be elected by a
ballot of the local community
- The role of various un-elected consultants,
council representatives and ‘partners’ to be restricted
to an advisory capacity, to be called upon if
and when the elected community representatives
- The quick release of regeneration money to
allow it to flow into supporting the various
existing community and voluntary net
works, as well as initiating new, urgently
- Local councils and government offices to
give an undertaking that they would not
seek to undermine any position arrived at
by a local regeneration body which has
been shown to have genuine community
As an alternative to present national regeneration strategies, the IWCA
- The establishment of a National
Neighbourhood Fund empowered to
allocate money to neighbourhood trusts
in every deprived area
- The devolving of powers to neighbourhood trusts to set local
targets and then distribute grants to
community projects to pursue them
- The election of members of the neighbourhood trusts, to take place within their respective areas. Neighbourhood
trusts would elect members of the National
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During the 1980s successive waves of cuts in public spending meant thousands
of adventure playgrounds, drop-in centres and play centres for children and
young people just disappeared.
Towards the end of the decade youth workers, who often had contact with difficult
and damaged young people, saw their funding withdrawn. Add to this the
further closures of swimming pools and leisure centres and the wholesale
selling-off of school playing fields and it is not difficult to see how this
deliberate decimation of youth services has contributed to the breakdown of
social cohesion within already hard-pressed working class communities.
It should also be noted that short term funding of projects causes massive problems.
Returning to permanent provision of decent services would instantly lead
to a better quality of life for people of all ages.
The IWCA advocates:
- The immediate establishment of a network of youth
services within each of the 8000 wards featured with
in the government’s own poverty index, backed-up by
sustained, long-term funding
- A special emphasis placed on providing the training
necessary to allow young people from the local community to
fill youth work positions themselves
- After-school clubs, half-term and summer play
schemes to be openly available to all regardless of
- Free access to leisure facilities for all under 18s
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Women & Childcare
Despite the promotion of feminism for over thirty years, the empowerment that
women have enjoyed had has been largely restricted to middle class career
There needs to be recognition that in working class communities women are
often at the forefront of campaigns and are the best placed to improve the
communities they live in.
However, it also needs to be recognised that an absence of universal
childcare provision is the primary stumbling block in preventing the
majority of working class mothers enjoying a richer life by playing a
full role in their communities.
IWCA policy objectives are:
- Free childcare for 1-12 year olds from
7am-7pm, Monday to Friday
- The widespread expansion of drop-in
- Direct involvement of local women in
the planning and setting up of all
aspects of after-school clubs and child
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