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Stroud Against The Cuts

Public Meeting on Austerity ahead of 2015 General Election

Friday, 20 March 2015 11:14 administrator
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Poster for Public Meeting on Monday 23rd March 2015Poster for austerity election debate listing panel

 

Our next public meeting is again at The Old Town Hall in the Shambles, Stroud (GL5 1AP). We will be looking at the effects of Austerity in the UK and discussing "How we can fight cuts and privatisation", all in the context of the forthcoming General Election. All are welcome, and entrance is free, with a collection to cover costs.

Candidates from local political parties will be present to debate in a question time style event.

 

Confirmed speakers:

 

Adrian Walker-Smith, Liberal Democrat candidate for Stroud constituency

Caroline Stephens, UKIP candidate for Stroud constituency

David Drew, Labour Party candidate for Stroud constituency

Haydn Jones, Conservative Stroud District Councillor for the Severn ward.

Sarah Lunnon, Green Party candidate for Stroud constituency

Sue Powell, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Gloucester constituency

We have now been informed that a representative for the MyStroudMP campaign hopes to attend (Richard Wilson, the candidate, cannot)

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 March 2015 10:48 )
 

Press Release: Campaigners who fought NHS privatisation cry foul over Hospital pharmacy sell-off

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 11:31 administrator
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PRESS RELEASE             STROUD AGAINST THE CUTS         12/03/2015

Campaigners who fought NHS privatisation cry foul over Hospital pharmacy sell-off

Contact: James Beecher 07745 058789 | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Stroud Against the Cuts, which led the successful campaign to stop community health services in Gloucestershire being handed to a social enterprise, has reacted angrily to news that Gloucestershire Care Services’ pharmacy provision will now be provided by private company Lloydspharmacy. Lloyds is owned by Celesio AG[i], a German company. Celesio is in turn majority owned by McKesson[ii], an American health and pharmaceuticals giant.

 

James Beecher, Chair of SATC said: “The views of local people and NHS workers have been made abundantly clear in the past – we do not want our services privatised. When our campaigning forced a survey over the proposed privatisation of Gloucestershire Care services (GCS), 91% of staff and 96% of the public who voted wanted local community health services to remain in the public sector.[iii] CEO of GCS Paul Jennings has recently claimed that “It doesn’t matter who provides the service”, but if he’s so confident of this, why wasn’t anyone asked?

 

He added: “People want services to stay in the public sector for good reason: private providers cherry-pick services they think they can extract a profit from. Pieces of the NHS are chipped off, fragmenting and complicating service provision. Staff are cut, conditions worsen, and everything is conducted in secrecy behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ and exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act. Meanwhile, the expense of running tenders and a market in NHS services waste far more money than any supposed efficiencies achieved could save[iv].”

 

In an interview broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this morning[v], CEO of GCS Paul Jennings confirms that the on-site pharmacies at Stroud and Cirencester district hospitals will be lost as part of the arrangements with Lloyds. Mr Jennings also confirmed that negotiations between the current and future employers haven’t yet been resolved 3 weeks before the new employer takes over, leaving staff wondering where, who for and whether they will be working, and said he could “neither confirm or deny” whether the current provider of pharmacy services, Gloucester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, didn’t submit a bid because they felt it was impossible to provide an improved service for a substantial cut in funding.

 

Caroline Molloy, Stroud Against the Cuts co-ordinator and Green Party Cllr for Stroud Central said: “What always seems to happen is they secretly sign off a contract that neither staff nor public want and what actually happens to staff and to the service the public receive is treated almost as an afterthought to be worked out on the back of an envelope at the last minute. We don’t know much about the details here, but we do know the price offered was too low for the current NHS provider to believe it could continue to provide a quality service – where’s Lloyds’ magic wand?”

Nationally there has been controversy around the speed with which pharmacy contracts are being handed to the private sector, and it has been pointed that that private companies are able to undercut the NHS due to a VAT loophole exempting private companies but not NHS providers from VAT on medicines

 


 

[6].

Notes for editors:

 


[i] Celesio AG is a German healthcare and pharmaceutical multinational.

[ii] McKesson Corporation is a Fortune 500 company that has been winning various NHS contracts, and in 2013 was responsible for commissioning support units being compromised due to payroll services provided by the company failing: http://www.hsj.co.uk/news/commissioning/exclusive-csus-hit-by-payroll-failures/5061930.article. McKesson’s purchase of Celesio is also being legally challenged: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7542f2be-e0da-11e3-a934-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3UHdO07wF. 

[iii] See details of the 2012 surveys here: http://www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/fightback/healthcarecuts/38-healthcare/131-press-release-crunch-point-arrives-in-long-campaign-against-local-nhs-privatisation.html. Nationally, polls regularly show that at most one in five want more private involvement in the NHS. A recent poll by YouGov, for instance, showed 74% of people think hospitals should be run in the public sector, with 18% saying they think the private sector should run these services”. Just 3% agreed with the statement “it doesn’t matter which sector they are run in, as long as the standard of service is maintained” See www.y-g.co/1NNZNJd. Indeed “In six out of eight major public service areas, the option of running them in whichever sector that can maintain standards comes last, behind nationalisation and privatisation. Most people think the public sector should be the provider of every service apart from utilities and banks”.

[iv] “No-one knows the exact cost of this bureaucratic ‘marketplace’. A recent estimate by rebel Lib Dems put the figure as high as £30billion a year. Dr Jacky Davis and other doctors and campaigners including the National Health Action Party have put it at £10billion a year. The Centre of Health & the Public Interest put it at a ‘conservative’ £4.5billion a year,” write Caroline Molloy in a recent assessment of estimates of the cost of the NHS market: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/billions-of-wasted-nhs-cash-noone-wants-to-mention. This week Caroline Lucas MP raised this issue when launching the NHS Reinstatement Bill in parliament “Market structures in the NHS cost more than £10bn a year, and the money could be better spent on patient care, Caroline Lucas has told the prime minster,” reported the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31835402

[v] Mark Cummings interviewed Paul Jennings as part of a piece beginning at 1 hour 36 minutes, and 30 seconds into this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02kq17s#auto

[6] The Union Unite “obtained a memo sent by the Department of Health to NHS trusts’ chief pharmacists across the UK highlighting how: “VAT is charged on pharmaceutical drugs, but HMRC allows chemist outlets to reclaim the tax for many medicines. However, it does not allow NHS pharmacies in hospitals to reclaim it. The tax authority regards dispensing drugs to be part of a hospital’s ‘non-business activities’, and so not VAT-recoverable.” The memo adds: “NHS Trusts are increasingly examining opportunities to contract out for the provision of outpatient dispensing services.”” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/revealed-the-vat-loophole-driving-nhs-pharmacy-services-into-hands-of-private-sector-9622064.html. 

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 March 2015 11:38 )
 

How to appeal against a reduction in your housing benefit (bedroom tax)

Monday, 22 September 2014 14:13 administrator
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Help for people hit by the bedroom tax

Are you a council or Housing Association tenant? Has your Housing Benefit been reduced because of the bedroom tax (under-occupancy charge)?

About 400 people in Stroud have been affected since April last year, losing up to a quarter of HB.

There’s a chance that you may be able to get your bedroom tax rent arrears wiped, reduced and/or capped, but to have the best chance, you need to act now (before mid October).

Act now - you’ve nothing to lose

Submit an official appeal on the 2-page form ‘GL24’ NOW (http://bit.ly/1wh6SrG) and give it to the council.

Need help?

We can help you get hold of the forms and fill them in. We will be arranging drop-in sessions at The Exchange, Brick Row, Stroud GL5 (dates & times to be confirmed). Or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or call Cllr Caroline Molloy on 07931 302507.

Want to do it yourself?

It must be on this official form (even if you’ve already written). Reasons you can use in an appeal include:

·         The room is too small to count as a bedroom

·         I do not use the room as a bedroom, but for another purpose

·         I need the room because someone in my household has disability / health issues, because I have my kids or carer staying part-time, because I have experienced domestic violence.

Use these expert websites suggested wording on how to fill in each section of the form:

http://bit.ly/1owIiOk (NOTE - in Section 4, put in April 2014 as the date, not March 2013)

http://bit.ly/1tBiXpN (See p3 and 4 and pick the arguments that apply to your own situation)

 

There’s no guarantee of success, but tenants across the country have successfully overturned their bedroom tax using these arguments. If the council doesn’t agree your case, the next step is to go to a tribunal hearing. If that happens, the tribunal will pay your expenses and we will ensure you have someone to go with you. Judges have been sympathetic to tenants. There’s no charge for this, so you’ve nothing to lose by trying.

What else can you do?

In addition, you could ask the council for the application form for ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ to make up the shortfall. So far, not enough people in Stroud have claimed this money. If you applied but were rejected, write to the council asking them to ‘reconsider the decision’- and let us know (using the contact details above).

What else are we doing?

The bedroom tax is a government policy. But Stroud Against the Cuts are working with Green Councillor Caroline Molloy to push Stroud Council to change their policy so that people falling into rent arrears due to the bedroom tax are not at risk of losing their homes. If you appeal it may help our wider campaigning against the bedroom tax.

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:09 )
 

Press Release: CAMPAIGNERS WHO WON LOCAL NHS BATTLE ORGANISE CRISIS MEETING

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 11:18 administrator
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PRESS RELEASE 10/02/2015                            Stroud Against The Cuts

 

CAMPAIGNERS WHO WON LOCAL NHS BATTLE ORGANISE CRISIS MEETING

WHAT: “THE NHS IN CRISIS..? REBUILD THE NHS! Public Meeting”

WHEN: Monday 23rd February, 7.30-9.30pm (doors 7pm)

WHERE: The Old Town Hall, Stroud.

In 2011 and 2012, a determined Gloucestershire-wide campaign led by Stroud Against the Cuts successfully (1) used legal action (2), petitions (3) and protests (4) to force local NHS bosses to halt the transfer of local community hospitals and 3000 health and social care workers out of the NHS (5).

Earlier this year Gloucestershire’s A&E services declared a ‘major incident’ alongside A&E services elsewhere in the country (6). On Monday 23rd February, four members of the co-ordination group that organised the successful campaign to save Stroud Hospital and others from privatisation will speak at a meeting exploring the question “How we can rebuild the NHS?”

Members of the Stroud Against the Cuts co-ordination group Hannah Basson, Chris Moore, James Beecher and Cllr Caroline Molloy will address questions including “Is the NHS sustainable?”, “Is PFI bankrupting the NHS?”, “What’s wrong with privatisation?”, and “What demands should we make?”. Hannah Basson is an NHS health worker and Equalities Officer for the Gloucester Health branch of Unite the Union (she will be speaking in a personal capacity). Cllr Caroline Molloy represents the Stroud Central ward at the District Council for the Green Party. She is also editor of the OurNHS website (7), and a freelance writer. Chris Moore led the local anti-poll-tax non-payment campaign in the 1990s, and is a Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts (TUSC) candidate. James Beecher is Chair of Stroud Against the Cuts.

James Beecher said: “We’re enormously proud that a campaign in Stroud was able to successfully resist the privatisation of local community health services, but since that victory in 2012, local non-emergency ambulance services have been handed to a private company, and around the country services are being forced out to tender and taken over by private companies thanks to the Health and Social Care Act – just the latest form of marketization and privatisation of our NHS. At the same time, health and social care services have seen their budgets cut, and workers have seen not only their pay decline dramatically in real terms, but – as in the case of District Nurses – experienced changes in their conditions of work that have led many to consider leaving the service. Morale in the NHS is at a low ebb and workers deserve better. We know we can resist, and win, so we’ve organised this meeting to provide people with information about what is happening and discuss the demands we should be making, and share lessons from our successful campaign” Stroud Against the Cuts have organised a further meeting, on austerity and the UK economy since the financial crisis, on Monday 23rd March, also at 7.30-9.30pm at the Old Town Hall.

Notes for editors:

 

1.    See the press release from the time “Landmark triumph for people power”. Covered in the Stroud News & Journal.

2.    See the press release from the time, “Gloucestershire People Power on Show Again”. Covered in Stroud Life and The Citizen.

3.    A petition of 6,530 signatures was collected in favour of keeping community health services public, and the formal ‘engagement’ exercise showed 96% of the public and 91% of staff who voted wanted services to remain in the NHS rather than enter a ‘social enterprise’.

4.    Several protests were held, including two of over 500 people in Stroud. Videos of many of the protests are available on the SATC website.

5.    The original plan was to transfer the following services to a ‘social enterprise’: the hospitals at Stroud, Berkeley, Cirencester, Dilke, Fairford, Lydney, Bourton (Moore Cottage), Moreton, Tewkesbury, the Health Clinics at Beeches Green Stroud, Stonehouse Health Clinic, Sandpits Clinic Dursley, Cinderford Health Centre, Coleford Health Centre, Lydney Health Centre, Hesters Way Healthy Living Centre, Hotts Health Centre Newent, Lydbrook Health Centre, Symn Lane Clinic (Wotton-under-Edge). All District Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Specialist Nursing, Out of hours medical and nursing services, Pharmacy, Sexual Health and Chlamydia screening, Podiatry, Dental services, Wheelchair services, Musculo-skeletal services, Telehealth and Specialist Domiciliary care were also to be transferred

6.    “A major incident [was] declared for two hospitals in Gloucestershire, due to high demand in A&E departments”, on 4th January, see the BBC News story. The major incident status was lifted on the 14th January, see the ITV News story.

7.    Read a recent article by Cllr Molloy, “The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention”.

 

 

Updates for supporters of Stroud Against the Cuts - 2015

Friday, 09 January 2015 11:18 administrator
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2015 updates before March:

15th February update

In this update:

1. Details of our public meeting on the NHS, Monday 23rd February 7.30pm at The Old Town Hall
2. New NHS book and updates from Keep Our NHS Public
3. Sisters Uncut against cuts to domestic violence support services sees women shut down Oxford St
4. Boycott Workfare Day of Action in solidarity with unemployed activist arrest for representing a jobseeker
5. Disabled People Against Cuts day of action
6. ...and finally!
 
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1. Is the NHS sustainable? Is PFI bankrupting the NHS? What’s wrong with privatisation? What demands should we make? How can we rebuild the NHS?
 

Find out the answers to these questions and more at a Public Meeting, Monday 23rd February, The Old Town Hall, Stroud, 7.30-9.30pm (doors 7pm). We will meet in Kings St outside the entrance to Merrywalks to hand out flyers on Saturday 21st at 10.30am. Please print a poster for your local noticeboard (email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for a copy), or share the link on our website with more information.

FOUR CO-ORDINATORS OF THE CAMPAIGN THAT STOPPED LOCAL COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES BEING PRIVATISED SPEAK:
Hannah Basson - an NHS health worker and Equalities Officer for the Gloucester
Health branch of Unite the Union (personal capacity).
Cllr Caroline Molloy - Editor of the OurNHS website, freelance writer, and
Green district councillor for Stroud Central.
Chris Moore - led the local anti-poll-tax non-payment campaign in the 1990s,
Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts (TUSC) candidate.
James Beecher - Chair of Stroud Against the Cuts, Economist.

Our NHS is under sustained attack
Earlier this year our local A&E department declared a ‘major incident’. Local non-emergency ambulance services have been handed to a private company. Health and social care services have seen their budgets cut, while the government’s 2012 Health & Social Care Act was just the latest way to introduce privatisation. Morale in the NHS is at a low ebb and workers deserve better.

...but we can resist - and win!

In 2011 and 2012, a determined Gloucestershire-wide campaign led by Stroud Against the Cuts successfully used legal action, petitions and protests to force local NHS bosses to halt the transfer of local community hospitals and 3000 health workers out of the NHS.

The meeting will involve short speeches by the four campaigners mentioned above, followed by plenty of time for Q&A and discussion of the demands we should be making of politicians and the actions we can take.

 
 
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2. New NHS book and updates from Keep Our NHS Public
 
The latest collection of stories about the NHS via Keep Our NHS Public and SATC member Hannah Basson is attached. You can read emails discussing these and other stories by people interested in campaigning on the NHS locally over the internet via a yahoo group - access an excellent source of documents and news items.
 
KONP also pass on information about a new book: NHS FOR SALE - Myths, Lies and Deception by Jacky Davis, John Lister and David Wrigley.

Owen Jones describes it at 'the most important recent book about the future of the NHS. It examines the havoc created by Andrew Lansley's costly and damaging "reforms" and George Osborne's spending cuts. It's a must read.'
KONP say "This book sets out what needs to be done to protect the NHS against corporate greed, and enable future governments to meet the challenge of delivering high quality and affordable health care for all."
 
Copies will be available at the public meeting mentioned above. You can find more details on the Merlin Press website.
 
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3. Sisters Uncut against cuts to domestic violence support services sees women shut down Oxford St
 
Yesterday, Saturday 14th February, women-only direct action group Sisters Uncut "stopped traffic on Oxford St... resisting cuts to domestic violence services". Earlier the group laid flowers at Picadilly for women who died from domestic violence. There are some great photos on the group's twitter account (you do not need to use twitter to view them). The protest was partly about the cuts and changes that have been made to the legal aid system. Emma Scott, director of Rights of Women, describes Laspo as a "fundamental attack on the rule of law". "There are women who tell us that without [access to] legal aid they are staying in abusive relationships. It is not over-dramatic to say that women will die," she says. Read the full article from which that quote was taken in The Guardian.
 
Sisters Uncut have issued a "Feministo" which includes the following demands explaining other aspects of the protest. The full text is available on the Sisters Uncut Facebook page.

"Demands:

  • No more cuts to domestic violence services
  • Restore funding that has been cut
  • Secure funding for specialist domestic violence services; this should be ring-fenced* at a national level.
  • Local Authorities to fully meet the demands of their communities, recognising that different women have different needs.
  • Guaranteed access to legal aid for women experiencing domestic violence.
  • Provide access to safe and secure social housing for women who otherwise cannot afford to flee.
  • Panic rooms should not be classified as a spare room under the Bedroom Tax.
  • Safety should not be subject to immigration status; extend access to safe housing to women with no recourse to public funds."

4. Boycott Workfare Day of Action at Jobcentres Nationwide - 25th February 2015

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. Boycott Workfare are urging supporters to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity. Is anyone able to attend an event in Stroud on Wednesday? Please get in touch if so and we will arrange a time.

Boycott Workfare have circulated the following message from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty:

"We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented... As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it's more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.

On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D's UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.

The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.

The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirmclaimants' right to representation. The DWP clearly state "Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..."

The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.

Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony's case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews.

Call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Supported by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network
Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions
Boycott Workfare

Please add the support of your group/organisation: email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "

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5. Disabled People Against Cuts have a day of action following week on Monday 2 March.

Disabled People Against Cuts say "the Day of Action is aimed at the objective of ending the Work Capability Assessments and destroying the credibility of Maximus which should be relatively easy to do given their appalling track record". Maximus is the company set to replace ATOS, to whom the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) have previously been outsourced.

 
Actions are planned or in planning for Aberdeen, Balham, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Cardiff, Croydon, Dundee, Ealing, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester,  Lincoln,  Manchester,  Norwich, Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield, Sunderland, Toronto, Truro, Wrexham and Maximus HQ in central London.
 
You can also show your support via social media - see information on the DPAC website.
 
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6. ...and finally!
 
After a week in which the skullduggery of the financial sector and the tax avoiding habits of political donors have once again been in the spotlight...
 

"Everyone has threatened to sue former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Fink after he claimed yesterday that everyone avoids tax.

Lord Fink was accused of making the untrue and defamatory remarks about everyone – and has now also been threatened with legal action by everybody after the Tory peer claimed in a newspaper interview that “tax avoidance is so wide that everyone does tax avoidance at some level,” and that “everybody does it” too.

In a statement, a spokesperson for everyone and everybody strongly denied the accusations and said that if the Conservative Party donor does not withdraw the accusations and issue an immediate apology, then legal action against him will be considered."

from Thomas Pride's blog.

 
James Beecher

for Stroud Against the Cuts

 

Read previous updates by clicking "Read More" below:

 

Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 June 2015 10:26 ) Read more...
 


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