Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 5 September 1930
Another Interview with the Unemployed
A deputation of the Conisboro’ and Denaby branch of the National Unemployed Workers’ movement paid another of their frequent visits to the monthly meeting of the Council on Wednesday in order to ascertain what the Council was doing to alleviate local unemployment.
At the conclusion of a debate which ended in discussion on the National Debt and patriotism, it was decided to discuss the matter further at the next meeting of the Council.
A letter was read from the branch asking the Council if they would meet a deputation “to discuss various items concerning the welfare of the local unemployed.” Matters were not taking the course they thought they would have taken.
Mr. Arthur Roberts said he did not object to the Council receiving the deputation, but he objected to anyone sending notification just prior to the meeting. It should have been sent in in time to be put on the agenda.
The Old Men.
It was decided to hear the deputation, and Mr. Kelly, a member of the deputation, said they bad come to hear something detfinite. What provision were the Council making for the employment of men during the next few months? What extra work was going to be done? They (the unemployed) had been Informed that the Council was sending to the Unemployment Exchange for labour, but number of men had been set on direct. A number of men employed by the Council had been on holiday, and, instead of setting other men on, the Council had allowed other men to work overtime. “We would like work, even if it were only for one or two days,” he said. Then the Council were employing men who were too old to work–one old fellow bad dropped down in the street because be so old. They did not want to rob anyone of a Job, but it was not right that such men should be employed when young and active men were walking the street.
Referring to the last complaint, the Surveyor (Mr, H. Thirlwall) said: I know nothing about it: and it this is a serious contribution towards solving the unemployment problem, I think it is a bit of a wash-out.
Mr G Pearsall, secretary of the Branch, informed the Council that the unemployed had been watching things. Grants towards schemes for providing work were being made by the Government, and they wanted to know what schemes the Council were going to undertake. They knew that the Council could not solve the problem, but at least they could do something to alleviate the position in the urban area. The unemployed had learned that men had been transferred from the roads to the housing scheme—that was not alleviating unemployment. Schemes for the sharing of work had been put into operation in other districts; why could not a similar scheme be adopted by the Council?
He also referred to the fact that the Council was employing old men. The unemployed wanted to know when the promised schemes were going to be put into operation, as their claim for unemployment relief were “getting thin.”
Replying, the Surveyor said he had been instructed that old men were not to be turned away. They were old age pensioners, and were given one or two days work a week to eke out their pension. Until he had different instructions, he would have to continue employing such men. He was not aware that anyone had been working overtime, as he had been out of the district, but if they had it had been a matter of urgency, and it may have been in order to clear up a job. He denied the statement that men had been transferred from the roads to the housing scheme. There was no work being done on the roads at present, men could not have been transferred, Probably the unemployed would suggest that he should turn such men off regardless of the fact that they were regular workmen and contributory to the superannuation scheme? That was for the Council to decide.
Referring to the unemployment schemes the Council contemplated, he said that unfortunately the Unemployment Grants Committees and the Ministry had declined to give a grant towards the scheme for the re-surfacing of the streets at Denaby Main. However, the Council were hoping to put the scheme through even if it meant paying for it out of the district fund. At the meeting of the Sanitary and Highways Committee, various schemes to find employment were considered, but it would be some time before they matured, as plans had to be prepared. The scheme for the laying out of the memorial park would probably rank for grant, and that was being prepared, together with a scheme for the construction of a road from Old Road to Sheffield Road. However, he did not think the latter scheme would rank for grant, and without a grant it would be.
Mr. H. Gillott said the unemployed should realise that the Council would do all that was possible for them. He took exception to the remarks made about employing old men. By giving these old men two or three days’ work a week, the Council was keeping them out of the workhouse.
Sharing the Work.
Mr. I. Thomas, another member of the deputation, said the object of the deputation’s visit was to bring forward a scheme which would benefit the people of the parish and the unemployed. Assuming that the Council employed 50 labourers, and the total unemployed the district was 200, the Branch contended that the Council should dismiss the 50 men they employed and put them on the “dole.” They could then employ 50 unemployed men for one month, and so on until the 200 men had worked a month each. In two years those 200 men would have worked three months, and they would have 13 more stamps on their cards. That would lessen the possibility of them being refused unemployment relief.
“We have men who have been on the ‘dole’ for two years, and they may come chargeable to the ratepayers in two or three months’ time. It is not fair to keep employing certain men when their next door neighbours are on the verge of starvation.”
The Chairman (Mr. T. Gregory): You may be assured that the members of the Council will do their best tor the unemployed.
Mr. J. Webster: That does not fill the bill. We have told them that several times. They have brought something for definite consideration, and I don’t think we have given it the consideration we should have done. We should tell them that we will consider it.
A number of other members spoke on the desirability finding employment and the difficulties the Council had to overcome. Eventually the Council reached a decision—to discuss the question at the next meeting of the Council.
It was not all over, however. A man stepped from the “gallery” and declared: “I have not come here to ask for a job The last time I asked Mr. Thirlwall for work he told me he wanted someone he could trust.
The Surveyor: There is no beating about the bush; I said it, and I meant it.
The stranger retired to his seat.