Have casual contracts and poor safety systems led to deaths on the railways? The impact of abolishing the spare room subsidy in Grimsby, and Newark's role in the English Civil War.
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Welcome to Inside Out. This week we are in Newark.
Good evening and welcome to Inside Out. Tonight, working long hours at
one of the most dangerous jobs, keeping the railways on the move,
our rail workers plural`macro lives being put at risk? One mother wants
to know who is to blame for her son's death. I was actually in a
daze, numb. Also tonight, we look at the reality
of living without the spare room subsidy. It is costing the Council
the best part of ?1 million that we could spend on other things.
And Horrible Histories author Terry Deary is here at Newark, where
royalists fought off three sieges during the English civil war.
Railway workers are out on the tracks at all hours of day and night
and in all weathers. Most of them have no job security, they are on
casual contracts. The death of a rail worker from Doncaster has
highlighted corner cutting and poor safety standards. Paul Murphy
investigates how lives are being put on the line.
Not once did Scott ever give to me that his job was a dangerous job. I
thought they were protected. It's December 2012, early in the
afternoon, on a railway line near to Saxilby in Lincolnshire, and a gang
of workers are repairing the track. One of the workers steps back just
as a train is passing. He doesn't survive. A report into his death
reveals a string of broken and ignored safety procedures. Network
Rail called the death of Scott Dobson a watershed moment and
promised new safety rules. But Scott wasn't a Network Rail employee. Like
the majority of workers maintaining and repairing our rail network, he
was employed by an agency. Scott was always the gang leader,
the reliable one that the office used to ring him.
Scott Dobson was in charge of site safety for a work gang repairing a
fault in the track that day. Scott and his gang were working on the
down line which was closed to trains. But the other side of the
track was still in use. For some reason, somebody somewhere along the
line has asked them to do the voiding.
They were filling in gaps under the track, a job which meant working in
the six`foot, the gap between the two rail lines. It's a job for which
both rail lines should have been closed. Scott would not then have
been able to step back into the path of an oncoming train.
As I walked into the kitchen, Thomas came running in, saying, you really
need to speak to Haysey, he's on the other end of the phone in tears. He
says, I think Scott's been in an accident, I think he's been killed.
At that, I was actually...in a daze. Numb.
A report into Scott's death lists many safety failings.
The report shows that he shouldn't have been working in that
safety`critical role that day. He'd been involved in two other
safety breaches in the preceding two months, and according to Network
Rail rules, he should have been moved to a less senior role. On the
day, no`one had asked for that second line to be closed, and no`one
challenged the lack of any risk assessment or safety briefing to
perform the job. So the question is, why were they there?
perform the job. So the question is, knew, all that gang knew, that
somebody would have been in danger working in the six`foot as there was
trains still running on the up side of the track.
Scott had been hired that day by a recruitment company called sky`blue,
a subsidiary of the engineering giant Carillion. Carillion express
their condolences but tell us they are unable to comment on specific
questions or issues related to Scott's death until after an inquest
and further inquiry. They do, however, say that they go to great
lengths to ensure their workforce know they can raise safety concerns.
They say their Don't Walk By programme encourages staff to raise
safety issues, and though they recognise some fear they'll be
penalised if they speak up, the company makes every effort to
highlight this is not the case. Since the incident, they say they've
gone beyond industry standards to put in place new safety procedures
and have developed a new barrier to be used in co`ordination with a
physical look`out when people are working on a rail line which is
closed but adjacent to a line on which trains continue to run.
Saxilby is a sad reminder of how dangerous the railway is. It's an
accident that could have been avoided, and the root cause is
Network Rail's usage, high usage of contractors and agency workers.
We've talked to track workers who've done casual shifts for renewals
companies across the north of England. They tell us bad safety
practices are widespread. I've turned up on site, driven two
hours to get to a work site. I don't hold the competencies that they're
asking me for to run that site safely. I've turned round, phoned my
agency up, and said, look, I can't do this, what do you want me to do?
Break the rules? Is it commonly accepted that if there's a safety
problem, you keep quiet about it? Some people do, because they are
that scared of losing work. Because you speak up, because you speak out,
that agency can't put you out. And if you're part of a gang, the whole
gang loses work. I lost work with one client or one agency for nearly
a year, because I wouldn't do work, because it wasn't safe, because the
paperwork wasn't correct. 81,000 people are registered to work
on the railway, only a quarter of them Network Rail staff. Scott
Dobson's death has forced the company to re`think the way they
manage this workforce. We will no longer expect safety`critical
workers to be employed by agency contractors. They will only be
employed in future by Network Rail or our principal contractors. We
need to make sure this is the last fatality that ever happens on the
railway, and we will make any changes necessary to ensure that's
the case. We've heard this before. Ten years
ago this month, four railway workers were killed by a runaway wagon at
Tebay in Cumbria. Crucial to the task now facing
investigators is the state of the wagon. It had brakes, and they'll
want to know whether mechanical failure or human error may have
contributed to today's loss of life...
Subcontractors had used a chock of wood instead of a brake to stop a
railway wagon rolling downhill. The two rail contractors involved
were jailed for manslaughter, but the recommended safety measures have
yet to be introduced. Those who survived have been campaigning ever
since. They want track workers to have access to a simple warning
mechanism that would fit onto a rail and trigger an alarm if anything
approached. To say I'm disappointed would be an
understatement. I'm so upset with Network Rail, who say safety is
first. And here we are maybe going to go into tenth anniversary and yet
we're still fighting for second protection. Do you think that any
lessons about safety have been learned from Tebay? It frustrates me
all the time when I get word back that there's been accidents where we
could look and think, well, that could have been avoided.
Tom's campaign may be about to succeed. What we've come to realise
is that there is an additional level of protection required, and we've
been trialling that protection with the RMT up in our Carlisle depot,
and the intent is that we roll that out nationally during the year.
The main contractor involved at Tebay, like at Saxilby, was
Carillion, one of the biggest companies tendering for major
railway engineering works. We've had long conversations with
Carillion because of the incident that took place at Saxilby. I
personally have been to Carillion's board to make it clear our
expectations and to understand what plans they have in place to improve
safety. We are comfortable Carillion are very committed to improving
their safety record. Carillion say health and safety is
central to all their operations and they create a culture of openness
and continuous improvement in their workforce. When accidents do occur,
they tell us, they leave no stone unturned to ensure that the causes
are thoroughly investigated, any learnings are adopted and actions
taken. Meanwhile, Scott Dobson's family
must wait for a coroner's inquest to resolve questions about his death.
There was a duty of care towards Scott and his team that day. Who
failed? I don't think anyone wants to claim that liability. Whether or
not it's protecting Scott, whether or not it's protecting themselves, I
really don't know. The gangs that are working on the rail and the
managerial staff, they need to be as one. Any fatalities is horrific,
devastating to families. And it's never, ever the same.
Did you have got any views on that story, or indeed know about a story
we should be covering, please get in touch with us through Facebook or
Twitter. Coming up on Inside Out, we find out
why this castle was the king's last bastions during the English civil
war. Now, labelled by the press as the
bedroom tax, changes to housing benefit have definitely been
controversial. But what is the reality on the ground for those who
have to live with or indeed without the spare room subsidy? We have been
to Grimsby and Cleethorpes to find out.
Grimsby and Cleethorpes, isn't it great? We've got the fresh sea air
and the wide open spaces. But away from the sea front, for
some round here, it's not so sunny. It's all because of the changes in
housing benefit, what's become known as the bedroom tax. Since the cuts
came in last April, there's been a massive rise in the number of social
housing tenants getting into debt. And this bit of northeast
Lincolnshire is one of the worst`hit spots.
Nationally, one out of three people affected are in rent arrears. Round
here, it's two out of three. Officially, it's called the
abolition of the spare`room subsidy. Anyone in social housing with a
spare bedroom either has to move somewhere smaller or pay a
contribution to their rent, round here about ?11 a week, which can be
hard to find. I have cut back on shopping, on
washing, so my Water Bill goes down. And it's just... No treats for the
children. Lisa's one of the few who's managing
to keep up with her rent payments. What gets me mad is that I've worked
since I've been 14 years old, and I've not been on benefits before,
and I'm on benefits now for the first time. And I put in my national
insurance, you know, and I paid my taxes, and I'm getting penalised for
it. As more people are affected by this,
more are turning to the local council for help. We had the odd
incident when a person gets into trouble and we can work with them
and the landlords to get it resolved. Now it's not just one or
two cases, it's hundreds of cases. So how much is this costing the
council? It's costing the council the best part of ?1 million a year
that we could be spending on looking after the elderly, children and
schools, highways. But we're not, we're having to support a policy
that doesn't work. There is notable person, it is affecting all walks of
tenants. It's affecting those who we call work poor, those on low incomes
using housing benefit to make ends meet. It's affecting those who are
on means`tested benefits. So it's a real broad spectrum of people. One
of those people is Denise. She's disabled but couldn't find the ?25 a
week that would let her stay in the specially adapted three`bedroomed
home where she'd brought up her family.
How much arrears did you get into? I think it was about ?600. And you've
never been in debt before, have you? No. So how do you feel? Angry,
because I started self harming. Because of this? Yeah.
Denise has now moved to a smaller property and managed to clear her
debts, but the new home has taken her away from her support network of
family and neighbours. I didn't want to move, but obviously I had to
move. I mean, this property is nice, but I'd rather be in my own place.
So what's stopping other people from moving somewhere smaller? This is
the East Marsh area of Grimsby, officially in the top ten most
deprived areas in the country, with some of the cheapest rents. Driving
around, you see the problem. Streets of three`bedroom social housing,
what we used to call council houses. The idea of the change in benefits
was to get people to move out of houses like this and into smaller
properties. But I can't see any smaller properties to move into.
Fewer than one in ten tenants have been rehoused, even with the local
housing association putting them top of the list. Emma managed it, and
bizarrely, has come out better off. They came and measured it a couple
of times to see if it was a decent size but they still say it was
classed as a three`bedroom house. Ever's new two`bedroom house is
bigger than the old one. I have lost a bedroom but I've gained a dining
room. So I am quite pleased in a way. It has given us a little bit
more space downstairs. You'd think that moving people on would help
resolve the situation. There's no`one queuing up to take on the
rent on those three`bedroom houses they're leaving behind. Take this
desirable semi. Three beds, off`road parking, up and coming area, and
empty. So here we are into what is causing the problem. This problem is
causing the problem, tell us what is happening. These three`bedroom
properties with a box room, we are not able to rent. We are astonished
that in this day and age, we think it is a reasonable expectation to
have a spare room in this day and age. They have equipment they might
want to keep in it. But some of these are now standing empty. ??
WHITE As the biggest social landlord in town, the benefit changes are
Tony's most pressing problem, and one he can't see resolving any time
soon. What numbers are we talking about? We have thousands of homes
and it is a huge proportion of them that we cannot rent. We are set
aside ?4 million which we would otherwise be using for services or
building new homes with. The impact on us as a charity are dramatic as
well. It is interfering with our need `` with our ability to meet
housing need. These welfare changes were made to deal with a proper
problem. We have a problem. Council housing is a precious resource and
if affordable homes have not been built over the next few years, we
are in this situation. North`east Lincolnshire Housing Association
told us that they have 153`bedroom houses standing empty. This is not
working, is it? There are places in Hull where families are crying out
for commendation and want to change over. There are websites available
for people who want to get bigger houses. People swap houses.
Naturally we wanted to speak to a government minister. We asked three
different government ministers to talk to us about this problem, but
they were reluctant to come forward. However the Department for Work and
Pensions did tell us the changes were a necessary reform, they are
still paying the majority of most claimants' rent but the taxpayer
could no longer afford to pay for spare bedrooms. They also tell us
that they are increasing the money they give to councils to support
vulnerable tenants. North East Lincolnshire will share an ?500,000
with North Lincolnshire. So in your opinion, Tony, are there any
benefits to these changes? Many of the reforms make sense, but with any
big policy, when you bring his onto the local level, the personal
level, you have difficult situations which are created unwittingly. We
have perverse things going on and families in real distress as a
consequence. 370 years ago, England was a nation
at war with itself. The Roundheads and Cavaliers battled it out over
this very cavalier Dasher was very Castle. But ordinary people suffered
to. No more here `` no more than here in Newark. Terry Deary, who
knows only too well what happens when history turns horrible.
The battered remains of Newark Castle are a stark reminder that
things haven't always been as peaceful as they are today. On the
face of it there's nothing too remarkable about the market town of
Newark. But there was a time when this place was at the very epicentre
of one of the most crucial moments in British history. In the middle of
the 17th century, Britain was in turmoil. For four years, war had
raged across the land ` a desperate struggle between King and
Parliament. Now all eyes were on this north Nottinghamshire town.
Besieged, starved and bombarded, Newark was the last stronghold of
Charles I in the North, and was all that stood between Oliver Cromwell
and victory. But there was nothing civil about this war for the people
of Newark, for whom there'd be a heavy price to pay. It is hard to
visualise what it must have been like in those dark days of the
17th`century. Here we have a very rare siege man from the time. It
gave us an idea of what the population must have been up
against. `` is very rare siege map. These lines show the parliamentarian
forces circling the town. Within that bring, there were massive
earthworks which pulled an even tighter news around the town. The
population must have been wondering and worrying what would happen if
the parliamentarians broke through those defences. And sacked the town.
By the end of 1645, Newark was surrounded by 16,000 troops. The
Royalist defenders were out` numbered ten to one and the 2,000
townsfolk had every right to be terrified as the parliamentary
artillery set its sights on the town. Solid shots can do a lot of
damage. We are not talking about explosive devices. You have to
remember that they heated up shelves are pushing cannons so that when it
landed on fat it was set fire to it. They heated up the cannonballs? Oh,
yes. And at the get mortars were even bigger and they were fired into
the air and into the castle itself. Once it hit a building, it would
flatten it. Newark's archives give a flavour of what it was like living
through the siege. Supplies were running out and the citizens had to
be resourceful. You have an absolute wealth of corridors. `` of relics.
They go back to the paly lithic age. Of the siege, we have items such as
the iconic Newark's each piece. This was at the period when people are
having to mend their own money. So they can pay the soldiers. Where did
they get the silver? The silver came from the ridge of the town but also
some of it came from when Newark plundered Leicester. So it is done?
So it is still in? Some of it. This is a ?30 cannonball. A mere ?30.
That is quite heavy. It gives you an idea of the tribulations of the
local populace. If that hits you, it cut you in half. It wasn't just
cannonballs that were killing the royalist defenders. In the winter of
1645, the bubonic plague took hold. Remarkable records have survived
which show how the townsfolk tried to combat the disease. They strongly
believed that plague was called by my asthma, bad smells. `` miasma. So
those who are affluent enough would have tried to get antidotes. They
consisted of masking smells. Hawthorne, marigold flowers, and
these will be burnt to give off an incense. I think, looking at these,
these were bought to make sure that the corporation and the offices of
the town continue to meet. They would burn this in the council
chambers to stop the council members from catching plague. Of course
these measures didn't work. And for those who caught the plague, relief
was minimal. They are shutting their homes to die, but they are fed. They
are fed, but they are physically boarded up in their home. Yes.
Pretty brutal. The plague was hard to avoid, but could something be
done to dodge the shelling? Some local historians are convinced
people sheltered in cellars. Legend has it that King Charles himself may
have used a secret underground network to move around the town.
There are some tunnels very close to Newark's marketplace but they were
built in the 18th century. It fires up, bounces off his mirror...
Archaeologists are now using a laser scanner to detect changes in the
brickwork to see whether a much older network can be found. These 3D
images of what's underneath the centre of Newark could hold the key
to whether the legends are true. What we are hoping to find is that
some of the sellers join up. There are tunnel legends in Newark and it
would be nice to find some truth behind at least some of them.
Eventually, you might be able to prove whether this story about King
Charles escaping is true or false? Hopefully, that is what we try to do
as archaeologists, sift the truth from the fiction. Back above ground
` Newark's multi`million pound National Civil War Centre will open
this time next year. It'll be housed in the town's Magnus building,
itself a relic of the Civil War. Visitors will be able to experience
the conflict in all its deadly detail. One in four of the
population are dying. It was perishing the cold. Rivers are
freezing over and yet they asked holding out, fighting for the King.
The king's surrender at Newark in May 1646 marked the end of this
phase of the Civil War. The town was bloodied but it hadn't been taken.
Around 1500 soldiers marched out of the castle but for the civilians of
Newark, it was about to get much, much worse. The archives reveal one
final twist to this story. The siege may have been over, but Newark was
in a desperate state. A sixth of its buildings were destroyed and disease
was rife. The survivors fled to nearby villages. But as these rare
parish records from East Stoke near Newark show, they also brought the
plague with them. The location of trying to flee the plague are shown
in this devastating testimony to the absolute destruction of the village
and the community of East Stoke. The crosses represent plague victims.
Every victim is a plague victim. You see whole families wiped out. As
you get to this register, you will see pages and pages of deaths. It is
visually stunning. But what it must have meant for the community must
have been absolute devastation. It tells us here that 159 people died.
History is always more fascinating when it is about more than just the
stories of kings and queens. This is the story of what the population of
Newark endured all those years ago. For the survivors that `` it was not
history that was horrible, it was everyday existence.
We have got news of a story we have covered in the past. In Lincolnshire
teenager convicted of killing Rosie May at a party. We had information
that a pathologist for that the death could have been an accident.
But it was said that it was unrealistic. At a hearing in
December, Paul Smith was refused leave to appeal against his
conviction and sentence. That is all from here in Newark.
Join us next week. We will be looking at the truth about real
Whitby. Finding out how children getting good nights and following
efforts to to bring the eel back to Lincolnshire rivers.
A longer day, more exams and tougher discipline. That is what the
government wants for pupils in England's state schools. Ministers
believe it would bring standards closer to those in private schools.
There is a warning over a social network raise after it was linked to
guess in Ireland. It involves drinking and filming a stun. The
body of the young man was found in the River. Tributes have poured in
for the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is thought he died from
Toby Foster looks at the stories that matter in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. This week Paul Murphy investigates whether casual contracts and poor safety practices have led to deaths and accidents on our railways, Toby asks what the abolition of the spare room subsidy really means for people living in Grimsby and Horrible Histories author Terry Deary finds out about Newark's key role in the English Civil War.