NOT SO MELLOW YELLOW

Very few people by now, are not aware of the activities of the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Jackets), and what is happening on the streets of Paris currently.

This undeniably large, and disparate group of protesters, who refer to themselves collectively as ‘Everybody and Nobody,’ and who do not appear, on the surface at least, to have any visible leadership – have been rallying against both President Macron, and the French establishment itself, who they believe have continually ignored them, and furthermore, treated the ordinary French man and woman like garbage basically.

They are also, (and rightly so) obviously hostile to President Macron’s preference for hob-knobbing with the world’s elite leaders, rather than his addressing the very real, and pressing issues, that exist in his own nation and among it’s people.

So what exactly do the Gilets Juanes want?

Why are they protesting?

The following list is translated from the French, so there may be errors, and I cannot guarantee it’s authenticity, but what is outlined below, appears to be what is required from Macron and the French establishment, by those who are aggrieved and are voicing their anger in the French Capital.

  • Zero Homeless (URGENT).
  • More progressive Income Tax.
  • SMIC (Minimum Wage) at 1300 Euros net.
  • Favour the small beginnings of the villages and town centres (Stop the construction of large commercial areas around major cities that kill the small business) and free parking in city centres.
  • Large Housing Isolation Plan. (Create ecology by saving households).
  • That wholesale companies like Macdo, Google, Amazon, Carrefour etc., pay LARGE and that small companies and artisans pay SMALL.
  • The same Social Security system for everybody (including artisans and autoentrepreneurs).
  • END of the RSI. (“Regime Social des Indépendants (RSI), the body collecting and handling social charges for artisans and commerçants in France”)
  • The pension system must remain in solidarity and therefore socialised. (No point of retirement).
  • End of the tax hike on fuel.
  • No retirement under 1,200 Euros.
  • Any elected representative will be entitled to the median salary. His transport costs will be strictly monitored and only reimbursed if they are justified. All expenses should be monitored.
  • The wages of all French people as well as pensions and allowances must be indexed to inflation.
  • French Industry must be protected, and relocation prohibited. Protecting French industry is also protecting French know-how and French jobs.
  • End of all detached work. It is abnormal that a person who works on French territory does not benefit from the same salary and the same rights. Anyone who is authorised to work on French territory must be on a par with a French citizen and his employer must contribute at the same level as a French employer.
  • For job security: further limit the number of fixed-term contracts for large companies. We want more CDI. (“Contract Duration Indeterminée” – essentially an open-ended contract, or permanent employee contract.)
  • End of the CICE. (Tax credit for employment and competitiveness). Use this money for the launch of a French hydrogen car industry (which unlike electric cars, is genuinely ecologically friendly).
  • End of the austerity policy. Cease repaying the interest on all debt that is declared illegitimate, and to repay the debt without taking the money from the poor and the poorest by collecting the €80 billion from tax evasion.
  • That the causes of forced migration are acknowledged and treated.
  • That asylum seekers be treated well. We owe them security, food and education for their children. Work with the UN to have host camps open in many countries around the world, pending the outcome of the asylum application.
  • That unsuccessful Asylum seekers be returned to their countries of origin.
  • That a genuine integration policy is implemented. Living in France should mean becoming French (taking French language courses, learning about the history of France, and taking a civic education course with a certification system at the completion of each course.)
  • Maximum salary set at 15,000 Euros [Monthly].
  • That jobs are created for the unemployed.
  • An increase in disability allowances.
  • Limitations on rents, and moderate rent housing (especially for students and precarious workers).
  • A ban on selling property belong to France (Airport Dam….?).
  • Substantial funds granted to the justice system, the police, the gendarmerie and the military. That Law enforcement overtime be paid or recovered.
  • All the money raised by motorway tolls to be used for maintaining highways and roads in France, and on road safety.
  • As the price of gas and electricity has increased since privatisation, all utility companies to become public again, and for prices to fall significantly.
  • A maximum of 25 students per class from kindergarten to 12th grade.
  • The prohibition of making money from the elderly.
  • More money for Mental Health.
  • The People’s Referendum must enter the constitution. Thus creating a readable and effective site, supervised by an independent body of control, where ordinary people can make a proposal for a law. If a Bill obtains 700,000 signatures, then that Bill will have to be discussed, completed, amended by the National Assembly which will have the obligation, (one year to the day after obtaining the 700,000 signatures) to submit it to the vote of all French people.
  • A return to a seven-year term for the President of the Republic, (the election of deputies two years after the election of the President of the Republic, made it send a positive or negative signal to the President of the Republic concerning his policies, so it helped to make the voice of the people be heard.)
  • Retirement at the age of 60, and for all those who have worked in a trade using the body, (Mason or Butcher or Carpenter or Builder for example) and the right to retirement at 55.
  • A 6-year-old child does not keep himself alone, a continuation of the PAJEMPLOI (a service offering of the Urssaf network, whose main task is to collect employee and employer social security contributions, which finance the Régime general of France’s social security system, including state health insurance) assistance system until the child is 10 years of age.
  • Promote the transport of goods by rail.
  • No withholding of tax.
  • End of presidential allowances for life.
  • Prohibit paying merchants a tax when their customers use credit cards.

THE PRICE OF PROGRESS

It always saddens me when iconic buildings with historical significance are destroyed. That sadness is compounded, however, when said buildings also have a personal connection to either myself, or to somebody I know, or have known.

A case in point is the ongoing demolition of a Cardiff landmark, ‘The Rise’, situated north of the city in Pontcanna, of which a photograph which was sent to me recently, shows.

Penhill House, built in 1861, by Lewis Charles, before being sold to Edward Bevan some years later, and remained in private hands up until the late 1960s, when it was re-purposed as a Cardiff City Council ‘Assessment Centre’, accommodating boys, aged between 11 and 16, from Cardiff, Barry, Penarth and the Rhondda Valleys.

It’s first owner was an Apothecary (Pharmacist), and it’s attached one-acre gardens were known locally as ‘Erw-yr-Apothercary’, which reflected it’s original purpose.

After it’s usefulness as an Assessment Centre came to an end, it was used right up until it’s closure, by Cardiff City Council to house the offices of the Youth Offending Team.

Pontcanna residents have campaigned for the building to be preserved, but the City Council, declared The Rise, a ‘Financial Burden,’ and it’s Director of Economic Development, decided in 2017 to dispose of the building at an open auction.

Another reason given by the Council was that it needed to be disposed of, to save ‘Running Costs’.

A letter to the South Wales Echo, from local resident Pauline Grainger, Reads:

‘We are told that the Council is powerless to prevent it’s demolition. Have they considered listing the building? I would have thought that there was a very good case to be made to save one of Cardiff’s oldest distinctive buildings dating back to the 1860s. Not to mention the loss of the mature treason the site, which we are now told are conveniently diseased’.

A Pontcanna Councillor, Iona Gordon, has pretty much agreed with the Council’s plans, saying “It’s unfortunate that the building  – just outside her ward – was not listed.’

But Cardiff Civic Society did actively work towards protecting this landmark from demolition, and even organised a protest prior to the bulldozers moving in, and have sent a letter to Cardiff Planning Department, outlining their concerns.

‘Cardiff Civic Society has noted the sale by auction of Pencil Rise on enhill Road.

This is a landmark building on a prominent site in the local area. In response to representations by the local community, Cardiff Civic Society would like to urge Cardiff Council to preserve this interesting building, and the mature trees that provide a hughe local amenity, as well as absorbing pollution from the busy road.

Penhill Rise deserves to be sympathetically restored, and it’s tree-lined landscape to remain, as both elements add immeasurably to the character of the region. The property is adjacent to the Grade II listed park, Llandaff Fields, and any intrusive development would impact unfavourably on this well-loved green space. Furthermore, it is clear that any major development work on this site would inevitably cause traffic chaos and present a serious danger to pedestrians.

There is a precedent for preserving landmark buildings of character and history in the area. For example, the Vicarage Development on Severn Road, which was preserved thanks to the effort of the local community, and is now a hugely desirable residential property.

Cardiff has lost too many characterful, historic buildings for the city to be able to afford to lose any more.’

There is not much for Cardiff Council to argue against, in my opinion.

Despite the opposition to the Council’s plans , and the impassioned plea’s from locals, the sale of the building did go ahead, and the new owner, has I believe, made good on his plans to demolish the building.

The building attracted bids far and above the auction estimate of £595,000, and no doubt the City Council’s accountants were jumping for joy, when The Rise actually sold for £1.6 Million.

Interestingly enough, despite the local Councillor’s claim; “It’s unfortunate that the building was not listed”, a basic search on the BRITISH LISTED BUILDINGS website, would have shown her that Penhill House is (or was) certainly a Grade II listed Building, and has been since 1978.

If this Grade II listing is still in place, then it asks the question as to why the demolition of The Rise was allowed to proceed, and also why were both the Cardiff Civil Society and the local Councillors not aware of it, or did they simply not acknowledge it’s status, as after all, £1.6 Million is a serious sum of money.

Or was the listed status removed quietly, when the listing was amended in 2001?

As for my personal connection to this building?

I lived at The Rise intermittently, between September and December 1978, while it was still an Assessment Centre, it was the first Care Home I was a resident of.