Monthly Archives: July 2009

Health or profit?

We are consulted widely on health issues and what we want, but as with City Hospital the whole charade appears to be costly and a sham. Patients used to using City Hospital on Dudley Road now find that they may be transferred to Sandwell Hospital, part of the same trust. Part of the promise of moving the hospital further away was that there would be local facilities that would reduce the need to use such facilities as A & E.
So the Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust started taking information so they could start to provide some 24 polyclinics across their territory, an area where multiple deprivation means there is significant need. Heart, diabetes, mental health all figure here.
Lord Darzi was charged with writing a report which came up with the findings that access to GPs was uneven and that the deficit was precisely in those areas showing deprivation resulting in poverty, poor health and a low life expectancy. Curiously most of the meetings to find out what people want have been conducted in the wealthier part of the Handsworth Wood Ward with a chartered accountant leading the presentations! It is the part of the ward already better supplied with GP practices, one of which is virtually a polyclinic with 11 doctors and an array of back up staff.
The PCT was previously awash with cash, but the recession has brought about a sharp u-turn so the prospect of 24 new facilities has gone. The arguments are purely in terms of cash with the health needs of those identified by Darzi receding by the minute. That is if they were ever up for consideration by the new elite now running health and other essential services. Commissioners have sprung up everywhere but you try approaching them as one of the “great unwashed” members of the community. Again government rhetoric stressed to this group the need to work with the community to improve health. The commissioners will only go to the big tried and (un)tested monopolies. Although report after report has talked of vast inequalities in health and advanced the “Delivering Race Equality” Agenda this has made little impact on the new army of highly paid gatekeepers set loose to make sure money doesn’t go to where it is most urgently needed.

Vestas a symbol of what’s wrong with the system

Vestas on the Isle of Wight is the only company in the UK to manufacture blades for wind turbines. They are closing because there is said not to be a market for them in the UK in spite of Ed Milliband’s recent declaration that the Government proposes to erect many more as a contribution to green energy.
Britain is the windiest place in Europe yet has fewer turbines than elsewhere.
One problem that has to be addressed in current planning law for land-based wind farms.
Objections to them can mean costly delays which discourage manufacturers like the Danish owned Vestas staying here when there are no such problems elsewhere. The blades presently produced are for land-based turbines and are exported round the world.
The government tends to be favouring off-shore farms – because of the present legal problems – which require larger blades of a different design. The firm had said it was going to provide the IoW plant with the £50 million to re-tool.
A worker from Vestas spoke afterwards at Birmingham Council House and described how a group of them had decided to stage a sit-in at their factory. Opposition from Management and police failed when they realised that there was so much support.
Some 600 people marched from Newport to the factory nearby and media interest was such that the building of a 7 foot fence to prevent food supplies was abandoned. The planned injunction to stop the sit-in failed in court when the company did not provide the right documents and the judge strongly disapproved of false information provided to the court.
The Guardian reported that dome workers found dismissal notices under the pizzas supplied by the management. This was meant to prevent the payment of redundancy money. Legal opinion held that this had no validity in law. The feeling of the meeting was that the Government should take control and nationalise Vestas.
Vestas like many other multinationals dislikes unions and when it took over the IoW plant the work force found that their conditions worsened considerably. This action has had support particularly from the RMT and the work force is now unionised. A considerable number of other companies in the island have followed.

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Nationalising debt and privatising profit on the railway

The taking of the East Coast main line away from National Express is only the beginning of dealing with problems with the railways in Britain. According to a report in the Independent (27/7/2009) some MPs fear that more services will have to be “rescued”.
What does this mean? A Government that has been intent on privatising virtually every thing in sight has a change of heart? Lord Adonis, late of an education reform that is having to be dismantled, announced that the East Coast franchise would be up for grabs after only a year. As withe Post Office fiasco it’s tax payers picking up the debts with profitable bits going to the private sector.
It’s not as if we have a coherent plan for transport when there is urgency required in the face of carbon emissions and the need for viable, affordable public transport. One idea is announced: a high speed link to include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow was raised. Now its electrification of lines between London and Swansea. The arguments are right that electric powered trains don’t have to carry their own fuel or emit pollution, although the power still has to be generated somehow. Some nice ideas outside London and the South East region but no back up with cash. Is there any with commitments to Iraq, Afghanistan and bankers? Is UK PLC going bankrupt?
The following article is by Neil Clark who the Socialist Labour Party will invite to speak in Birmingham in the autumn.

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Who or what is Xe?

According to the Nation magazine Blackwater has changed its name to Xe. Why should that be necessary?
Challenges to Blackwater have come thick and fast as this privately owned organisation has become embroiled in America’s wars. Deaths of Iraqi civilians has led to individuals suing Blackwater/Xe and so a gagging order is being sought by the firm to silence families of victims and their lawyers. Blackwater protests that making information known will compromise security of the individuals it is employed to protect. Other opinion is that the company is conducting unlawful activities in its areas of operations of which Iraq is just one. I used to watch a series of westerns under the name of Wells Fargo with images of stage coaches with armed guards and outriders shooting it out. The U.S. seems to have spread that culture worldwide! The difference is that Wells Fargo was supposed to uphold the law (whether it did or not is another matter) whereas Blackwater/Xe look as if they are involved in a cover up.

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Senseless economics

Even if you are a die-hard supporter of Capitalism the economics being advanced by this Government (and no opposition party will demur) seem to make little sense. We want, are desperate for, a turn around in carbon emissions. We have one, yes just one plant on the Isle of Wight which produces wind turbines, yet it is faced with closure. The Government says we need many more wind turbines to meet targets.
Here then is a golden opportunity to keep jobs and create more. The work force are resisting while the police are out is force to make sure they don’t succeed.

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Unequal Britain

Tony Blair said this, Tony Blair said that when he came into office. He noted Britain was unequal then and proposed “education, education, education”. What he and New Labour did to tackle it was rather different. Their espousal of Thatcherite policies from the start ensured that not only did inequality remain but it has become entrenched.
New Labourites have always been bedazzled by wealth and fame. Bernie Eccleston, Rupert Murdoch et al were all courted by Blair who now rubs shoulders with the elite and coins a million when he opens his mouth. Goodness knows why since what he has to say is usually vacuous. Tragically Gordon Brown continues to bring big names into government, self advertisers like Alan Sugar who have a lot of money but not much judgment. As for the all powerful, self regarding Mandelson, his love of the high life, Russian billionaires and all is well documented. So where is the will to do something about equality? Trevor Phillips is kept as the head of the Equalities Commission to ensure nothing will change. As long as the window dressing is there – we need a cohesive community they believe. Well people aren’t fooled that easily and know the whole thing is a sham.

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The Government’s game is control, not equality

Is Trevor Phillips the right person for leading on equalities? From the Government’s point of view it appears yes regardless what those o9n the receiving end of discrimination might feel. He’s just the right person if his masters say “jump” he will say “how high?” So he keeps the job.
Questions are now being asked about Phillip’s competence after the resignation of a number of Commissioners. Trenchant comment from Diane Abbott asking about the matter of delivering to the black community only serves to underline the criticism. Does this Government want to deliver becomes the question. The answer seems to be that it is interested in control to ensure that the status quo remains. After all most of those suspected of terrorism today are from the black community – it seems in their view. You’d think Harriet Harman might know better, but then there has been little evidence of that.

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Bili’in village cries out to the world against Israeli bullies and thugs

The intimidation of Palestinians who object to their land being confiscated and the loss of income as a result. So what happens. The weekly demonstration and marches to the wall accompanied by international supporters is well documented as they encounter sound-bombs, tear gas, foul-smelling water and sometimes live rounds. Now the army are going into Bil’in and kidnapping young people. A peace process? Not in sight – a clear snub to President Obama in spite of his careful overtures to Israel.

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How your money is spent

Asylum: Deportation
House of Commons / 6 July 2009 : Column 563W
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much the UK Border Agency spent on (a) commercial air flights and (b) chartering flights for the deportation of unsuccessful asylum seekers in each month of the last four years. [280809]
Mr. Woolas: The total costs for public expense removals on scheduled flights and chartered flights in each of the last four financial years are shown in the following table. It is not possible to disaggregate the costs for removal of failed asylum seekers from the overall removal figures without the examination of individual records at disproportionate cost.
These figures do not constitute part of National Statistics as they are based on internal management information. The information has not been quality assured under National Statistics protocols and should be treated as provisional and subject to change.
Charter flights Scheduled flights
2008-09: 8,227,553.38 ~ 18,562,162.35
2007-08: 4,811,162.12 ~ 15,606,958.80
2006-07: 4,149,294.35 ~ 12,895,668.31
2005-06: 4,339,865.31 ~ 12,933,092.35
(1) The total cost of charter and scheduled flights includes administration cost plus cancellation fees.
Thanks to Mary Pearson for this information. As we get cut backs in essential services, no services for the vulnerable: although if you have a mental health problem you are likely to have a lot spent on you – that is if our are one of the many ending up in prison. To think that we once voted to bring in caring government after the miseries of the Thatcher years! You think the Tories lost the election….