Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jon Williams on "NHS Privatisation - PFI failures open the door for Private Companies"

The NHS bankrupt headlines should be "the Great Big NHS Sell Off". Friendly administrators will ask private companies to operate Trusts that have been saddled with extortionate interest payments.  "Slash and burn" policies will be employed to sack staff and sell buildings. It is an all too familiar story when the utilities were sold cheaply in Thatcher’s era now operating as privatised monopolies charging above inflation prices with poor service and no structural investment. All UK tax payers have invested in the NHS since its inception only now our money will be siphoned off to pay dividends to a minority. See here.

"The trust which runs Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich and the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley is likely to face cuts to services and jobs in an attempt to reduce costs."

"Earlier this year the private healthcare group Circle took over Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire which had historic debts of more that £40 million. Circle says it is confident that it can turn the trust around and is known to be keen to take on other NHS operations."


Tory cuts are forcing Trusts to call in administrators - who will sell off OUR NHS to private companies e.g. Circle Health.  Our tax money has been invested in the NHS only for private companies to get bargain basement deals once in administration. It is shameful Labour continued to expand PFI contracts when in Government. Let's hope Labour calls for an investigation for all hospitals that are sold. See here.

" But he might well be surprised to hear that some NHS trusts are paying £60m a year on loans for buildings that are much, much bigger than they're worth."

 "He might wonder how organisations that were funded by the public purse, in a healthcare system a government had promised not to cut, could go bankrupt. He might think "bankrupt" was the kind of word you used about a business, and that treating people who were very ill, and couldn't pay for it, except through their taxes, wasn't usually the kind of thing that made a profit."

"He might, for example, be surprised to hear that buildings worth £11.4bn will (if you include some costs for cleaning and maintenance) cost the taxpayer £70bn. He might be a little bit shocked to hear that the taxpayer sometimes pays contractors £75 for an air freshener, and £466 to change a light fitting and £15,000 to hang a door."

"He might not be so surprised to discover that the scheme was originally introduced by a Tory government, but he might well be surprised to hear that it continued under a Labour one, and that most of the contracts that were threatening to bankrupt these trusts were signed with that Labour government's blessing."

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Greek General Election : What Now? - Update

Below you will find the recent Greek Election Results for the Parties who gained seats in their Parliament. There are 300 seats and the new Coalition Government is made up of New Democracy, PASOK and the Democratic Left. They hold a total of 179 seats between them with a total of 48.8% of the vote. This gives them almost 60% of the seats, due to the fact that under the Greek electoral arrangements New Democracy as front runners obtained an extra 50 seats.  But they were only 2.77% ahead of their nearest rivals SYRIZA. The Greek Coalition supports the EU bail out and its basic terms, but they are seeking to re-negotiate some items.  The Greek opposition has a total of 121 seats and took 45.8% of the vote, but they have divisions amongst themselves; being made up of the radical left SYRIZA, the Communist Party, Independent Greeks and the fascist Golden Dawn. The remaining 5.4% of the votes were shared by another 15 Parties and Groups who failed to qualify for seats, as none of these overcame the 2% barrier. To find out more about each Party and each of the their leaders, click onto their names below. The results are taken from here.

The complexities of Greece's politics and its economic situation will be the topic of our next Discussion Meeting when Dimitris Ballas will address us on "The Political and Economic Situation In Greece" at 8 pm on Sunday, 1st July. (See the right hand column). We are aware that the meeting clashes with the final of football's Euro 2012 competition, but it proved to be the only available date to deal with this key current issue.


Party Leader(s) Votes  % +/– Seats +/–

New Democracy (ND) Antonis Samaras 1,825,609 29.66
129 increase21

Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras 1,655,053 26.89
71 increase19

Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Evangelos Venizelos 755,832 12.28
33 decrease8

Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos 462,456 7.51
20 decrease13

Golden Dawn (XA) Nikolaos Michaloliakos 425,980 6.92
18 decrease3

Democratic Left (DIMAR) Fotis Kouvelis 385,079 6.25
17 decrease2

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga 277,179 4.50
12 decrease14

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wanted - A Fresh Lot Of Labour MPs.

At today's meeting of the National Policy Forum in Birmingham, Ed Milband said

"We need a politics where politicians look like the constituents they represent. That’s why we should not rest until 50 per cent of our MPs are women. That’s why we should not rest until ethnic minorities are properly represented in Parliament and in our party. And we should not rest until we deal with one of the most glaring omissions: the skewing of our politics away from working class representation. And I have asked Jon Trickett from our Shadow Cabinet to lead our work on this issue."

Jon Trickett (above photo) addressed our Discussion Meeting at Dronfield on 8th January. What ideas would you like Jon to recommend to Ed? What about (a) a bigger role in the nominating and selection procedures for both the rank and file and affiliated Trade Unions, (b) as Labour still has a residual working class base, limiting future nominations for the post of parliamentary candidate to those already living in a constituency and (c) making the Labour Party a body which working class people wish to join?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We All Need To Count

This is my submission to Labour's Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities Commission.

In his speech to Progress three weeks ago, Ed Miliband said that Labour "will embark on the biggest drive to register new voters in a generation". This is a welcome commitment, but if such a campaign is limited to the period up to the next General Election, it will be unlikely to overcome the massive problems associated with electoral registration in the UK. We also need a policy commitment to say that Labour will tackle registration problems once elected, by introducing the necessary legislation.

The size and nature of the problem surrounding electoral registration has been revealed in a recent report by the Electoral Commission.  They show that at least 6 million people are currently missing from electoral registers, with only 56% of 19-24 year olds being covered, and with the same low percentage for those in private rented accommodation. The major shortfalls in electoral registration occur amongst the young, the rootless, ethnic minorities and the poor. This has a knock on effect in distorting the shape and size of parliamentary constituencies, so that the most deprived areas in the UK are seriously unrepresented in parliament. The move from household to individual electoral registration is likely to add significantly to the numbers missing from registers, thereby worsening the current pattern.

What can be done to tackle such problems? First of all, we need to consider who should have the vote, and why. As the vote should be considered to be a fundamental human right, it should go to all of those who have established residency in the UK. For all residents should have a say in what laws, regulations and taxation regimes they operate under. The only exceptions to such  an arrangement, should be (1) the exclusion from electoral registers of those who are incapable of exercising voting rights due to serious mental incapacity, and (2) those (owing to their age alone) who have not yet reached sufficient maturity. As it would be open to manipulation to employ tests as to when a person was mature enough to vote, an arbitrary age needs to be employed to decide when people will first qualify to vote. For reasons I give later, I suggest that the qualifying date for obtaining the vote should be a person's sixteenth birthday.

Under the above proposals, the current franchise would then be extended to (a) sixteen and seventeen year olds, (b) residents in this country from overseas (at this moment this right is restricted to those who come from Commonwealth Nations and from the Republic of Ireland) and (c) all prisoners (whose new franchise rights could be related to their previous place of residence).

To ensure everyone who had enfranchisement rights would receive them, numbers of improvements would need to be made to the electoral registration system.  First of all, the Government would need to conducted regular advertising campaigns, telling people of their electoral registration rights and duties. Secondly, Returning Officers would have access to records which showed the places of residence of the people living in their areas; including details of residential movements in and out of such areas.  Thirdly, a person would only be entitled to register in the place of their sole or main place of residence; with those changing such residence being contacted to ensure they make use of the existing rolling electoral registration provisions which allow them to transfer their voting rights.. Fourthly, the annual canvas by Returning Officers would require canvassers to engage in door to door canvassing, especially of residences where no-one had registered or where there are significant changes since the previous canvas. Finally, canvassers would undertake searches, to ensure that homeless people were registered. 

The extra costs incurred by Returning Officers in fulfilling their duties, would come from Central Government Funds. It would be no excuse to say that we can't afford democracy.

A sound reason for giving people votes at sixteen, is that a person's initial registration could take place at school when students were fifteen year-old and were due to attain the vote. Local Returning Officers will need to send canvassers to schools in their area to facilitate the process - passing completed registration forms on to neighbouring Returning Officers where this is necessary.

We need wide-ranging changes to the electoral registration system, to repair the damages to the current system caused by increased social mobility, de-politicalisation, breaks in the social bond and operations of anti-social measures, such as that of the breach caused in the past by Thatcher's Poll Tax.

Harry Barnes

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jon Williams on "Private Companies Within The NHS"

This is to reinforce my recent article, which can be found here.

There are many worrying examples of private companies making an entry into the NHS market. Over 200 plus Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) need assessing before they can be "Authorised" to operate budgets of many millions. Corporate take over from the very top - using one of the big City accountancy firms to review health organisations. So we have number crunchers discussing medical issues! This source states -

"Accountancy firm PwC has won a £3.4m contract to help with the assessment and authorisation of prospective clinical commissioning groups.

The NHS Commissioning Board, which awarded the contract, has the huge task of reviewing and making a decision about 212 CCGs before January next year. It will hold visits, panel sessions, and review survey results in each CCG area, along with large amounts of documentation."


United Health a US health company are already operating to their own set of rules in the NHS. A private company selling shares to The Practice PLC and one year later it closes a surgery without any notification to the general public and health authorities are not informed. See.

"NHS officials have admitted they were powerless to stop an American health giant from suddenly selling a Camden GP surgery to another private firm – and are seeking legal advice to stop it happening again."

"We are hearing anecdotal evidence from Camden Road patients of the fragmented care they received during the tenure of United Health and the Practice Plc."


Circle Health applies to run another NHS hospital after taking over Hinchingbrooke. The usual justification of staff and buildings will remain (for now) part of the NHS until they run into financial difficulties. Staff will be cut and buildings sold...reminds me of Southern Cross residential care homes operator debacle. The Torygraph has this story - does the Labour Party have a rebuttal to this story? Here.

"Ali Parsa, Circle’s chief executive, told The Telegraph that it wanted to bid for Nuneaton’s George Eliot hospital. If George Eliot was to find a franchise partner from the private sector, it would be the second such hospital to do so after Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, which last year finalised a decade-long franchise with Circle."

PS.  It seems Labour has a rebutttal function - as mentioned in a NEC May report. Apologies for using this info from Progress (A Party within a Party).

"Torsten Bell (Policy and Rebuttal) was putting the policy review on a different basis, engaging people to get ideas. He wanted a rebuttal function which was strong enough that the Tories would be afraid of our research as they were in the 1990s."


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

School of Democratic Socialism

The School of Democratic Socialism (SDS) will be holding two separate (but related) meetings on Friday, June 15, at the Aspect Court building [Room 15104] of Sheffield Hallam University.

Aspect Court is on Pond Hill, which runs past the bus Interchange, down towards the ring road and railway line. There will be an afternoon seminar at 14.00 hours on the question of Money and Finance: the Economic Crisis. John Halsteadl has prepared a brief paper to provide a focus for the discussion. Allowing for a break, the afternoon session should end by 16.30 at the latest.

This will be followed in the evening, at 19.00, by Linda McAvan, MEP, speaking on The Future of Europe, under the SDS general theme of 'there has to be a better way forward!'.

This is in advance the SDS preparing its programme for 2012-13. The two themes are related and require a greater political response than we seem to be getting from the political parties. There will be ample opportunity for you to express your views and we hope you can attend. Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone who may be interested.

Aspect Court has a reception, which is manned until 17.00 hours. SHU rent rooms on the first floor, while others occupy the top two floors. There is a porter on the door, who controls admittance after 17.00. The entrance to the Aspect Court building is opposite the old Queen's Head public house.

Those attending both the 14.00 and 19.00 hour sessions, may wish to make arrangements in-between the sessions for a snack and/or drink.

For background on the first year of the School of Democratic Socialism see here.

John Halstead, Ken Curran and Harry Barnes.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jon Williams on NHS Privatisation

Pre and post Health and Social Care Bill private companies are being used in the NHS from cleaning contracts to Independent and Foundation run Hospitals. Ideologically making a profit from sick people is shameful way to run a public service. The opposing argument is by bringing competition and choice into the NHS will lead to efficiencies and cost savings – but how will this benefit the patient? A private company modus operandi is to make an organisation run for a minimum return on investment. It disregards any human element and treats patients as customers. Profit is paid in dividends to shareholders instead it should be reinvested in the service / structure of the organisation. Any gains are privatised and losses are socialised. Our taxes are increased to bail out these private companies that have been run to maximise a profit in the short term. They have no sense of place or identity where they operate, no ethical or social awareness.

Parts of the NHS privatisation process are CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups). This year they will start running PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) and spending billions of NHS tax payer’s money contracting in services. Complete hand over by April 2013. Some will use PCT staff others will use private health companies such as Virgin and Serco. Please see examples here and here.

Locally NDCCG (North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group) has brought together GP surgeries / practices from across North Derbyshire to contract in services. Large sums of money will be available to this new organisation. Do they have structures in place to handle this capacity within local surgeries / practices? There are statements in the new NDCCG website “Our Vision and Values” such as,

“To encourage innovation and strive to find new and better ways of commissioning services”

“To support improvements in productivity and deliver cost reduction and value for money by commissioning quality services”

This suggests private sector methods. An example in NDCCG March Board minutes states,

“Some services or products, such as payroll and HR could be done at a regional level and at the moment Greater East Midlands (GEM) was within the NHS. This was expected to move into the private sector or become a social enterprise by 2016”. See here and here.

Bringing new innovative cost reducing services into a new public sector organisation will inevitable involve private sector expertise – as can be seen in other areas in the UK (examples given above) and Dr √Čoin Clarke’s website “The Green Benches”,

NDCCG Chair Dr Ben Milton states “the NHS undergoes one of the greatest upheavals in its history” and “enormous task of the structural change whilst meeting the financial challenges” in the May NDCCG newsletter shows what an immense task this will be. At this point whether asked or not private companies will be called upon to advise or provide backroom support from CSS (Clinical Support Services).

Examples of early CSS failure has been detected in West Mercia and Peninsula (Devon and Cornwall) had to be abandoned.

Inviting private sector companies to run public sector bodies only produces poor outcomes with many examples such as transport and utilities run for a quick return and no future investment in infrastructure or equipment. Hospital PFI’s (Private Finance Initiative) are another example that has been a disaster waiting to happen with huge debts hidden away off the Governments books. Let’s hope for involvement from other sectors such as cooperatives or mutual’s can come forward to offer support services to the new CCG’s.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Britain at War - Iraq and Afghanistan

Our next discussion meeting is advertised in our right hand column. Jordan Stapleton will set the scene for a discussion on Britain's role in the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Jordan is 19 and the two invasions helped to shape his early interest in politics. What were your equivalents? How did they shape your own political perspective?

Jordan is currently a Politics Undergraduate at Leicester University and is active in the Labour Party in Derbyshire.

As a reminder of the nature and consequences of the invasions see here and here.