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In January I had the honour of meeting the students (see photograph) taking part in the Money for Life Challenge, which is a national competition, supported by Lloyds Bank PLC.  The challenge has been created for students aged 16 to 24, all around the country, to help improve their money-management skills.  The very impressive team of students at the City of Wolverhampton College is called Brilliant Budgets.  Their project is to produce a money-saving spreadsheet that can be used by fellow students at Wolverhampton College. 

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They’ve made it through the first stage with flying colours.  By doing so, they’ve already been awarded a £500 grant.  They are splitting that money into three portions:  £200 will be spent on equipment, £100 on a donation to a chosen charity, and £200 on a possible educational trip.

They’re already hard at work on the next stage:  by early March they have to submit their complete project and evaluation.  If they get through that stage – and I’m sure they will – they will go to the Money for Life Challenge UK Grand Final on 28 May 2015 in London. 

Good luck to the brilliant Brilliant Budgets team!

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

The Brilliant Budgets team at Wolverhampton College

In January I had the honour of meeting the students (see photograph) taking part in the Money for Life Challenge, which is a national competition, supported by Lloyds Bank PLC.  The challenge has...

The problem of mental illness in the UK is the "biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age", Labour leader Ed Miliband has said. 

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Taking action to improve mental health is essential if we are to thrive as a nation and ensure the NHS is improved.  Thus the next Labour Government will be committed to a radical improvement in mental health provision, with more emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and better support – particularly for young people – as part of Labour's plan to improve the NHS.

The commitment coincides with the publication of the report of Dr Stephen O'Brien's independent Mental Health Taskforce, commissioned by Mr Ed Miliband two years ago.  The report recommends several basic approaches:  prevention, early intervention, and better support.  Those steps are central to achieving improvements.  The Taskforce report very helpfully sets out the changes which are now needed owing to the Coalition Government's failures and false economies on mental health.  The system needs to be re-built, with extra spending which will benefit patients with mental ill-health, and in the long-run such changes may save money as well.

Only 6% of the mental health budget is spent on children, even though 75% of adult mental illness begins before the age of 18.  The current government’s false economies in Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services have led to a growing number of young people being placed in adult wards.  Just as bad, because of the government’s underfunding of the NHS, there are bed shortages, meaning that too many young patients are sent hundreds of kilometres away for hospital care.

Labour will

  • Ensure that, over time, the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children will rise, as we increase spending on improving mental health in childhood.  In turn this will lessen some of the demand on adult mental health services when those young patients become adults;
  • Encourage Local Authorities, the NHS and schools to work together to ensure that all children can access school-based counselling or therapy if they need it;
  • Ensure that all teachers have adequate training in child mental health, so that teachers are able to identify, support, and refer children with mental health problems. Good child mental health is critical for academic attainment and future employment prospects:  children with emotional problems are twice as likely to struggle with reading, spelling, and mathematics;
  • Amend the NHS constitution, to enshrine patients' legal right to therapies for mental illness;
  • Expand access to talking therapies, working towards a 28-day waiting-time standard for access to both adult and young people’s talking therapies.
  • Ensure at least basic mental health training for all patient-centred NHS staff;
  • Better integrate physical healthcare, mental healthcare and social care.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

 

Mental Ill Health: Action to Improve NHS Provision

The problem of mental illness in the UK is the "biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age", Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.  Taking action to improve mental health is...

Labour has promised £3 million in new funding for women’s refuges. Whilst we are committed to proper funding of public services, including assisting the survivors of domestic violence, it appears that the Tory-led Government is not.

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Women's Aid is the national domestic violence charity which works to end violence against women and children. It is an umbrella group, helping up to 250,000 women and children every year, and supporting over 350 domestic and sexual violence services across the country.

Their Annual Survey for 2014 was published on 15 January 2015. It makes shocking reading, but alas it is not surprising given the Coalition government’s desire to cut services and take the UK back to the 1930s.  Moreover, the survey is for the period April 2013 through March 2014 – and things have undoubtedly got worse since then…

Women’s Aid’s main findings are:

  • Almost one third (31%) of referrals to refuges were turned away because of lack of space;
  • 37% of organisations were running services without having dedicated funding (data provided by 132 services). Of these 49 organisations, 32 of them (= 65%), were running services on reserves, and 12 of them (= 24%) were running services on a voluntary basis;
  • 13% of organisations had suspended or closed an area of service because of lack of funding (data provided by 132 services);
  • 42% of responding specialist children and young people’s services reported having difficulties in placing children living in refuge in schools (data provided by 90 services);
  • 44% of responding organisations reported encountering problems in accessing mental health services for children and young people (data provided by 90 services);
  • 74% of women accommodated came from a different Local Authority area to the refuge (4,177 women; data provided by 110 services);
  • 110 refuge services supported 6,163 women and 6,665 children;
  • 109 services providing non-refuge support assisted supported 74,500 women and 13,701 children in services in the community.

As the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Polly Neate so aptly put it: 

This year’s Annual Survey sadly demonstrates the real crisis that our domestic violence services in England are in.  Not only reduced resources but also, crucially, poor decisions about how those resources are spent are directly impacting the women and children for whom these services are literally a lifeline.  This follows a similar pattern to the findings from last year.”

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Domestic Violence Services Slashed Across the Country

Labour has promised £3 million in new funding for women’s refuges. Whilst we are committed to proper funding of public services, including assisting the survivors of domestic violence, it appears...

Mr Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour government to seeking to raise global ambitions for combating extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change.  Even if addressing these issues be not as fashionable as it once was, it is still very important to do so.

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 To get a flavour of just how obscenely unequal our world is, see the excellent Oxfam report Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, published on 19 January 2015 (http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/wealth-having-it-all-and-wanting-more-338125). 

 As Oxfam puts it: 

“Global wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and insurance, and pharmaceuticals and healthcare.  Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists.  This briefing explains Oxfam’s methodology and data sources and updates key inequality statistics, such as Oxfam’s frequently cited fact in 2014: ‘85 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population'.”

 The report was helpfully covered by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30875633).

2015 is the biggest year for global action in half a century, with a series of summits and conferences which can shape all our futures together on this small planet.  These meetings will include one in New York in September to renew the Millennium Development Goals on tackling poverty and inequality; and the Climate Change conference in December, where there is a chance finally to achieve a binding agreement on the greatest threat to our world. 

 The next Labour government will participate fully in these gatherings, and argue:

  • For an end to extreme global poverty (people living on < U$1.25 a day) by 2030;
  • That tackling inequality should remain at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda (and indeed within our own country as well), with a focus on securing equal access to healthcare, and protecting the rights of women, children, and workers;
  • In favour of a separate Development Goal on climate change;
  • For a binding international agreement on climate change leading to zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, with the UK leading the way by decarbonising electricity supply by 2030.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Climate Change and Global Poverty Matter More than Ever

Mr Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour government to seeking to raise global ambitions for combating extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change.  Even if addressing these issues be not...

Labour's new approach to public health is a central part of our plan to improve families' health and to ensure the NHS remains affordable and sustainable in the century of the ageing society.  Labour will take stronger action to try to protect children from the huge pressures exerted by the large companies, and from the harm caused by alcohol, sugar, and smoke.

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The primary goal of action on public health must be to improve health and well-being.  In addition, strong, properly funded public health measures will help to ensure that the NHS remains sustainable for the long term; for example, unless firm action be taken to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes, the cost of diabetes to the NHS will rise from £10 billion a year now to £17 billion a year by 2035.

When we were in government, Labour did a huge amount on public health; for example, free fruit in schools, Walking For Health, bowel cancer screening (the first in the world).  Mr Cameron promised he would act on public health, but all he did was re-organise the NHS.  So, for example, despite his clear promise he has done nothing about cigarette packaging.  It was left to Labour to lead the debate on that, and we won the fight for a ban on smoking in cars with children.

When we return to government, Labour will resuscitate public health programmes with a series of new measures.  Rather than a “finger-wagging” approach, Labour will empower adults with information to make healthier choices, and support them to get active.  We will:

  • mandate standardised cigarette packaging, to halt the industry's increasingly sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers;
  • set a goal that children born in 2015 will become the first smoke-free generation;
  • introduce maximum limits on the levels of fat, salt, and sugar in food marketed substantially to children;
  • improve food labelling, to help people have a better understanding of what they are eating;
  • work at EU level to introduce traffic-light labelling of packaged food;
  • take action on the high-strength, low-cost alcohol which fuels binge drinking and does most harm to health; for example action on pricing and on bottle-size.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

 

Public Health

Labour's new approach to public health is a central part of our plan to improve families' health and to ensure the NHS remains affordable and sustainable in the century of...

The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a highly-respected, independent think-tank.  They describe themselves thus:  “Our goal at the IFS is to promote effective economic and social policies by better understanding how policies affect individuals, families, businesses and the government's finances.”  The IFS was the Prospect Magazine UK think tank of the year 2014.

Paul Johnson is the Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.  He was scathing in his critique of Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement (mini-budget).  Below are extracts of theremarks made by Mr Johnson on 4 December 2014.  The full text is available here. Those remarks speak for themselves, and show just how big a failure as Chancellor Mr Osborne has been.  Mr Johnson said:

“The headline of course is that the deficit is now expected to be over £90 billion this year, a fall of only £6 billion on last year’s number.  As the OBR notes this would be “the second smallest year-on-year reduction since its peak in 2009-10, despite this being the strongest year for GDP growth”.

“This is disappointing compared with forecasts in March. It is massively more disappointing compared with forecasts back in 2010 which foresaw a deficit of less than £40 billion in 2014-15.”

“It is important to understand why the deficit hasn’t fallen.  It is emphatically not because the government has failed to impose the intended spending cuts.  It is because the economy performed so poorly in the first half of the parliament, hitting revenues very hard.” 

“How do we get to this sunlit upland in which we have a budget surplus?  Spending cuts on a colossal scale is how, taking total government spending to its lowest level as a proportion of national income since before the last war” (emphasis added).

“If you look specifically at spending by Whitehall departments, then about £35 billion of cuts have happened, with £55 billion to come.”

“How will these cuts be implemented?  What will local government, the defence force, the transport system, look like in this world?  Is this a fundamental reimagining of the role of the state?  One thing is for sure.  If we move in anything like this direction, whilst continuing to protect health and pensions, the role and shape of the state will have changed beyond recognition.”

IFS Questions Mr Osborne’s Plans

The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a highly-respected, independent think-tank.  They describe themselves thus:  “Our goal at the IFS is to promote effective economic and social policies by better understanding...

Osborne.jpg

Under this Coalition government, public finances are out of control. 

In the first four years (2010-14) the total accumulated National Debt rose from £750 billion to £1,250 billion.  So much for Mr Osborne’s sound public finances. 

Despite Mr Osborne’s austerity, the government deficit is out of control.  He said that he would balance the books by 2015.  There’s no chance of that now:  on current trends, over the next 5 years a Conservative government would have to borrow £75 billion more than it has forecast – and the annual deficit is currently rising ….

Mr Osborne is a serial offender when it comes to his mistaken forecasts – on GDP growth, and on government borrowing, and on the National Debt, and on the (below inflation) growth of wages.  Here are the grim figures.

GDP growth:  much lower than Mr Osborne forecast in 2010

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Government borrowing:  considerably higher every year than Mr Osborne forecast

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The National Debt: much higher as a share of GDP than Mr Osborne predicted in 2010

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Wages:  grown much less than Mr Osborne predicted four years ago

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Source:  The Independent 2 December 2014

 

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Mr George Osborne is a Failed Chancellor

Under this Coalition government, public finances are out of control.  In the first four years (2010-14) the total accumulated National Debt rose from £750 billion to £1,250 billion.  So much...

The choice is clear: You can either vote for the Green Party, or for a green government, and that can only mean a Labour government.

By Sadiq Khan M, The Independent, 25 November 2014

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Most Green Party supporters share the same values and aims as the Labour Party: reducing inequality, saving the NHS, building more homes, a commitment to human rights and civil liberties and protecting our environment.  It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and it’s why we entered politics.

Like me, they were proud of the many amazing achievements of the last Labour government: the introduction of the minimum wage, reducing child poverty by a third, the introduction of the Human Rights Act, civil partnerships and the ground-breaking Climate Change Act. But after 13 years of Labour government, they also had concerns on issues such as civil liberties and the Iraq war.

These concerns were shared by Ed Miliband in 2010.  It’s why he ran for the leadership of the Labour Party on a message of change, it’s why I decided to support him and, ultimately, it’s why he won.  Under Ed’s leadership Labour has rediscovered its radicalism and boldness and we have redoubled our historic fight against inequality.

Labour’s policies are the most radical of any party, six months away from a general election that there’s every chance we will win.  Reducing inequality is at the heart of our economic agenda.  We will massively increase the minimum wage, bring back the 10p tax rate for low earners and scrap the bedroom tax.  We will introduce a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2m, and bring back the bankers’ bonus tax and the 50p tax rate for the very wealthiest.  We will build 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament, invest at least £2.5bn in the NHS and make schools accountable to local communities again.

On human rights and civil liberties, we are committed to defending our Human Rights Act from Tory attacks and staying in the European Court of Human Rights.  We will extend voting to 16- and 17-year-olds.  And we will end the abuse of stop-and-search powers.  When it comes to foreign policy, Ed has apologised for the Iraq war, which both he and I opposed.  We stopped David Cameron’s rush to war in Syria last year, and just last month we voted in Parliament to recognise Palestine.

Ed’s environmental credentials put David Cameron to shame.  Ed was the first Secretary of State for Climate Change – a position he fought to create.  He played a key role in saving the Copenhagen climate change negotiations from collapse.  We will build on our Climate Change Act by creating 1.5 million new green jobs by 2025, making five million homes energy-efficient within 10 years and make the UK’s energy supply carbon-free by 2030.

There will always be those who say we need to go further.  But ideals alone are not enough – it’s action that makes a difference to people’s lives.  I visited Brighton last week, where the Green Party has run the council since 2011.  The council is in real trouble and deeply unpopular with local people.  Recycling rates have fallen dramatically and are now among the worst in the country. Less than a third of the affordable homes that were promised have been built.  There have been months of strikes by council workers because pay and conditions have been attacked. Piles of rubbish were left festering on the streets throughout a summer of discontent.  For me, the failed Green experiment in Brighton shows that creating a better society needs more than just the right values; it also needs realistic plans that can be put into action.

All the opinion polls say that the Green Party will not win a single MP next year.  Even Caroline Lucas, with whom I agree on a great many things, looks set to lose her seat.  The only party that can form a green and progressive government is Labour. 

Like it or not, under the first-past-the-post system, every vote for the Green Party only makes it one vote easier for the Conservatives to win the election.  It splits the progressive vote in many constituencies, and means that Tory candidates can win, despite a clear progressive majority opposed to them.  Voting for the Green Party next year will only make it more likely that David Cameron will stay on as Prime Minister.  That means more tax cuts for the rich, failures on climate change, and the continued privatisation of the NHS.

I want those voters considering supporting the Green Party next year to give Labour a chance to prove that we are a truly radical party again.  We will be a government they can be proud of, and I want them to vote for us with pride.  Because the choice is clear: you can either vote for the Green Party, or for a green government – and that can only mean a Labour government.

Sadiq Khan MP chairs Labour’s Green Party Strategy Unit and is shadow Justice Secretary

(This article was originally published by The Indepdent on the 25th of November 2014. The original article can be accessed using the following link)

Sadiq Kahn: Vote Labour for a Green Government

The choice is clear: You can either vote for the Green Party, or for a green government, and that can only mean a Labour government. By Sadiq Khan M, The...

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest (“CHPI”) has recently published a report called The return of PFI – will the NHS pay a higher price for new hospitals?

The report reveals the extent of the cost and idiocy of PFI deals by governments.

In Wolverhampton several years ago New Cross tried to enlist the support of the then 3 MPs (messrs Turner, Purchase and Marris) for a massive PFI scheme there.  We point blank refused, because PFI is an expensive millstone.  We succeeded:  apart from the relatively small PFI for Radiology (signed before the 3 of us were MPs together), as far as I am aware there is still no PFI at New Cross.  (Contrary to what some think, the Heart/Lung Centre was not PFI-funded.)

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CHPI describes itself as “an independent think tank committed to health and social care policies based on accountability and the public interest.  The Centre seeks to frame the policy debate in a way that is evidence-based and open and accessible to citizens.”  They found that:

  • About 2% of the NHS budget is spent each year an making the annual payments for PFI hospitals and medical facilities
  • NHS hospitals with a PFI contract have had to cut their spending on staff and equipment because of the burden of PFI repayments
  • NHS hospitals with a PFI contract are more likely to get into financial difficulty
  • There is profiteering in some PFI schemes, with some investors getting a 40% to 70% in annual returns (= interest)
  • The Coalition government continues to hide PFI deals, by not counting them as public expenditure nor as part of the fast-rising National Debt 
  • The Coalition government’s reform of PFI is called “PFI.2”, and it will be even more expensive!

PFI is a nonsense.  Under PFI, a private company itself pays for a government building etc., and then runs it.  In return, the company makes an annual charge to the government for that facility.  The lengths of the agreements range between 30 and 60 years.

Basically, it’s a landlord/tenant agreement, with the landlord being the company and the tenant being the government.  Like any tenancy agreement, the owner of the property gets it paid for by the tenant.  That’s why so many people want to buy their own homes, so they’re not paying rent for evermore.

The alternative is much cheaper:  the government borrows the money – at a much lower interest rate than a private company can – and builds and runs the facility itself.  For government, the drawback is that such borrowing would have to be revealed as part of the National Debt. 

Conversely, PFI is not listed as part of the National Debt.  So successive governments have used PFI to disguise their real borrowing.  Disastrously, the costs are far higher, and will haunt future generations.  It’s a bit like telling your mum that you did not spend £150 on that new jacket.  You hope that you can avoid telling her is that you bought on the drip (meaning the ultimate cost will be about £300 ... ).

The Labour government used PFI extensively; again, to hide government borrowing.  I always publicly opposed PFI, and demanded that such borrowing be counted as part of the National Debt.  They refused. 

When they were in Opposition, the Conservatives also rightly demanded that PFI be counted as National Debt, and complained about its cost.  They promised that in government they would not use PFI, and that the existing schemes would be counted as National Debt.  As is sadly so often the case, now they’re in government the Conservatives have broken both of those promises:  they have been using PFI a great deal; and they do not count it as National Debt – no doubt because (even without counting PFI) the National Debt has risen by over two-thirds in just 4 years under this government.

Now, the Tories have introduced an updated version of PFI dubbed “PFI.2” – which the CHPI report finds will cost even more.  

You couldn’t make it up …

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

The Idiocy of Private Finance Initiative Funding

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest (“CHPI”) has recently published a report called The return of PFI – will the NHS pay a higher price for new hospitals?...

For many years I have been a supporter of the Wolverhampton Rheumatology Support Group, of which I am a member. 

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At our AGM on 15 September 2014, we passed a resolution expressing some concerns about the proposed shift of some services from New Cross to Cannock.  We asked our Executive members to send a delegation to meet the Chief Executive of New Cross, Mr David Loughton. 

Below is our Secretary’s report of that meeting with the Chief Executive. 

I am pleased that Mr Loughton was constructive and provided some reassurances.  I pay tribute to Mr Loughton for his flexibility and his generosity, and I congratulate the WRSG representatives for their positive and productive discussion with him.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

 

Secretary’s report on meeting with Mr Loughton              25 November 2014

I am pleased to say that the meeting went exceptionally well.  Mr Loughton took time to explain to us that, because parts of Stafford Hospital are being closed, New Cross needs to move 100 beds out of Wolverhampton to Cannock Hospital to make room for some of Stafford’s the Accidents & Emergencies to come to New Cross.

Rheumatology Day Care and out patients will still be seen at New Cross.  

Rheumatology staff – except Day Care & Out Patients – will transfer to Cannock.

Complex cases and major operations will be done at New Cross.  Each patient will have a personal risk assessment on their health in general and their care needs following surgery, to determine where they will have the surgery. 

We were told that there are more than enough bed spaces at Cannock for Rheumatology Patients.  There is also a new Rheumatology Unit going to be built.  This is expected to be completed around the middle of 2015.

Transport:  Arriva will be putting on a bus service every hour on the half hour:  starting in Wolverhampton bus station at 06.30; picking up at New Cross A&E, Heart and Lung Centre; then directly to Cannock hospital.  The last bus will leave Cannock hospital at 21.30.

If a patient has an appointment letter, there will be NO charge.  Otherwise, normal fees/bus passes will be enforced.   The bus will be a single decker bus with a tail lift / ramp for wheelchair access.

Patients, carers/patients’ visitors and hospital staff will be using this service. 

Car Parking at Cannock Hospital

Disability parking is next to the hospital. 

The council’s staff car park – just across the road – has been handed over to the hospital, providing a further 200 spaces.   There will be a zebra crossing leading from the car park to the hospital.  Mr Loughton advised that there is a grassed area in front of the hospital which, if necessary, will be made into a car parking area.

Also at the meeting, we were discussing how WRSG fund a Managing Arthritis course for members, at a cost of £3,000.  David Loughton very kindly agreed to fund a course once a year, and is making arrangements for annual funding to our group.

Some changes have already been put in place.  However things do sound better than when we were updated at our AGM.

An update will be printed in the next newsletters to all members.

Jan Simpson, WRSG Secretary

Good News for Rheumatology Patients

For many years I have been a supporter of the Wolverhampton Rheumatology Support Group, of which I am a member.    At our AGM on 15 September 2014, we passed...

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