Letters October 2011 - March 2012

This new Health Bill is a real concern

Wednesday 28th March 2012

SIR - The new Health and Social Care Bill proposes a much more complex NHS structure. Rather than giving power to local GPs, it creates confusion about individual bodies' roles and responsibilities, as well as a crisis of accountability. It removes the statutory duty to provide public health services for children, smoking cessation services, alcohol and drug services and a raft of other crucial services. It allows hospitals to use nearly half our public beds for private work and allows private companies to cherrypick the easiest cases for treatment.

Despite hollow Government assurances and some cosmetic changes to the Health and Social Care Bill in recent weeks, the reality is that its main purpose - to vastly increase the commercialisation of the NHS - remains intact. This is not scaremongering. We can already see the ground opening up to more NHS hospitals being run by the private sector. For example, George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire confirmed that it is open to a takeover and is in talks with potential private partners. As has been said before in these letters pages, the Government has no mandate for any of this, from the voters or in the coalition agreement.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Government is so wrong over health

Thursday 22nd March 2012

SIR - Bryan West wrote in his letter (Worcester News, March 3) that he does not understand what is wrong with competition within the NHS and that he does not care who provides health care, "so long as I receive the best available service, free at the point of delivery". However, many health service professionals believe the Government's Health and Social Care Bill will lead to a damaging fragmentation of the NHS.

Last year, Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association's hospital consultants committee, warned that the proposed changes would force NHS hospitals to compete with private firms. He said: "We fear that one unintended but inevitable effect of the Bill will be to reintroduce the patchwork provision that marked services in this country before the NHS." The changes to the NHS may also lead to the introduction of charging and top-up payments for services that are currently free. The Government has failed to make the case for drastic change.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Please use facts to back your arguments

Friday 16th March 2012

SIR - I am writing in response to Councillor Chris Mitchell's letter (Worcester News, March 8). He wrote that, "Barack Obama is a president who ran his last campaign on bringing the troops out of Iraq". The biggest US embassy in the world is in Baghdad, therefore there has not been a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Councillor Mitchell takes exception to the reference to Israel as a "terror state". Two days after his letter was published, Israeli forces killed 15 residents of the Gaza Strip. In May 2010, Israeli commandos killed nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla that was en route to Gaza.

Coun Mitchell doubts that David Cameron is a warmonger, yet the Prime Minister has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistanand led the country into war in Libya, which has cost the taxpayer billions of pounds. Finally, I don't believe that it is correct to say, as Councillor Mitchell did, that the Prime Minister is "successfully tackling" a financial deficit caused by the banks by cutting and privatising public services such as the NHS. Indeed, it is a pity that some elected officials seem reluctant to make arguments based on facts.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Bill will mean the end of NHS at we know it

Monday 12th March 2012

SIR- The British Medical Association (BMA) - founded by Charles Hastings in Worcester in 1832 - recently said that the Government's Health and Social Care Bill would be "irreversibly damaging to the NHS". It denounced the Bill as "complex, incoherent and not fit for purpose, and almost impossible to implement successfully, given widespread opposition across the NHS workforce".
David Cameron said that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS, but the Government is pushing through the biggest top-down reorganisation of the NHS in its history.

At a public meeting in Worcester last July, Robin Walker acknowledged that the reorganisation could divert resources, yet he recently said that "what the NHS needs now is to get on with implementing many of the changes" contained within the proposed Health and Social Care bill. The Bill would entail the privatisation (i.e. the end) of the NHS. Privatisation is about making profits out of existing services for private shareholders, not making sure that people get the best care possible. It would be refreshing if our MP acknowledged this too.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Move your money to more ethical forms

Friday 9th March 2012

SIR - Are you appalled at bankers' bonuses, salaries and stock options? That their trading and lending practices have left the Western world's economy in ruins?
Would you rather your money worked for the good of society and the environment?

If you've answered yes to any or all of these, then you may want to join the thousands of people who are pledging to move their money away from one of the big five banks. MoveYourMoney.org.uk provides information to help you move away from the major banks to more ethical forms of banking. The process is far easier than people think, with your new bank managing all your various direct debits and standing orders. As an individual, you can't restore fairness to our financial system, but you can do something: Move Your Money!

MATTHEW JENKINS
Worcester Green Party 

There are at least 300,000 empty homes

Monday 5th March 2012

SIR - Re Steve Davis' letter ‘Why have the Greens got it so wrong?' (Worcester News, February 24). Our country's duty to allow refugees residency is one thing; new arrivals representing unsustainable pressures on the ecology of the receiving community is another issue. The Green Party has core principles of protecting wildlife habitats, green space and agricultural land.

There are many options for housing that can be explored before greenfield development. There are also at least 300,000 empty properties that people could live in. There are numerous families unable to find homes of their own and yet, paradoxically, landlords are happy to leave them empty.

We aim to reform land and property taxation to remedy this absurd situation. What is the point of bulldozing forests to build houses while there are homes standing empty? We are also one of the only parties to address population levels as a key factor in sustainability - indeed, only last month did members of Worcester Green Party discuss hosting a public meeting about population. It seems that a lot of the time we are in agreement with Mr Davis.

JUSTIN KIRBY
Worcester Green Party 

Mr Davis, I'd love to meet for a chat

Friday 2nd March 2012

SIR - As I wrote in a letter to the Worcester News last December, I would like to invite regular Worcester News letter writer Steve Davis to get in touch, as it is clear that he is very knowledgeable about ‘green' issues. Ecological, economic, social and community sustainability are the cornerstones of Green Party policy - things Mr Davis appears to support.

I would encourage him to help us campaign for a more rational, environmentally sustainable and compassionate future.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Why we must not ignore wind power

Thursday 1st March 2012

SIR - Worcester's very own Don Quixote has been tilting at windmills - again. I refer to John Phillpott and his column in the Worcester News (February 4). He seems to blame the Green Party for all the turbines, which credits us with a gratifying level of power and influence. It is nations and major companies that are investing in wind power, recognising it makes a modest but significant contribution to the future energy mix as fossil fuels diminish. It will never be the whole answer, but in windy places such as Britain it cannot be ignored.

Why should we seek alternatives to fossil fuels when other major countries such as India and China are still exploiting them? Britain led the world in an industrial revolution based on fossil fuels and the world is slowly waking up to the resulting climate change crisis. It is morally right that we should again be in the vanguard, finding alternatives for the sake of future generations.

But there are practical reasons too. Our own fossil fuel reserves are in steep decline. Renewables make good business sense, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Yet already we are being left behind as India makes ambitious strides and China tops the world rankings for renewable energy production. A recent WWF report shows that ‘business as usual' is a false economy. With political commitment and an annual investment of just two per cent of global GDP, renewables could meet world energy needs by 2050.

ROBERT WILKINS
Worcester Green Party 

Concern for others must be driving force

Wednesday 29th February 2012

SIR - Is capitalism compatible with Christianity? If Christianity means a belief in behaving decently and looking after each other, then capitalism in its current form is certainly not compatible with it. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said recently: "Moral capitalism seems to be the flavour of the month, with the big parties' analysis failing to grasp the real problem with our economic system - that it is not operating within ecological limits."

Indeed, neoliberalism and the pursuit of infinite growth on a finite planet will make life miserable for even more people. We need an economic system that places a concern for others at its heart and recognises the rights and welfare of future generations.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Yes, Mr Milne, you're right over the NHS

Tuesday 28th February 2012

SIR - It has become increasingly obvious that the Government is determined to drastically change the NHS so that it is run for profit. It has spoken with international health corporations about taking over hospitals and it has raised the cap on the proportion of income that English hospitals can raise from private work from about two per cent to 49 per cent.

As Seumas Milne [Guardian columnist and associate editor] wrote in the Guardian on January 24, the Government's Health and Social Bill would "open the way for the privatisation of funding, the introduction of charging and top-up payments for services that are currently free, and the cherry-picking of patients by commissioning groups - which will no longer have a duty to promote a comprehensive free health service... To most people in Britain, the NHS is a uniquely popular and progressive institution that touches almost everyone's lives. To the Tories and their friends it's a huge untapped business opportunity."

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Jargon is an attempt to confuse and mystify

Friday 24th February 2012

SIR - I enjoyed James Connell's article titled ‘I've had enough of your gobbledygook' (Worcester News, February 15). I thought that his comments about jargon were absolutely spot-on: "Jargon hides things, important things, things you need to know, things about life and death", and "Jargon is a conscious attempt to confuse and mystify the ordinary man and woman". They reminded me of George Orwell's famous quote: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible... Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable."

A modern example of this sort of deceit is surely the repeated use of the term ‘efficiency savings' instead of cuts, which sounds benign but often hides the misery of job losses, poorer working conditions, and damaged public services. Call a spade a spade - these are cuts.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

The Green Party offers an alternative

Wednesday 22nd February 2012

SIR - In her letter (Worcester News, February 6), Joy Squires wrote that Labour is "the only political party truly fighting for fairness in these tough times".
This flies in the face of the evidence. Just two years ago a report by the National Equality Panel concluded that the gap between rich and poor had grown wider under Labour than at any time since the Second World War.

The Con-Dem cuts and unwillingness to tackle the greed of bankers bailed out with public money means that this gap is growing.
However, the Green Party does offer a genuine alternative to the three main parties, with comprehensive policies that really would deliver a fairer society.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Wind turbines are just part of the answer

Thursday 16th February 2012

SIR - In his weekly Saturday column (Worcester News, February 4) John Phillpott challenges me to renounce wind turbines.
In the context of man's polluting of our atmosphere with CO2 and the effect it is already having on changing our climate it is imperative that we act quickly to reduce our CO2 emissions.
Clearly we should be careful where we put our turbines by avoiding our most treasured landscapes and sites close to migratory bird routes. Wind turbines are just part of the answer - we also need to invest in solar PV panels and reduce our energy usage by insulating all our homes and providing better alternatives to fossil-fuelled cars.

John mentions that the wind can be intermittent requiring back-up capacity from other sources. As the amount of electricity we generate from the wind increases we will need to use renewable energy peaks by developing dynamic demand and load balancing technologies including the charging of battery-powered vehicles and electric heating of district hot water. Building more nuclear power stations is not the answer.

Even if we were to double the current number of nuclear power stations we would only reduce the UK's total CO2 emissions by eight per cent. Incredibly, this Government is actually reducing the financial subsidies on solar PV panels. If we do not use wind turbines as part of the switch away form fossil fuels what other options do we have?

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

Please don't make same mistakes again

Thursday 9th February 2012

SIR - Why haven't we learned the lessons from the Iraq war? The same reasons for attacking Iraq are being obediently repeated as reasons for attacking Iran. When will this madness end? You would have thought that the Government would be more interested in sorting out our own problems here, such as increasing unemployment.

I hope that Jeremy Corbyn MP is correct to write that: "The generation that opposed the Afghan and Iraq wars in their millions is not going to stand for yet another conflict to waste resources, destroy lives and make the world an even more dangerous place."

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

We must stand up for our libraries

Wednesday 8th February 2012

SIR - The Worcester News reported that up to 30 library staff in Worcestershire are set to lose their jobs (December 16). There will also be less money available to buy new stock. A month later (January 17) the Worcester News reported that Gorse Hill Community Primary School recently received a donation of £1,000 worth of books from Robin Walker MP, which he won in a quiz. While Mr Walker's donation was undoubtedly generous, it looks like a drop in the ocean when one considers what the Government is doing to our libraries. We have to ask whether Mr Walker really cares enough about child literacy to challenge his Government's policies?

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

It's investment we need, not yet more cuts

Thursday 2nd February 2012

SIR - Through sheer repetition, the Con-Dem Government has convinced a lot of people that the deficit was caused by excessive state spending. It has cut thousands of jobs, which has predictably worsened the recession. Instead of cuts, we need to create jobs. In the late 1940s government debt was almost 250 per cent of GDP. There was no talk of a crisis in Britain at the time; no talk of the necessity for cuts in public services or pensions to service debt.

The immediate post-war period saw the creation of a universal welfare state. The Government has been creating a panic over the national debt in order to destroy the welfare state and to give up the NHS to wholesale privatisation. The vast majority of us did not cause this ‘crisis' and we shouldn't have to pay for it.

According to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), there is an estimated £120 billion in uncollected and evaded tax out there - money that is owed to the State. Therefore, how can anyone come to the conclusion that cutting and privatising public services is necessary?

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

We could repay debts over a longer period

Wednesday 25th January 2012

SIR - Clive Eardley wrote in his Old Grumpy column with reference to the financial crisis that "the burden of cost (a mere £58 billion) is placed on to those members of society who do not wield power, in other words most of us, while we are told to tighten our belts because ‘we're all in this together'..."

We could indeed look at repaying the debt over a longer period of time, but the Con-Dems are determined to exploit the financial crisis to drive through as much privatisation as quickly as possible. If we want unvarnished truth, we will have to depend on people such as Clive Eardley, not politicians sticking to a script that suits big business.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Many civilians died because of illegal war

Tuesday 24th January 2012

SIR - Despite the recent withdrawal of troops, the US continues to seek a long-term presence in Iraq, as evidenced by the building of the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad. More than a million civilians died and millions more were injured or became refugees as a result of the illegal war. George Bush and Tony Blair will forever be associated with this imperialist war and the lies about weapons of mass destruction that led to it. They claimed they wanted to free Iraqis from a dictator. David Cameron claimed he wanted to free Libyans from a dictator. It is worth recalling what George Orwell said: "War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it".

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

We are certainly not 'all in this together'

1:40pm Thursday 19th January 2012 inRead

SIR - John Phillpott wrote that "there is no doubt that casino banking... has been a major factor in causing this country's problems", and he suggested that public sector workers must "take the same medicine as everyone else" in order to pay for a crisis caused by the private sector (Worcester News, 7/1/12). However, it is increasingly obvious that we are not all taking the medicine that Mr Phillpott prescribes. Indeed, we are certainly not ‘all in this together'.

As hundreds of thousands more jobs are scrapped in the public sector, the bankers and speculators continue to enjoy their massive salaries, bonuses and pension pots. The Bank of England estimates the total cost of the bank bailouts to be £1.3 trillion. The banks and financial institutions should pay for the financial crisis, not public sector workers.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

PM should be sent to the back benches

Monday 16th January 2012

SIR - The Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez was fined £40,000 and banned for eight matches for racially abusing a fellow player. The Prime Minister abused a fellow MP with a callous jibe referring to Tourette's syndrome, a distressing medical condition, yet he got away with a half-hearted apology.

If David Cameron wanted to lead by example, he would make a large donation to charity and send himself to the back benches for eight weeks - if only.

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

Carbon emissions lead to climate collapse

Wednesday 4th January 2012

SIR - With reference to his letter of December 23, I would like to invite Steve Davis to get in touch, as it is clear that he is very knowledgeable about green issues (contact details can be found on the Worcester Green Party website). In the meantime, I would like to assure him that I am extremely worried about the environment.

The recent UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, ended with a commitment to talk about a legally-binding deal to cut carbon emissions that would be agreed by 2015 and come into effect by 2020. That means that carbon emissions, already at their peak, will continue to increase for at least the next eight years, pushing humanity closer to the brink of climate collapse. The misery that will result from corporate interests pursuing short-term profit at any cost is beyond calculation - it is not just the crime of the century; it is the crime of all history.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Corporate greed is the crime of all history

Tuesday 3rd January 2012

SIR - With reference to his letter ‘The real problem here is immigration' (Worcester News, December 23) I would like to invite Steve Davis to get in touch, as it is clear that he is very knowledgeable about green issues (the Green Party's contact details can be found on the Worcester Green Party website). In the meantime, I would like to assure him that I am extremely worried about the environment. The recent UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa, ended with a commitment to talk about a legally-binding deal to cut carbon emissions that would be agreed by 2015 and come into effect by 2020.

That means that carbon emissions, already at their peak, will continue to increase for at least the next eight years, pushing humanity closer to the brink of climate collapse. The misery that will result from corporate interests pursuing short-term profit at any cost is beyond calculation - it is not just the crime of the century, it is the crime of all history.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

The racing industry must clean up its act

Thursday 29th December 2011

SIR - Worcester is among the cities that benefits greatly from money generated by the horseracing industry. Many people enjoy a family day out at the racecourse watching beautiful thoroughbreds racing for their owner's fame and glory. However, there is a darker side to the racing industry.

Due to irresponsible breeding, many racehorses never see a racecourse, just an abattoir, with their meat being sent abroad for European dinner plates. The sad fact is that too many are being bred and not enough money is being allocated to the re-homing of suitable ex-racehorses.

The Green Party favours the total banning of the whip and much stricter controls on the height of jumps and the length of races to ensure racehorse welfare and comply with RSPCA recommendations. The industry needs to clean up its act so that our enjoyment is not tainted by animal abuse.

LINDA JACKSON
Worcester Green Party 

The real reason that Cameron defied the EU

Wednesday 21st December 2011

SIR - Two weeks ago David Cameron's inept diplomacy allowed our country to become isolated in Europe by refusing to support a multi-national plan to rescue the ailing economic woes within Europe. It seems that his main motivation was not to resist the new accord because of his opposition to the mass transfer of power from member states to a bureaucratic centre but because of his opposition to the mere possibility of the introduction of a financial transaction tax in the City of London, otherwise known as the Robin Hood tax.

A Robin Hood tax levied on all share transactions of 0.1 per cent could pay for a fund to eliminate world hunger and measures to counteract the effects of climate change on the most endangered peoples of the world. The effect on good longterm investments such as pensions would be negligible but the effect on very high frequency traders would be far more significant by effectively applying the brakes to these ‘bad' investments.

We need to get back to why the stock markets were created - to create a source of money for investment not for the casino capitalists getting rich by speculation in second order derivative markets. David Cameron's stand was based not on a point of principle but on his desire to protect the principal backers of the Conservative party namely the square mile of the City of London.

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

The greenest ever? You're having a laugh

Friday 16th December 2011

SIR - 200,000 members of the National Trust have signed a petition opposing the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation, as they fear that the Government is prioritising economic growth over long-term protection of the countryside when it comes to planning decisions.

As was reported in the Worcester News on November 18, funding is being cut for household solar energy. Wasn't this Government meant to be "the greenest ever"?

Neil Laurenson
Worcester Green Party 

We should listen to these wise men

Thursday 15th December 2011

SIR - The Dean of Worcester, the Very Rev Peter Atkinson, wrote in his column in the Worcester News (November 2) with regards to the demonstration outside St Paul's Cathedral: "Any follower of Jesus must protest against a society which defines itself exclusively in terms of money... I mean the kind of society in which individuals are at the mercy of a global economy which governments seem unable to control. That is not a society that respects the dignity of the human individual."

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu - the second most senior figure in the Church of England - said that excesses in the financial sector have demonstrated how "scandalously unfair"
society has become. He said: "No one wants a dog eat dog society in which people feel obliged simply to fend for themselves... Each thousand pounds of tax avoided presumably means an additional thousand pounds of cuts to public services on which the least well-off are particularly dependent."

If only the Government and our local councils would heed his and the Dean of Worcester's words.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

We must eradicate scourge of fuel poverty

2:42pm Wednesday 14th December 2011

We must eradicate scourge of fuel poverty SIR - Successive governments have failed to tackle the increasing number of households struggling to heat their homes. A quarter of all homes are now in fuel poverty. This looks set to increase as fuel prices go up and government support for energy efficiency measures for the most vulnerable goes down. Next year will be the first time in three decades that there has been no Treasury-funded scheme for those in fuel poverty.

Instead, the Government is introducing a new energy company obligation (ECO) as part of its flagship Green Deal programme. Earlier this year, ministers assured us that this new obligation would provide a "far greater level of resource" to tackle fuel poverty when it replaces the existing schemes, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Warm Front. But in the past couple of weeks, those same ministers were unable to answer a direct question on how the ECO's pitiful £325 million a year for fuel-poor homes is "far greater" than the 2010-11 Warm Front spending of £370 million or CERT's spending of about £600 million a year on vulnerable households.

This is not just a question of pounds and pence. Last winter, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were more than 25,000 premature deaths in this country because people could not keep warm in their homes. Government inaction to control the oligopoly of the big, profit-hungry energy companies or to help households to cut their bills means that yet more lives could be lost unnecessarily this winter. The Government is currently consulting on the Green Deal and its ECO proposals.

I would urge anyone concerned about the fuel poor to respond to this consultation to ensure that all homes are properly insulated and the scourge of fuel poverty is eradicated once and for all.

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

Attacking Iran would risk major destruction

3:24pm Monday 12th December 2011 in Read

SIR - Recent reports that the MoD is drawing up plans for military action against Iran are deeply worrying. Any attack on Iran would risk a wave of destruction across the Middle East. The West is justifying tightened sanctions and an increasingly aggressive posture with a series of vague claims that Iran is trying to protect its nuclear reactors and defying sanctions. These claims are about as convincing as those used to justify the attack on Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US is sending more troops, warships and arms to the region. All this as they remain silent about the well documented strengthening of the Israeli nuclear arsenal. The UN Charter states that: ‘All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state...' The US and UK governments have repeatedly threatened force against Iran, and these threats could lead to absolutely dire consequences.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

MP was wrong over sympathy for strike

2:55pm Tuesday 6th December 2011 inRead

SIR - An opinion poll commissioned by BBC News before the national pensions strike suggested that 61 per cent of people believe public sector workers are justified in going on strike over pension changes, therefore Mark Garnier MP was wrong when he wrote in the Worcester News that "most people have little or no sympathy" with people on strike (December 1). Indeed, I observed a lot of support for the strike in Worcester.

Contrary to what Mr Garnier believes, the pensions are affordable, as concluded by the National Audit Office last year. He also wrote, without quoting sources, that "public sector pensions pay out about three times as much as a private sector worker will expect in retirement". Lord Hutton wrote in his report on pensions commissioned by the Government that he regards public sector pensions as far from "gold-plated". As Brian Reade wrote in the Daily Mirror the day after the strikes, the Government is exploiting the national debt in order to "smash the public sector, creating a pool of cheap, unprotected labour which will make it easier to privatise."

I completely agree that going on strike is "the last legal resort to protect an unprecedented onslaught on future standards of living."

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Young, poor and disabled hit hardest by cuts

12:19pm Wednesday 23rd November 2011 in Read

SIR - In your editorial ‘Youth cuts come at worst time' (Worcester News, November 18) you wrote that "the combination of youth, joblessness and boredom can be a toxic one - not just for those immediately affected, but for society as a whole". Indeed, before the August riots that started in Tottenham, Haringey Council had closed eight of the borough's 13 youth clubs.
The Government's cuts are overwhelmingly affecting the young, the poor, the disabled and the otherwise vulnerable. Not only should we oppose the cuts because they are unnecessary and damaging, but we should do so because we must show that a civilized society cares for these groups.

Neil Laurenson
Worcester Green Party 

So just who would be accountable?

3:42pm Tuesday 15th November 2011 in Read

SIR - Worcestershire County Council has declared that it will become a ‘commissioning council' and some councillors would argue that the private sector would do a better job than council employees. However, what would happen if a private company did a bad job? Who would be accountable? Would there be any point in complaining to councillors?

Surely if a private company did do a bad job, councillors would avoid taking responsibility because they would say it's the company's fault. Likewise, the private company could defend itself by arguing that they are not elected representatives, therefore they don't need to answer to the public.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

If this Bill becomes law, the NHS is finished

1:30pm Thursday 10th November 2011

SIR - The Health Minister Andrew Lansley is pushing a Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament that will force NHS hospitals to compete with private firms. The Bill would lead to a privatised health service and we would no longer have a universal system free at the point of delivery. Douglas Green, a GP in east London, said: "The same forces that wrecked the economy are queuing up to take over the health service." Dr Laurence Buckman, a senior representative from the British Medical Association, said: "To have choice ahead of quality and delivering consistent healthcare is going to result in a chopped up health service with little bits competing with other little bits."

Perhaps the most damning criticism of the Government's plans for the NHS came from Baroness Thornton during the House of Lords debate on October 12 this year: "People did not expect, did not vote for and do not want these changes. The Government were not elected to do this. They do not have the electorate's mandate... There has been a breathtaking disregard for the democratic process." Indeed, if the new Health and Social Bill becomes law it will mean the end of the NHS.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

More cuts? They just make things worse

12:59pm Thursday 3rd November 2011

SIR - Richard Vernalls recently reported in the Worcester Newsthat Worcestershire County Council wants to cut £20 million next year in addition to the £30 million it had already intended to cut (October 21).

I find it incredible that the justification for even more cuts to local services is that the economy is not doing well - one reason why the economy is not doing well is the impact of cuts that have already happened. The county council's chief executive Trish Haines claimed that the council "isn't out-sourcing", but this is contradicted by the statement on the council's website that the council has "a clear commitment to changing the way (it) works... The authority will become a ‘commissioning council'..."

Indeed, Mr Vernalls goes on to write that "the council's savings programme means it is transforming from an authority which mainly provides services to one that pays for services instead".
Also, let's be clear: these aren't savings; these are cuts - cuts that are being made because of a crisis caused by the banks, not public overspending.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Local development must be sustainable

12:00pm Wednesday 2nd November 2011

Local development must be sustainable SIR - Ill thought through local development will damage the regions. We cannot and should not rely on the welfare state to reduce poverty and inequality in Worcester.

A better way to reduce poverty is to create a prosperous local economy based on local small businesses. The Green Party has a whole raft of ideas to support Worcester's local businesses from reducing small businesses' corporation tax back down to 20 per cent, simplifying the PAYE system and introducing legislation to penalise late payments.

When we should be doing so much more to encourage small businesses it is interesting to note that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), commenting on the Government's Local Governments Resource Review, is concerned that the Government's rush towards ill thought out development simply to generate quick revenue will actually damage the regions in the long run.

The Green Party backs the FSB view that it is supportive of a system which incentivises local councils to prioritise business growth, it is imperative that any incentive encourages small business growth, not just large scale developments especially out-of-town developments. This should be done through robust planning protections for the high street and town centres by looking at the review in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that it supports town centres and the overall goal of long-term sustainable growth.

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

Forget surveys, we just want some action

9:48am Wednesday 2nd November 2011

SIR - According to Worcestershire County Council, the results of the fourth Worcestershire Viewpoint survey are being used to develop and improve local services. A total of 3,408 responses to the survey have been received from a population of 557,400 - or 0.6 per cent. The survey feedback also says that opinion is fairly evenly split on whether local councils should provide services themselves where other organisations are able to do so to the same quality and cost.

However, Worcestershire County Council leader Adrian Hardman explains in his foreword to the council's Corporate Plan for 2011-16 that the council will become a commissioning council. Therefore, even if the response to the survey had been 99.6 per cent rather than 0.6 per cent, the council would still ignore people's views while it pursues its mission to privatise services.

The same survey feedback says that patient choice is an increasing priority for NHS Worcestershire. ‘Choice' means privatisation, and privatisation means profits for shareholders, not quality services for local people. Rather than wait for another survey, I think we should speak out now about what the county council is doing.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

Time for lobbyists to be transparent

2:56pm Wednesday 26th October 2011

SIR - The recent scandal surrounding former Defence Secretary Liam Fox is just the latest in a series of controversies in which the secretive activities of lobbyists have been exposed.
Health and banking reform, Rupert Murdoch and now Dr Liam Fox - where will it all end?

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency was set up in 2007 with a number of organisations including Unlock Democracy, Spinwatch, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. A system should be put in place to ensure that all lobbyists publicly register their meetings and contact with civil servants and politicians. It would ensure that scandals such as the one embroiling Liam Fox could be exposed much more quickly.

LOUIS STEPHEN
Worcester Green Party 

It's too risky for the elderly to cross road

2:54pm Wednesday 19th October 2011

SIR - McAyla Johnston was given a Pride of Britain Award in recognition for her campaign to get two pelican crossings installed on London Road, Worcester, where three years ago she was hit by a car (Worcester News, October 4). Councillor Roger Knight said that "the only way we are going to get funding to install a crossing [in St Peter's] is if there is a serious accident" (Worcester News, September 7).

Cars regularly speed along Bilford Road in Worcester and elderly people have told me that they do not attempt to cross the road to get to the shop because it is too risky.
Indeed, I have been told that one elderly man was killed a few years ago while attempting to get to the shop. I am hopeful that Worcestershire County Council will be able to make Bilford Road safer for pedestrians, otherwise it is only a matter of time before another serious accident occurs.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

There always seems to be money for war

2:57pm Thursday 13th October 2011

SIR - The war in Libya will soon have cost Britain £2 billion. We were told at the start of the Nato intervention that the cost to Britain would be "tens, not hundreds of millions". The £2 billion spent on Libya comes on top of the £5 billion a year on the war in Afghanistan and the £2 billion a year spent maintaining the Trident nuclear missile system.

There is plenty of money for war, but we are repeatedly told that there is no alternative to deep cuts in the NHS, in disability allowances, pensions, and every area of public services.
Britain is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1930s, butDavid Cameron, in his recent speech to the United Nations, called for yet more war, adopting from Tony Blair the justification of "humanitarian intervention" for western powers to wage war wherever they please.

Cameron seems barely concerned about his own population - indeed, like Blair, he is prepared to sacrifice people's lives in resource-rich states such as Libya in order to increase the financial profitability of certain sectors of UK business. The main purpose of the anti-war demonstration in London on October 8 was to display opposition to the Government's policy of spending billions of our money on wars abroad while waging a war at home to cut billions from our public services.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

So, PM, this is what liberation looks like

3:44pm Monday 10th October 2011 inRead

SIR - Robin Walker MP wrote in his column (Worcester News, September 15) of the Government's "liberation of the FE sector". This reminded me of the title of the Government's White Paper, ‘Liberating the NHS'. The campaign group 38 Degrees has gathered 500,000 signatures against the ‘liberation' of our NHS. The Government seems determined to change our NHS into a US-style system. Healthcare costs the US at least 50 per cent more per person - and that's not even with full coverage. Millions of Americans have no insurance, and many medical cases are never covered by insurance.

On July 19, when the media was transfixed with the testimony of Rupert and James Murdoch to the Culture Select Committee, the Government announced that as of next April a billion pounds worth of NHS services, including wheelchair services for children, will be opened up to competitive bids from the private sector. The doctor and Daily Telegraph blogger Max Pemberton described it as "the day they signed the death warrant for the NHS". This is what liberation looks like under this Government.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party 

NHS was not meant for profit or greed

1:20pm Thursday 6th October 2011

SIR - Simon Trickett, director of strategy and business development at Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, said at a health overview and scrutiny committee meeting last month that the Government's NHS plans will entail "using competition to encourage organisations like ours to up our game and improve delivery" (Worcester News, September 21).

Dr Richard Taylor, at a press conference in Worcester on September 5, organised by Worcester Against The Cuts, said: "The private sector would cherrypick the easy things leaving the NHS to subsidise the cost of the difficult things. If it keeps all the complex things it will be bankrupt in no time - and it is broke already."

The Government is soon to vote on passing its Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords, which will mean the sell-off of our NHS - a health service that was not meant for profit or greed, but rather to provide medical care to every part of society no matter if you can afford to pay for it or not.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party

Local politicians? I'm enraged by them

3:48pm Tuesday 4th October 2011

SIR - Like several other readers writing to the Worcester News, I was appalled by the announcement that bosses at Wychavon District Council voted to give themselves a pay rise (Worcester News, September 2). [Editor's note: This proposal has since been defeated].

To quote a contributor to the Worcester News website, you would think that they would show some decency to take no increases - the same as most people in the private and public sectors. Indeed, Trish Haines, chief executive of Worcestershire County Council (salary band £167,977 to £183,725), has refused to take a pay cut while insisting that county council workers do.

I was also appalled, though unsurprised, by Councillor Marcus Hart's inability to see the difficulty that some people would have with paying for hospital parking (Worcester News, September 19). And then there is the news that councillors have congratulated themselves over the cuts to bus services (Worcester News, September 22). I have been referred to in the Worcester News letters pages as a "do-gooding nonentity" with "political aspirations", but I am regularly so enraged with what the majority of our current elected representatives are doing that I would at least like to try to bring more compassion into local government.

NEIL LAURENSON
Worcester Green Party   

Green Party Meetings

Come along to our monthly meeting to discuss our plans for Worcester and Worcestershire. Our next meeting starts at 7.30pm on Wednesday 24th January in the upstairs room at The Cricketers on Angel Street. It would be great to see some new people.

For more information, contact Louis via email or telephone 01905 359 509.