Target times for ambulances to reach some seriously ill patients could be lengthened, according to both Mail Onlineand the BBC Newswebsite.
The plan is to change maximum waiting times for certain patients – ‘Red 2’, the second most serious category – from eight minutes to 19. It would come into operation after the general election next year. Tories providing themselves with ammunition to attack a future Labour government, perhaps?
Labour, having discovered the plan in a leaked document from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, rightly wants to know why Jeremy Hunt didn’t mention it to Parliament when he appeared there after signing it off.
Being based in Wales, Vox Political would like to ask how David Cameron feels about the proposals, as they constitute an admission that ambulances in England can’t get to patients any faster than those in Wales that he likes to criticise so harshly in Prime Minister’s Questions.
There is concern that there has been no consultation on the plans and no public involvement. Paramedics, who say response times distort their ability to function because they are always chasing the clock, have responded by saying some of the patients affected – such as stroke victims – should be moved up a category to avoid the longer waits.
But there is a bigger concern.
Ambulance crews in England had to deal with 8.5 million emergency calls during the 2013-14 financial year – around 16 calls every single minute.
Taking into account the time it takes to arrive at an emergency and return either to base or to hospital with a patient (depending on the nature of the emergency) it seems clear that we have a service which is under-staffed and under-resourced.
Meanwhile we have a Conservative and Liberal Democrat government that has been hiding the true extent of unemployment while ensuring that the richest people in the UK are now twice as rich as they were in 2009 – and even then, they couldn’t have spent all their money within their own lifetimes.
The answer is obvious: Bring in progressive tax and National Insurance rates to pay for some of the unemployed to train as paramedics, and for the ambulances and equipment they would then need to use.
There is plenty of money in the UK and therefore no reason not to provide the NHS with the tools to do the job.
It seems the chief executive of a local housing association has taken issue with yr obdt srvt over the Bedroom Tax.
Shane Perkins, of Mid Wales Housing, wrote to the Powys-based County Times after I used that paper to expose an illegal action by the county council’s ruling group, aimed at preventing discussing of a motion for the council to adopt a ‘no-eviction’ policy.
The motion asked the council not to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of the Bedroom Tax. Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the vindictive policy, and this meant 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.
Members of the ruling group, realising there was a real possibility of the motion being carried, then claimed that any councillors who are social housing tenants should also be barred from taking part – a move that is against the law (to the best of my knowledge). My understanding is that a ‘general dispensation’ allows councillors who are council tenants to take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.
Mr Perkins, writing in the paper’s December 20 edition, suggests that it is almost impossible to establish whether or not a tenant has fallen into rent arrears solely as a consequence of the “pernicious” (his word) Bedroom Tax, and claims that the motion was “a meaningless ‘political’ statement”.
He makes the point that it may be possible to apply the policy where the tenant has never previously been in rent arrears, but this would be unfair on other tenants who are similarly affected now but had fallen into arrears for other reasons in the past. He asks why tenants who struggle to meet their rent payments should not receive a financial subsidy or reward for being a good and conscientious tenant; and also points out that the cumulative effect of other regressive changes to benefits is also likely to affect the rent payments of vulnerable people and, to be consistent, Labour’s motion should encompass them also.
He says all social landlords, including the council, will seek to advise and support tenants who are in financial difficulty, but “in the final analysis, if a tenant fails to pay their rent, the ultimate sanction has got to be eviction.
“To do otherwise would be irresponsible, as ultimately the cost of one tenant not paying their rent is borne by all those tenants that do pay, and spiralling arrears will ultimately affect the viability of the council’s housing, which will serve none of its tenants.”
It would be easy to pick holes in his arguments. The whole point of government policy is to make sure that nobody gets a penny more than the Conservative-led Coalition decides they should have – and this government wants to drive people into poverty – so there will be no rewards for hard work. The Labour Party, and non-political groups, has campaigned ceaselessly to force the government into assessing the cumulative impact of its changes to the benefit system, but the government has refused all such calls, knowing as it does that such research would reveal the monstrous truth about its attack on the poorest in society.
If Mr Perkins is really interested, then he should encourage his own MP to support the call for such an assessment in the debate on the ‘WoW’ Petition, due to take place in the House of Commons in the New Year. I helped write that document, which calls for (among other things) “a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform”. Labour is supporting the motion. I would suggest, therefore, that any criticism of Labour for making a “meaningless ‘political’ statement” is unfounded.
As for the difference between tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who have never been in arrears before, and those affected by it who have – this should be something a social landlord can track, especially if they are actively seeking to “advise and support” tenants. This support should include examination of a tenants income and outgoings, before and after the Tax was imposed.
The simple fact is that Mr Perkins would move offending tenants into smaller houses if he had any, but he doesn’t. He would not be talking about eviction if he did. He never built them and we must conclude that he never saw the need. Perhaps he believed that the welfare state would continue to support his tenants.
William Beveridge, the architect of that system, in the report that bears his name, said the British government should fight what he called the “giant evils” of society, including Want.
How could Beveridge know that, 70 years later, the British government would be actively increasing Want, wherever it could. That is what the Bedroom Tax, and the benefit cap, and all the other cuts brought in by this spiteful Conservative-led Coalition are about.
These measures are crimes against the citizens of this country – citizens who have paid into the State, generation after generation since the 1940s, believing that it would look after them if the spectre of Want cast its shadow at their door.
Mr Perkins describes the changes as “pernicious”, but if he allows a single tenant to be evicted then he will be a willing accomplice.
That is what he is saying when he tells us he is prepared to use this “final sanction”.
Vox Political needs your donations more than ever before! It is funded entirely by donations and book sales. This site needs YOUR support to continue. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
Unelected rulers? Thomas Watjen of Unum, Thierry Breton of Atos, and Michael Andrew of KPMG. As things stand, it seems whoever you support in 2015, these people will be behind them. Do you want that?
There is a certain kind of person who takes great delight in commenting on political blogs with a variant of the following:
“It’s no use voting! They’re all the same! It doesn’t matter what you vote for – a politician always gets in!”
No doubt you’ll be familiar with their work.
They are extremely annoying. Their insistence that all politicians are the same breed of pond scum does a huge disservice to those in public service who genuinely want to improve the lives of their fellow human beings; the fanaticism with which they disseminate their opinions may be seen as an attempt to stop ‘casual’ voters from bothering, thereby condemning the country to the current status quo.
Also, most annoyingly of all, they may have a point.
Take the three men pictured above. The one on the right is Michael Andrew, chairman of accounting firm KPMG. This is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancies who are, among other things, involved in rewriting UK tax law for George Osborne at the Treasury, partly to suit their own desires as architects of the largest tax avoidance schemes currently available to corporations and wealthy individuals resident in the UK.
Today, thanks to an illuminating blog article by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, we learn that KPMG has taken over the running of no less than a quarter of all the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that Andrew Lansley swore blind would be run by doctors when the Conservative-led Coalition government pushed through the NHS Privatisation Act of 2012 (otherwise known as the Health and Social Care Act).
The pretext for creating these organisations was that doctors were in the best position to commission health services in any part of England, as they had the detailed knowledge required to determine what was needed.
In fact it was well known that GPs would not be able to carry out this important work – it would be too much for them to take on in addition to their ‘day job’, and they simply did not have the necessary skills. Lansley knew this, and therefore knew that his law would open the door for private firms to take over.
This is borne out by an article in GP online which is now almost a year old; so readers should bear in mind that the current situation may be much further advanced. It stated that KPMG had confirmed the firm was working with “just over 50” of the 211 CCGs in England, along with 11 commissioning support units (CSUs).
The article indirectly quoted Tim Rideout, who said CCGs did not have the capacity to commission in an effective way.
This is an interesting revelation from the former chief executive of the NHS in Leicester City who was then seconded to the Department of Health as the senior responsible officer for the development of – guess what? – NHS commissioning boards. If the new commissioning groups don’t have the capacity to work properly, why didn’t he do something about it at the appropriate time?
Oh, wait. Here’s the answer: In March 2012, Mr Rideout was hired by KPMG as an associate director responsible for – who would have thought it? – commissioning.
In the same article, national clinical commissioning lead for England, Dr James Kingsland, said clinicians and GPs should not be involved in complex procurement, and added: “We are seeing a lot of misunderstandings, disillusionment and despondency.”
Mark Britnell, KPMG’s head of healthcare since 2009 – and another former NHS chief executive, was quoted by The Observer in 2011 as stating: “In future, The NHS will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer”, and that “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”
The following day, KPMG released a statement in which he said the quotes did “not properly reflect” what he had said.
So we have a firm moving to take over CCGs, helped by the fact that its roster now includes the man responsible for setting them up in the first place. Going back to Tom Pride’s piece, he states that the situation chillingly reflects the way the Dutch health service was privatised in 2006. Provision of health services is being handed over to private companies, control of the health budgetwas handed over to private consortia made of doctors and consultants, but now those consortia are being taken over by private companies.
When private firms like KPMG run all CCGs, the Conservative plan to privatise the NHS will be complete. And the NHS, it seems, will be run by Michael Andrew, head of KPMG, from his base in Hong Kong.
But the rot doesn’t stop there.
Tom Pride correctly adds that the consulting arm of KPMG has been owned, since 2002, by another company – called Atos.
That’s right – Atos. The French firm run by Thierry Breton (pictured, centre).
The firm that Ed Miliband wants to fire from running work capability assessments for the DWP will still be involved in government work – at the Department of Health.
You see how this works? Let a private company inveigle its way into the plans of politicians and there’s no getting rid of it. Like the giant squid, it extends its pseudopods into every government department it can possibly contaminate, planting a sucker onto everything it thinks it can take for itself.
Over at the DWP, as everyone should know by now, Atos have been carrying out work capability assessments on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. These were dreamed up by an insurance company called Unum, that has been working with the UK government – Conservative, Labour and Coalition – since Peter Lilley invited then-boss John LoCascio in, back in the early 1990s.
Unum is now run by Thomas Ratjen (pictured, left), who is based in Tennessee, USA. Its long-term aim seems to be the ruin of the British social security system, rendering it pointless for anyone to claim benefits. Instead, the plan appears to be to encourage working people to buy Unum insurance policies – which are themselves useless, as lawsuits in several US states have proved, while also giving the company a criminal record.
This blog recently revealed that it seemed Unum was trying to influence the policies of all three main UK political parties. The thinktank Reform, that has been part-funded by Unum, is running a fringe event at all three party conferences, entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’. This event was sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, which has Unum among its members.
Labour’s version of this event took place on Monday (September 23), hosted by Anne McGuire, shadow minister for disabled people.
She defended her role in an email today, as follows:
“I don’t know why you have been led to believe that I was hosting an event by Unum. For the record, I was speaking at a round table discussion with organisations which included the European Commission, voluntary organisations, insurance companies amongst others. As it was such a conversation, it was by invitation only as was the event I attended this morning organised though the Shaw Trust and Mencap. It is not unusual to have such events at party conference.
“I also spoke at an open meeting last night on the future of welfare reform and disabled people with many disabled people in attendance and participating.
“I am aware of the strong feelings on Unum and Atos. However I trust that you will appreciate that having discussions with a range of organisations should not be seen as anything other than that and in no way implies an endorsement of any particular company or organisation.”
It simply doesn’t ring true.
Let’s look at the context: This event was organised by a right-wing thinktank (they’re ideologically opposed to state-run social security systems) that has been sponsored by Unum; was about “new” thinking on the welfare state; was itself sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, of which Unum is a member; and representatives of insurance companies – and we’re willing to bet Unum was among them – took part in the behind-closed-doors discussion.
It seems clear that this event was intended to influence Labour Party policy away from providing a well-run and reasonable state benefit system, as was the case in the UK until Peter Lilley in the early 1990s, and towards dismantling that system to make way for a system based on privately-run insurance policies, such as those produced by Unum.
The fact that it is being mirrored at the other two party conferences clearly suggests that the firms involved want to influence all major British political parties in the same way. If successful, this would mean that it won’t matter who gets into office after the 2015 election; Unum will still be in power at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Just as KPMG will still be in power at the Treasury, and at the Department of Health, alongside its owner Atos.
And the three gentlemen pictured at the top of this article will be the unelected kings of the UK because, no matter which way you vote, they will be in charge.
That would be a good place to end this article, but then, dear reader, you might be left thinking there is nothing you can do. There is something you can do.
You can write to your MP, to local newspapers, to the party leaders and the ministers running these government departments and you can bitch like hell about it!
The people of this country deserve elected representatives who are going to run this country by their own decisions, in the best interests of the citizens who voted for them – not employees of a dubious gang of unelected corporations, running this country in their own best interests and treating the citizens like dirt.
Would you want to live in this kind of Britain – where the rich and privileged live it up in huge high-status dirigibles while you and I toil in dirty, pollution-spewing factories? If not, you need to do something about it – now.
A few years ago, an entertaining TV drama presented an image of a Britain very similar to ours – but with a few significant differences.
The rich no longer lived in the cities, but swanned around overhead, flaunting their wealth in giant dirigibles. Working people seemed perfectly happy to put up with a military presence on every street and a curfew in the evening, because their mobile phone technology had developed into ear-‘pods’ that downloaded the latest (and undoubtedly pre-approved) ‘news’ directly into their heads.
It was both amusing and chilling when the day’s ‘joke’ came down the wire and everybody laughed at once. Good little robots.
Of course, the Doctor saved the day – but not before thousands of these characters were turned into Cybermen (let’s face it, they were halfway there already) and many more had been killed.
Good thing it’s just fantasy, isn’t it?
Isn’t this exactly what ‘bookmanwales’ was telling us in his comment on the recent Vox Political article about David Cameron’s intentions?
“Whilst you can make the information available for people to see what is happening they are not interested,” he wrote.
“’Can I afford the latest iPhone?’ ‘Can I get totally p**sed at the weekend?’… and ‘How cool does my new car look?’ are at the forefront of most people’s minds.
“The pursuit of personal pleasure has overtaken simple reason. It matters not that you have to work 8 or 16 hours a day as long as you possess these luxuries.
“It doesn’t matter if you see no family or friends, doesn’t matter if you sleep all day when you are off. You have the things that matter because TV tells you having those things matter.”
It’s only a small step from that to “It doesn’t matter if your employers take more and more for themselves and give you less and less, literally looking down on you from a great height; doesn’t matter that it costs more and more to buy the status symbols you want and they give you less and less purchasing power; you are doing what matters in the best possible way because that is what they tell you”.
Adjusted for inflation, our hourly wages have fallen by a massive 5.5 per cent since mid-2010 – that’s the fourth-worst decline among all of the 27 EU nations, recorded in the country with the sixth-largest economy in the world (some say seventh).
Only Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands had a steeper decline – and their economies stand at 36-40th, 49th and 17th in world rankings.
Meanwhile, according to Michael Meacher MP, chief executives of the FTSE-100 – the top British companies – have increased their own pay to 133 times the diminishing national average.
They’re laughing at you. They think you’re beaten; that you’ve been brainwashed into conditioned helplessness and into believing that your status-symbol phone or car or television actually means something. Meanwhile, they have been taking everything.
And, as long as you carry on playing their game, their way, they’re right.
The rot starts with the government and it is with the government that you must start to change it. Nobody else will do this for you; you must stand up for yourself or your bosses and corrupt officials will walk right over you. Government sets the conditions in which populations either flourish or are repressed. We describe repressive governments as tyrannies, despotisms, dictatorships.
How would you describe the government of the UK?
Take a good, hard look at your own MP. Have they represented your interests? Are you better-off, now, than you were when they were elected in 2010? Don’t try to excuse them by saying times have been hard – that’s clearly nonsense, otherwise those FTSE-100 executives wouldn’t be enjoying such monumental pay hikes. If they are members of the Coalition parties, have they done anything to safeguard your interests against the crippling damage done by government policies? Anything at all? If there are members of the Opposition, have they vowed to redress the balance by restoring the rights and powers that have been stripped away from you – not just in the last three years but the previous 30 as well?
Then get rid of them and put someone in their place who will. It’s not rocket science!
Join the political party of your choice, link up with like-minded people and make a difference. Stop believing you are free, just because a politician tells you so. Freedom can never be taken for granted. People have had to fight for it down the generations and these times are no different.
Or would you rather go back to sleep and play Angry Birds (or whatever is the new fashion) until they come to euthanase you?
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Our hard work has put some people up among the stars; isn’t it time to ask why we are still in the gutter?
(The first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times, is available now in paperback or as an eBook, including a large ‘footnotes’ section in which you can actually connect to internet links containing supporting evidence – if you’re reading on a device that supports this kind of activity.)
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.