Tag Archives: downsize

Three letters: F-O-X

liamfox

Has anybody examined the verbal vandalism attempted by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox on the National Health Service this week?

Mr Fox’s known financial interests include receiving £5,000 to run his private office in October 2012 from investment company IPGL Ltd, who purchased healthcare pharma company Cyprotex.

That didn’t stop him from trying to starve what’s left of the publicly-owned part of our health service of the ever-dwindling portion of taxpayers’ cash earmarked for it.

He demanded that NHS funding should not be ring-fenced after the 2015 general election, saying its performance does not justify the favour.

He told The Times: “I think we’ve tested to destruction the idea that simply throwing lots more money at the health service will make it better.

“The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes.

“We’ve become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system.

“If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.”

There’s a lot of material in there that isn’t worth the time it took to cut and paste it (from the Guardian article) – but it needs to be addressed because there will be people in this country who believe it.

Firstly: Ring-fencing the budget does not mean it has remained at pre-2010 heights. In fact all parts of the NHS have had to cut budgets by four per cent, year on year, in order to meet the so-called ‘Nicholson challenge’ to cut £20 billion from the overall budget by 2015. In addition, while David Cameron has insisted that his government will have increased that budget by £12.7 billion by 2015, figures up to 2013 show a decrease in funding.

They haven’t been “throwing lots more money at the health service”; they’ve been starving it. This came after a decade of, yes, record investment – which resulted in record levels of public satisfaction as it met ambitious targets to cut waiting times and improve patient care.

It was only after the Conservative-led Coalition government came into office that NHS providers began to be cut and squeezed into downsizing, mergers, centralisation and closures. The aim is to reduce the NHS in England to a very few short-staffed, demoralised and overloaded central units, covering only those services deemed unprofitable by private sector providers – including the company that gave Mr Fox his five grand.

He’s not alone – 78 per cent of his fellows in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the former Health Secretary who pushed through the unwanted legislation that made this possible, also have financial or vested interests in private healthcare.

You’ll have noticed that Mr Fox did not declare that he had received money from a company associated with private healthcare when he made his comments. The fact is that his fellow Tories, when discussing the then-Health and Social Care Bill, didn’t declare theirs either.

Since the Bill became law, it seems MPs have been falling over themselves to talk the NHS into the grave. But consider this: They all have a financial interest in doing so. If they succeed in their plan to turn over taxpayers’ money to private firms and let the public service wither away, then they are likely to receive dividends from the various companies in which they are involved.

This is known as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’ or, more commonly, fraud.

Mr Fox already had to resign his cabinet position because of an inappropriate business relationship.

Now he is making the same mistake again – and risking more than his reputation.

(Much more information on the Tory-led privatisation of the NHS is available in NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis and published by Oneworld. To find out how you can work to reverse the damage being done to the most cherished organisation in the UK, please visit www.keepournhspublic.com and www.nhscampaign.org.uk)

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Will ‘independent’ study whitewash the Bedroom Tax?

Doesn't he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is 'marionette' - for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who's pulling Nick Clegg's strings this time?

Doesn’t he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is ‘marionette’ – for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who’s pulling Nick Clegg’s strings this time?

The Government is running an independent study into the impact of the Bedroom Tax, in order to find out if it is really possible for social housing tenants to move into smaller accommodation to escape its effects. The result should more likely be feared than welcomed.

Nick Clegg announced that the study was taking place in response to a Parliamentary question from Harriet Harman – but was immediately undermined by the Department for Work and Pensions. A government spokesman said the DWP routinely commissions research on new policies and an independent consortium was already carrying out evaluation work.

Clegg had to say he was taking action after his own party voted to change its policy on the Tax – the Liberal Democrats now oppose it – but this is not cause for celebration.

Who will carry out this independent study? We are told it is an “independent consortium” but what does that mean? What will be their terms of reference? What questions will they be asking and will they be the questions that need to be asked?

Observers should be raising serious doubts about all of these because this is not a government with a good track record on evidence-led policy.

We all know what this is about – the government’s hugely flawed scheme to claw back Housing Benefit cash from social housing tenants, taking 14 per cent of payments from those with one spare bedroom, and a quarter of the benefit from anyone with two. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for local councils was boosted to £60 million in anticipation of extra demand from struggling tenants.

It is true that evidence about the policy is conflicting. Lord Freud, introducing it in the House of Lords, apparently refused to listen to arguments that there were too few single-bedroom properties into which under-occupiers could downsize. Now he is blaming local authorities for the shortage.

The government said the policy would save £480 million, but the increased cost of DHPs must be subtracted from that, and also the costs of people who do manage to downsize. This could range from just four per cent of the 660,000 affected households to 20 per cent, depending on who you believe – a recent study by the University of York suggested that 20 per cent of households intended to move (which isn’t quite the same as actually doing it), but this was based on evidence from just four housing associations.

It seems unlikely that one-fifth of everyone affected nationally is moving to a different property – but even if they were, this would not create a saving for the government because it would have to pay out, not only increased Housing Benefit for those who have moved into smaller but more expensive private rented housing, but also Housing Benefit for people moving into the now-vacant larger social housing.

And then there are the people who cannot downsize but cannot afford the rent if their Housing Benefit is reduced. Recent reports had 50,000 households facing eviction – around one-thirteenth of the total number affected.

If they become homeless, local councils will have to find temporary accommodation for them – and this is paradoxically much more expensive than putting them in social housing, because they have to go into bed-and-breakfast rooms. Homelessness was already on the increase before the Bedroom Tax was introduced, rising from 44,160 households in 2011-12 to 53,540 in 2012-13.

Not only that, but there has been a sharp increase in complaints about this accommodation, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Finally, let us not forget that at least one suicide has been attributed to the Bedroom Tax – that of Stephanie Bottrill.

So definitive research is certainly desirable. There’s just one problem: The Coalition Government is very good at commissioning ‘independent’ reports that say exactly what ministers want them to.

Look at the report on culling badgers to get rid of bovine tuberculosis. A seven-year study during New Labour’s period in office concluded that this would be useless, and in fact could worsen the situation. The Coalition came in and a new study appeared advocating a cull.

With no knowledge of who is carrying out the report it is hard to predict whether its findings will be accurate – or just what the government ordered.