Tag Archives: personnel

Bonanza for private health firms as Tories cut NHS’s ability to cope

Private hospitals are set to mop up more than £2 billion in new deals – £200 million of which will be pure profit for shareholders – to provide non-urgent procedures like hip replacement operations because the NHS is struggling with Tory underfunding.

It’s typical financial incompetence from the Tories – they’d rather send £200 million to the private offshore tax-haven bank accounts of greedy profiteers than invest it in the health of the English people (this is an English NHS plan).

And experience indicates that the NHS will have to come back and sort out the mess after the private firms botch a significant percentage of the operations (unless they’ve managed to stop doing that? If anyone has new information on this, please let me know).

According to iNews,

The Government has drawn up contingency plans for further local, regional, or national lockdowns in England, but hopes the deals to create around 7,000 extra beds in private hospitals will help avoid the need for the reintroduction of Covid restrictions.

The signing of further contracts with the private sector follows a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that found NHS waiting lists could almost treble to 14 million by autumn next year.

A spokesman for NHS England claimed such deals between the NHS and private healthcare groups are struck “at the same cost to taxpayers” as NHS services. However, similar contracts throughout the pandemic have agreed a “cost-plus” pricing formula, which allow for profits of between 8 and 10 per cent to be paid to the hospital groups.

Private hospital groups such as Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care and Spire Healthcare are believed to been among those discussing new and expanded deals with the Department for Health and Social Care.

This is just throwing good money after bad.

And the reason it is necessary? Here‘s the Morning Star:

NHS workers are trapped in a “vicious circle” of staff shortages and exhaustion, health service experts have warned, as they called for better funding of the health service.

Real investment in capacity is needed to address vacancies in the NHS, the effect of which has been compounded by increasing rates of staff sickness, said Dr Layla McCay, policy director of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service organisations.

The warning came after MPs published a damning report in June highlighting “emergency” levels of staff burnout in the healthcare sector.

There are currently 76,000 staff vacancies in the NHS, including 40,000 for doctors.

Last month, research by doctors’ union BMA found that England was 25 years behind comparable European nations in terms of the number of doctors per 1,000 people.

Saying that it was “unforgivable” that the government had allowed workforce levels to reach this point, the union demanded extra Treasury investment in training and retaining doctors.

So there you have it.

The NHS would be able to cope with the extra work caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – if only the Conservative Government had funded it properly, making it possible to employ and retain a number of doctors equivalent to those available in other European nations.

But they didn’t. Once again, despite being the sixth-richest country in the World, the UK is the “poor man” in terms of the value we get for that money.

And rather than even begin to put right that lack of investment, the Tory imbeciles are wasting money by throwing it at private firms who will invest it in their own private back accounts rather than in treating people who need it.

That really is sick!

It conforms with Noam Chomsky’s definition of privatisation technique perfectly, though: defund, make sure things don’t work… hand it over to private capital.

The Tories in government are swearing that the private contracts are just a stop-gap measure while the NHS is struggling.

But just you watch them and see if they ever take that work back in-house.

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Show yourselves, thugs who verbally abused LIFEBOAT personnel on their way to work

Priti Patel: stoking dislike of the foreigner – and anybody who helps them – is a NAZI trait.

Ultimate responsibility for this lies with Priti Patel, of course.

Patel set herself up for a confrontation with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution after launching legislation saying anybody rescuing illegal immigrants from the sea could be jailed for life.

The RNLI do nothing but rescue people from the sea, and they don’t care about the immigration status of the people they pick up.

Furthermore, the service will keep rescuing people under those conditions, no matter what Patel says, because they have a Royal Charter – the Queen supports what they do.

Sadly, the publicity given to our brave lifeboat people has attracted the attention of the kind of people who support Patel. You know the type – thugs and headbangers who take any opportunity to attack others.

So we’re starting to see incidents like this:

Take note: these personnel were verbally attacked “due to their role” – because they rescue people from drowning in UK waters.

The incident happened in central London – Tower RNLI operates from Lifeboat Pier just under Waterloo Bridge and serves the Thames in central London 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Suppose one of the dimwits who thought it was clever to abuse these volunteers perhaps got drunk and fell into the river. How would they feel, as they went down for the third time, if there was no lifeboat service there because the people running it had been put off by their own violence?

Pretty stupid, I expect – which is what they are, of course.

But ultimately the blame lies with Patel and all the goose-stepping morons like her who get a perverse kick out of feeding hate for no reason.

She isn’t only attacking a Great British institution – she is attacking the humanitarianism and fairness that is in the fabric of Britishness itself.

Source: Police called after lifeboat volunteers at Tower Bridge verbally abused while reporting for duty – MyLondon

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Mercer sacked over unequal treatment in prosecutions of armed forces veterans

Mercer: it’s right that he should leave the government – but it’s for the wrong reason.

The Minister for Armed Forces Veterans has reported that he has been “relieved of my responsibilities in government” because he disagrees with Tory policy on prosecutions for historic crimes.

This is extremely dodgy ground. It seems clear to This Writer that, if a serving member of the forces has committed a crime while on active duty – but the evidence only comes to light later – they should still face prosecution for it.

The Tory government sees the matter differently and has included in its Overseas Operations Bill measures to protect veterans from prosecution if the alleged crimes were committed more than five years before any allegations are made…

… except for those who served in Northern Ireland. They have been excluded from this measure, meaning long-retired personnel could face imprisonment for alleged crimes committed decades ago.

Nobody deserves to face the extreme distress of court proceedings and possible imprisonment over false allegations, of course.

But nor should anybody receive an automatic free pass if they did commit crimes, no matter how long ago they happened. Think of paedophiles whose abominable practices with children only come to light decades after they took place.

So Mercer is right to go – but he’s going for the wrong reason.

He should be leaving because personnel who served elsewhere are being let off – not because those who served in Northern Ireland are still on the hook.

He should also be leaving because the government hasn’t bothered to devise ways of weeding out unfounded, frivolous or malicious attempts to prosecute veterans, but has instead opted to offer (potentially) amnesty to criminals.

But nobody can say his views weren’t known. He offered to resign from Theresa May’s government in 2019 over the same issue. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he has now left Boris Johnson’s government after it refused to pay attention to his concerns about the same issue.

Of course, we don’t know the exact circumstances yet. First we were told Mercer was on the point of resigning, then we were told he had been sacked, then that he had actually resigned, and then in his resignation letter he said he had been “relieved” of his responsibilities.

Still, this is another departure over government policy, following that of Samuel Kasumu – who actually quit after Boris Johnson’s cronies rewrote a report on institutional racism in order to pretend that it no longer exists in the UK.

We may conclude that the Johnson government is highly prejudiced. Not only is it deeply racist, but it also discriminates against forces personnel depending on where they served.

That’s not a good look for a government that desperately wants to appear friendly to those in the services after years of scandal over veterans who were left homeless after their discharge.

Mercer himself won’t be short of cash after losing this job – if he’s still got his £85,000-a-year job as ‘non-executive director’ of a cyber-security firm.

So don’t worry about him. Worry about people who have been wronged by our armed forces who won’t get justice – and about veterans who are being wronged by a government that is still allowing vexatious prosecutions against them.

Source: Johnny Mercer: Tory MP resigns as defence minister – BBC News

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Keir Starmer’s Labour is unpopular – because he supports war crimes and sacks people who don’t?

Sacked: Nadia Whittome.

… And actually briefs a right-wing, fake-news blog site about the sacking before telling the person he has sacked, too.

Classy moves, Sir Keir!

So it’s true. As first reported on the Skwawkbox blog late yesterday (September 23), Labour leader Keir Starmer has sacked Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake from positions as Parliamentary Private Secretaries because they voted against the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21.

They were objecting to provisions in the Bill that would protect soldiers from prosecution if they participate in acts of torture while on duty overseas.

It will come as no surprise that the Conservative government relishes the idea of UK soldiers torturing Johnny (and Janey) Foreigner.

Starmer’s decision to abstain on the Bill (a U-turn from a previous position in which Labour would have opposed it) was, as Skwawkbox pointed out, reminiscent of the abstention on a Welfare Bill ordered by Harriet Harman years ago – that fuelled support for Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 leadership contest.

In all, 19 Labour MPs voted against the Bill:

The other 16 – including Mr Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery and the previously-sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey – were all backbenchers.

The public response has not just been critical of Starmer for supporting the Bill and for the sackings…

… but also for the fact that he briefed right-wing trash blog Guido Fawkes on what he had done before he bothered to tell her, so it could say she couldn’t resign properly:

Labour has form on briefing members of the so-called press about action taken against members. When This Writer’s party membership was suspended on fake charges of anti-Semitism, I found out about it from a reporter for the Western Mail, who phoned me up a day before I was notified by email.

From this we may infer that the people in charge of the party’s disciplinary procedures at the time were right-wing factionalists and not supporters of then-leader Jeremy Corbyn. Or so it seems to me.

All this comes on top of reports that Labour under Starmer is less likeable now, compared to when Corbyn was in charge.

Here’s (and I apologise for this) the Daily Express:

A new Ipsos MORI poll has found in November 2019, under the leadership of Mr Corbyn, the likeability of the Labour was 49 percent.

Just 10 months later, and five months since Sir Keir took over the leadership, the figure has fallen to 38 percent.

The poll did show support for Starmer himself was higher than that for Corbyn ever reached – possibly because Starmer has support from rags like The Express? – but this was before the latest scandal.

Starmer’s letdowns are becoming legendary: he sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey under a false claim (it seems clear now that she opposed his plan to support Boris Johnson in reopening them too soon. She was right and he was wrong); he called the Black Lives Matter movement a “moment” after having a publicity photo taken to profess support for it; he betrayed the many party members who (like me) have been falsely accused of anti-Semitism; and he betrayed nine of the 10 pledges he made in his leadership election campaign.

He may be popular among a general public that is being spoonfed propaganda by a right-wing press that wants to keep a “safe pair of hands” – meaning a member of the Establishment who won’t rock the boat – in charge of the main Opposition Party.

But some of us know better – including increasingly-disillusioned Labour members.

Source: Keir starmer news: Labour Party’s likeability plummets lower than when Corbyn was leader | Politics | News | Express.co.uk

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Boris Johnson’s contempt for the Forces goes much further than laying a wreath wrongly

Yes, this is bad:

Contempt: Boris Johnson showed he holds our Armed Forces in contempt by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph upside-down.

Boris Johnson showed his disrespect for the UK’s Armed Forces this morning when he laid a wreath upside down at the Cenotaph during the Remembrance Day commemoration service.

This Writer doesn’t want to say it – because it has become a cliche – but, if Jeremy Corbyn had done the same, we would never hear the end of it. Remember the vilification he had at the first Remembrance Day he attended as Labour leader? He hadn’t done anything wrong!

This is much worse, though:

He was known only as George, he was 82 years old and he died of bronchial pneumonia after being evicted from a squat in Manchester – along with no fewer than 12 other ex-servicemen.

This is how the Conservatives treat our Armed Forces after their usefulness as cannon fodder is over – they throw them onto the streets.

George and his comrades were just 13 among more than 13,000 ex-servicepeople who the Conservatives have thrown onto our streets.

Many veterans, war heroes from the Falklands campaign through to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are reduced to sleeping in doorways, bus stops and parks, begging from passers-by.

Almost all are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often leads to other problems including addictions to drugs and alcohol.

None of them receive any help from the Conservative government. The Armed Forces Covenant – a promise to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly, that was enshrined in law in 2011 – is a sick joke.

The only help they receive is from charities. Chris Barwood, chair of the Salford Armed Forces Veterans Network said, “We are turning our backs on our troops who have taken the Queen’s shilling, sworn the oath of allegiance and offered up their lives to keep us safe and yet in return we do nothing to ensure that they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies for their remaining years.”

The crowning irony is that most members of the Armed Forces are ardent Conservatives.

I hope they reconsider that position.

Why should they vote for a party that throws them into pointless conflicts, then throws them onto the streets when they get PTSD, and whose leader shows nothing but contempt for those of their comrades who have died defending their country?

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Zero hours, zero benefits, zero enthusiasm. Why would anyone take a job on these terms?

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of the zero-hours contract must be deeply disturbing to all those with an interest in fair employment practices.

The arrangement is that an employee agrees to be available for work whenever required, but with no set number of hours or times of work specified. The employee is expected to be on-call at all times but is paid only for the number of hours that are actually worked.

There appears to be no pension scheme, no sickness cover, no holiday entitlement – no rights other than those laid down by health and safety regulations (which the government is trying to ditch) and the National Minimum Wage Act (also under threat from the Conservative-led government).

Also, the system is open to abuse by managers, who can use it to reward some employees (and the term is used in its loosest possible sense) with extra hours or punish others with fewer.

And how, exactly, is an employee supposed to be engaged in, and enthusiastic about, a job where they are treated as a disposable commodity, to be picked up and thrown away whenever it is expedient?

It seems possible that there is an argument in favour of zero-hours contracts – but only for employees who want to top-up another income stream; people who want occasional earnings and are flexible about when they work. The problem here is that it seems likely employers will want these people to work at times when it will be hard to meet the commitment.

For anyone else – including people who are unemployed, penniless, and need the certainty of a properly-constituted employment contract with set hours, pay and conditions, there seems to be no point in taking up such a contract at all. Yet they are proliferating across the UK.

Is the Department of Work and Pensions, through the Job Centre Plus network, forcing these conditions on jobseekers?

Such a situation might be a huge boost to employment figures, but it would also explain why average pay has fallen so drastically in recent years and the economy has failed – so abjectly – to reignite.

Today (Monday) it is being reported that more than a million UK workers are on zero-hours contracts – four times official estimates.

The BBC is reporting that 14 per cent of these could not earn a basic standard of living. If Job Centres are forcing people into these jobs, via the sanctions regime, this is scandalous. Perhaps it is permitted by law, but this would only mean that the government should have a duty to ensure that jobs which are taken under the threat of sanction are capable of providing this basic standard.

Worse still for the government is the allegation, in research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that public sector firms – those with government contracts – are more likely to use zero-hours contracts than private companies.

This is particularly prevalent in education and healthcare.

And how is the benefits system affected by these contracts?

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese told the BBC: “Zero-hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.” But isn’t that exactly how they are being used? Don’t the number of people saying they can’t make ends meet, and the wider state of the economy, indicate exactly that?

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis seems to have got it right when he said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.

“The growing number of zero-hours contracts also calls into question government unemployment figures.”

Business secretary Vince Cable has ordered a review of the zero-hours contracts system, to take place over the summer. He played down fears of abuse, saying evidence was “anecdotal” and adding that “it’s important our workforce remains flexible” (in employment terms, this means all the power is with the employer, while the actual worker has to adapt to the circumstances foisted upon them).

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called for zero-hours contracts to be banned, back in April this year.

It seems clear that they are unsafe and open to abuse. But would an all-out ban be appropriate?

Would it not be wiser for Job Centres to continue advertising them, but with no obligation to recommend them to jobseekers (and certainly no requirement to force anyone into applying for them), and with a requirement to warn anyone considering taking up such a position about the possibility that they will not be able to survive on the pay provided?

This might go some way to redressing the balance of power with employers; without the coercive power of the government supporting these contracts, they might try more traditional (and fairer) employment models.

This is a subject worth more examination. What are your thoughts?

‘Compassion bypass’ as Coalition puts the squeeze on benefits and wages

compassionbypassThe Nasty Parties’ (I include the Liberal Democrats now – let them all be tarred with the same brush) have voted to squeeze benefit increases to just one per cent for the next three years, after the third reading of the Benefits Uprating Bill in the House of Commons.

That Bill will now go to the House of Lords, where I sincerely hope it will receive a more intelligent examination than many Conservatives and Liberal Democrats gave it in the other place. To help them with that work, I wanted to highlight some of the issues raised by opponents to the Bill, during yesterday’s debate.

Firstly, the government is punishing people who are already hard-up for the failure of its own economic policy. As Stephen Timms said, we were promised that the policy would lead to steady growth and falling unemployment, but we got a double-dip recession, perhaps set to become triple-dip, depending on figures due this week. Unemployment is officially forecast to go up next year, so spending on unemployment benefits will go up, and borrowing will go up too.

The government’s response is to force down the incomes of those who already receive the least in order to cover the cost of its mistakes; the saving made by the Bill’s measures will be about the same as the increase in social security spending.

In April, the government will give a tax cut to everybody earning more than £150,000 per year, and for 8,000 people who earn over £1 million a year, that means a cut of around £2,000 a week. At the same time, someone receiving the adult rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance will get an extra 71p a week.

The change in the personal tax allowance will not help people in work on low incomes. Citizens Advice has pointed out that “any rise in net earnings leads to a reduction in housing benefit and council tax benefit.” In fact the improvement for people in low-income work was recorded by Helen Goodman: 13 pence per week.

Meanwhile, the average price of weekly grocery shopping has risen by 17 per cent and the energy companies have hiked up their prices by around 11 per cent.

The government lied when it said people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance are protected – they are not. A lone parent with three children who is in the support group will lose £600 in 2015-16 because of the exponential way in which the Bill will grind down the incomes of people who are already hard-up. [CAB]

In fact the impact assessment tells us disabled households are more likely than others to be hit by the changes in the Bill.

Child poverty is set to skyrocket, thanks to the measures of the Nasty Government. The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that, taking account of everything that the Government announced before the autumn statement, child poverty was already set to increase by 400,000 by 2015 and 800,000 by 2020.

Although it was not mentioned in the autumn statement or the impact statement, and a question to the Minister has gone unanswered, the government has let it slip – in a statement by a different minister – that the three years of one-per-cent uprating will increase child poverty by 200,000 – on top of the increase that is already due.

That means that we are on track for one million more children below the poverty line by 2020 – reversing all the progress made during the 15 years since Labour came to power in 1997.

And that is only the figure the government has been prepared to acknowledge in relation to relative income. It has said nothing about the impact on absolute poverty, material deprivation or persistent poverty — measures to which it committed itself in the Child Poverty Act 2010.

The Children’s Society estimates that the following professions are also affected: 300,000 nurses and midwives in the NHS; 150,000 staff in primary and nursery schools; 1.14 million admin workers, secretaries and secretarial assistants; 44,000 electricians and electrical fitters; 510,000 sales assistants and cashiers; and 42,000 armed forces personnel.

We certainly want it to be more worthwhile for people to be in work, but forcing down the incomes of those who are out of work is not the way to do it,” said Mr Timms. I have been saying that, here, for many months, and it did my heart good to see that it had been said in the House of Commons.

He said uprating should indeed be in line with inflation, as it always was in the past.

He continued: “The Bill was designed by the Chancellor to promote his party’s narrow interest.” Yes – the Conservatives are a minority-interest party. This Bill, and the tax cut for those earning more than £150,000 per year, prove it. They support the super-rich; you and I don’t get a look-in.

And he pointed out that the government did not need an Act of Parliament to restrict benefits upratings. “The Chancellor thought he could boost his party’s standing if he introduced a Bill, so we have one,” he said. Absolutely correct. The plan was to make the Labour Party, in opposing the plan, look like the party of scroungers and slobs. Instead, the Conservatives have confirmed themselves as the ‘Nasty Party’, oppressors of those who most need government help.

“Ministers still say that they are committed to eradicating child poverty,” said Mr Timms. “It says so in the coalition agreement. That commitment is clearly now fictitious. Ministers should stop pretending. They have given up on reducing child poverty. Now they are implementing policies that will force child poverty up.”

Let me draw your attention to the words of Toby Perkins, who tried to put the debate into proper context: “There is a particular irony in the Chancellor, who was a millionaire the day he was born, railing against the extravagance of those on £71 a week.”

I think I can sum up the government’s argument with the words of Charlie Elphicke, who said around five million people in the UK could work, but don’t. He said they need more of an incentive, including an economic incentive, and quoted the Chancellor, Gideon – sorry, George – Osborne: “Over the last five years, those on out-of-work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work. With pay restraint in businesses and Government, average earnings have risen by about 10 per cent since 2007. Out-of-work benefits have gone up by about 20 per cent. That is not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them.”

In other words, he wants to shrink the state (the government’s own actions have created a hole in its finances; it wants to cut public spending to fill that hole) and he can’t do his maths. He compounded his foolishness with a well-repeated lie: “Money is tight in this country today. The reason for that is that [Labour] drove our economy off a cliff, overspending for years and displaying fiscal incontinence that was unparalleled in this country in the last century.”

That is absolutely untrue. Labour ran a lower deficit than the Conservatives throughout its years in power. The increases in the deficit and the national debt were caused by the banking crisis. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on record as having supported what the then-Labour government did to solve the mess that was created by high-earning bankers (about whom the current government has done nothing worth discussing). They would have done the same thing and created the same debt.

Fortunately, Ian Mearns was on hand to put Mr Elphicke right: “The hon. Member… forgot to mention that, while those on benefits have had their benefits uprated at twice the rate of those in work in percentage terms over the past five years, the actual increase in financial terms has been on average about £49 for those in work and about £12 for those on benefits.

“Percentages are meaningless; 50 per cent or 100 per cent of very little is still very little. Making comparisons in the way that he did demeans the debate.”

He added: “I think it is the ultimate insult to ordinary people’s intelligence to say that in order to incentivise those at the top end of the economy we have to pay them more, while incentivising people at the bottom end by paying them less. ‘We are all in this together’ — I don’t think.”

Lords, please take note. If any of you uses the argument about percentage increases, I sincerely hope to see others ask that person whether they will be supporting the government on the basis of something that has been proven – and is now known to the public at large – to be utter, meaningless nonsense.