Thursday, 21 February 2013

Living below the poverty line

A new map of deprivation in Britain shows that almost half of children in dozens of boroughs are living in poverty. The map, which is published by a coalition of children’s charities, reveals the disparity in poverty rates across the country and within regions. Tower Hamlets emerges as the local authority with the highest rate of poverty at 42%, followed by Manchester (38%), Middlesbrough (37%) and Derry (35%).

By contrast the Isles of Scilly and South Northamptonshire have rates below 5%, while Harborough, Rutland and Rushcliffe have rates of 5%.

Evening Standard, 28   

Monday, 18 February 2013

Why George Osborne is failing to rebalance the economy

Sir Stafford Cripps could do it. Roy Jenkins managed it again, in the late 1960s. Ken Clarke joined the club of chancellors who used a combination of cheaper currency and austerity to rebalance the economy. So how come George Osborne lacks the magic touch? The theory is simple. When the economy gets completely out of whack – as it did in the late 1940s, mid-60s and early 90s – the warning signs are either an overheated domestic economy or a poor export performance, and normally both. The excesses are killed off by higher interest rates, with lower growth pushing up unemployment and reducing cost pressures.  
Once the economy has been hosed down, policy is loosened. This takes the form of an easing of monetary policy – lower interest rates and cheaper sterling – to stimulate business investment and exports. Faced with the risk that any pickup in activity will lead to higher consumer spending and a bigger imports bill, chancellors keep fiscal policy – tax and public spending – tight. Hey presto: the economy rebalances. Cripps achieved this by a combination of rationing and (progressive) taxation. Jenkins did it through incomes policy and credit controls. Clarke (and Norman Lamont before him) raised taxes steeply in the two budgets in 1993 to ensure the benefits of Britain's departure from the exchange rate mechanism were not frittered away.
Osborne has approached rebalancing similarly. Monetary policy has never been looser; the main interest rate has been at 0.5% for the past four years and the depreciation of sterling since the financial crisis began has been bigger than that in 1949, 1967 or 1992. Fiscal policy has been kept tight, while wage bargainers' inability to get above-inflation pay increases has meant the statutory incomes policies of the 1960s and 70s have been replaced by something less official but just as effective in stopping consumer spending let rip. And yet, there has been nothing like the snap back seen after previous recessions. There has been no growth at all, let alone the export-led growth that the Treasury and Bank of England were looking for.
Please read more by clicking this link/

Saturday, 9 February 2013

How Barnhill is improving

 The following comment was received in 2012:

"I have been living in Chalkhill more than 20 years. It was a horrible place to live, with issues such as anti-social behaviour and gangs. Sometimes you’d spend all your time indoors because of anti-social behaviour and gang activities taking place in front of residents homes.

As you may remember, around 2009 the number of gangs within the Chalkhill area had increased. Somali young gangsters were one of the gangs that took over the Chalkhill estate. The majority of Somali young boys grew up in single mother families.

The young gangsters were doing horrific things to residents. However, since a Somali councillor was elected at Barnhill the situation improved. This is because councillor Abdi helped us to get rid of those Somali gangsters by using his native language and culture.

On behalf of other victims of gang crime and Chalkhill residents I would like to thank councillor Abdi and his colleague Councillor Shafique. Councillor Abdi has put in a lot of hard work and effort to fulfil the needs of the Chalkhill residents. His commitment to the residents of Chalkhill has had a great impact on the estate."

Mrs Zainab

Friday, 8 February 2013

“There is an alternative” - City Hall Labour


John Biggs AM will today present the London Assembly Labour Group’s amendment to the Mayor’s draft 2013-14 budget for London. The amendment and proposals focus on protecting frontline services, easing the cost of living crisis and helping young Londoners into work.
The key points of Labour’s proposals are:
• A Jobs Guarantee for all 16-24 year olds who have been out of work for 1 year or more
• Cut transport fares by 1% so they are in line with inflation
• Re-allocate business rates to protect frontline police and fire services
• Freeze the Mayor’s share of the Council Tax
• Start the process of setting up a London-wide lettings agency

London Assembly Labour Budget Spokesperson, John Biggs AM said:

“As the economy stumbles and splutters towards a triple-dip recession the Mayor needs to help the economy and help ordinary Londoners. Cutting fares by 1% will put £34m into Londoners’ pockets and the Jobs Guarantee will put 7,500 long-term unemployed young Londoners into work. Reallocating business rates will help protect frontline police and fire services to help keep London safe and secure.
“Boris may shrug his shoulders and say he is doing all he can, but he is signed up to the government’s reckless economic plans. All he has done is said the ‘rhetoric should be toned down’, but that cuts and austerity should continue. At a time when ordinary Londoners are struggling and the economy is flat-lining he must do more, there is an alternative.
“Boris has cut his share of the council tax by less than 10 pence a week per household, but at the same time has whacked up fares above inflation for the fifth year running. He must be stupid to think Londoners won’t notice this wheeze.”


Jobs Guarantee

Working closely with appropriate employers the Jobs Guarantee would provide participants with 21 hours work per week paid at the London Living Wage. As of December 2013 there were 7,455 16-24 year-olds in London who have been unemployed for more than 12 months. This proposal would see £35.6 million invested in 2013-14 to finance the scheme, including wages and employer’s NI contributions.
The Jobs Guarantee will help prevent another ‘lost generation’ of unemployed young people, it will generate up to £27 million for HM Treasury through increased National Insurance payments, reducing the Job Seekers’ Allowance payments and through the VAT generated by the purchase of consumer goods by participants of the scheme.

Protecting frontline Police services

Following central government’s 20% cut to the policing budget the frontline is now being hit. The Mayor has chosen not to allocate any more resources to the police, even though he has the ability to do so. He is planning to cut police numbers, cut front counters and decimate Safer Neighbourhood Teams. The budget amendment proposal is designed to cushion the impact of central government cuts.
The proposals would:
• Recruit 1,159 PCSOs – both improving uniformed presence on our streets and creating a pool for future recruitment of police constables
• Maintain the current level of front counter services across London
• Recruit 250 new police officers for Safer Transport Teams

Protecting frontline Fire services

Freezing the Mayoral precept will retain £9.4 million this year which will be used to keep all 12 fire stations and 18 fire appliances that are earmarked for the axe. This will maintain the current level of fire cover for London.

Reallocation of business rates

This proposal would allocate the recently-localised funds from Retained Business Rates in a way that protects the public services that Londoners depend upon and finances projects that help secure a sustainable economic, infrastructure, and environmental future for London.

‘Rogue’ landlords and lettings agencies

This proposal would invest in a GLA ‘know your rights’ website for tenants in collaboration with charities and think-tanks. Secondly, proposes the financing of an action research project in to the establishment of a London-wide lettings agency. Thirdly, propose the commission of an extensive study into the feasibility of a London Living Rent.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Brent Council launch energy scheme for residents

Residents could save up to £200 a year from their energy bills through a scheme organised by Brent Council.
The ‘collective energy switching’ idea, which was agreed on Monday, (4), works by getting thousands of people to agree to switch their energy provider.
It then allows them to negotiate a better price as a result of the number of people switching at the same time.
Residents will need to register their interest in switching with the council, who will then negotiate with respective energy companies.
Residents are under no obligation to take up the better rate if they change their mind.
Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council said: “I know how tough it is for people in Brent at the moment. This new scheme will put up to £200 a year back into peoples pockets, just when they need it most.
“I urge all Brent residents to sign up to see just how much they can save. This is part of my drive to make Brent a fairer borough, and help residents through these tough times.”
The council will be contacting residents directly to encourage them to sign up and will issue details of how to sign up.

source Brent and Kilburn times

Friday, 1 February 2013

The path to the best care

Last week, Andy Burnham outlined Labour’s vision for a ‘whole person approach’ to patient care as the foundation for the future of health care under the next Labour government.
Under the stewardship of the last Labour government the NHS began the focus toward a patient-centred approach to healthcare. We delivered historic levels of investment after decades of underinvestment and neglect by the Thatcher and Major governments.

In my view, where Labour went wrong in the past was to use an internal market within the NHS as the mechanism to deliver health quality through patient choice. As an unfortunate consequence, this has led to financially stable  hospitals in some communities, financially failing hospitals in others, with patients still preferring to use the services closest to them regardless of how good or bad the health outcomes. But Labour’s momentary lapse of judgement in government cannot compare to the opening up of the NHS by the coalition government to private sector speculators keen to generate profits by cherry-picking services. The unleashing of competition within the NHS to “any qualified provider” is set to fragment healthcare even further and can only make delivering whole person care even more difficult.
Labour’s vision for a whole person approach is for an integrated NHS that brings together care providers with hospitals and GP practices. Joining carers and healthcare professionals together to ensure the care needs of each and every patient  are met at any given time. Our challenge is to ensure that we also deliver care from cradle to grave, addressing preventative care and public health together.
The patients I meet every week at my GP surgeries in west London want the best care, by the right person, in the appropriate setting delivered in a seamless manner all the time and every time. It’s not too much to ask, after all that is what we all want for ourselves and our loved ones.
They are not concerned about how the care is organised and who employs whom. ‘Primary care’, ‘community care’, ‘secondary care’, ‘tertiary care’ and ‘social care’ are all terms that are alien to them, but they do understand ‘care’.  Yet these terms represent the organisational barriers and complexity of the system that makes care more difficult to deliver, less efficient and more fragmented.
If we can address the issue of making care seamless, we will drive up quality, improve patient experience and get better value for money from the nation’s investment in the NHS. We will also manage the patient as a whole person rather than a collection of medical conditions and social needs each treated by different people who don’t interact with each other.

Integrating carers with neighbours, communities, voluntary organisations, primary care, secondary care, community health services, schools and social services can deliver a seamless whole person care package.  The less organisational boundaries there are between the different organisations that deliver care, alongside better equipped, well-paid and well-respected care professionals, the easier it will be to deliver.
But if integration is the key to a more seamless healthcare and the whole person approach, how do we ensure we can deliver it, without another round of top-down reorganisation of an NHS near the end of its breaking point, within a tough economic climate. And what has prevented it happening so far? If we can correctly diagnose the barriers that have held the NHS back, treatment will be more effective
Firstly, Andy Burnham has set a clear direction of travel in laying out the case for integrating the health and social services budgets. In the foreseeable future, public sector finances will remain constrained and we need to extract the most we can from the £104bn NHS budget and the £36bn social services budget.
Secondly, by bringing together the existing health and wellbeing boards with clinical support from the clinical commissioning groups, services can be planned that prevent illness, promote healthiness and deliver chronic disease management in the community. Greater integrated working between health professionals and social services in the community can better look after the increasing elderly population and a renewed focus on preventative and public health. Hospital admissions can be prevented by better care in the community and when admission is needed it can be delivered as a short episode of treatment in the hospital with a seamless discharge back into the community.
Thirdly, the introduction of directly accountable elected representatives with responsibility for delivering health and care can restore faith in local communities that their needs are reflected in local services, and free already overburdened clinicians to spend more time with their patients.
To deliver the whole person approach, there has to be integration between the trio of social services, health services and local authority public health functions. But we can go a step even further to deliver even better care.
My view is that we need financial and organisational integration between the acute trust, the community services and general practices into a single entity if we are to deliver sustainable integration with social services and other local authority functions for the whole person approach.
Currently general practice is required, through commissioning, to keep patients out of the hospital and shift money from NHS hospitals  through competitive tendering of services leading to their financial instability. This has huge transactional costs in terms of emotional costs, financial costs and medical time way from patient care.  In other words, GPs and hospitals are not acting co-operatively but against each other, which is not in the best interest of the patient. If GPs, acute trusts and community services were financially integrated within a single organisation, they would act in a way as to deliver the best care for the patient in the most appropriate clinical environment.
As efforts are made to shift work from hospitals to primary care. GP practices are independent businesses in the NHS and are increasingly frustrated that this increase in workload isnt being matched by proper resourcing. This leads to the public expecting the level of service promised by the government but one that GPs cannot or will not deliver. There are two solutions to this: to make GPs salaried (as they are increasingly choosing to do) or to create a profit sharing basis for GPs in the integrated organisations. With 70 per cent of GPs in London now directly salaried, it may well be the right time to have an honest debate within the profession over whether independent practice is sustainable in the long term, and whether we should not just integrate heath with social care, but primary care and hospitals.
The whole person approach in healthcare is fundamentally about knocking down professional and organisational boundaries to deliver the best care at the best time by the best people in the best place. In a patient-centred one nation NHS, Labour can deliver a better, universal national health that not only treats illness, but prevents it and keep our nation fitter and healthier in the long term.

Dr Onkar Sahota

(the above article is so interesting I have to copy it for information and knowledge)

Offices to flats

The Independent examines how the property industry has reacted to the Government’s relaxation of planning rules which will allow offices to be turned into flats. The policy change could provide more than 40,000 new London homes, many in prime central business districts.

Areas which have already been earmarked for conversion include the Shell Centre on the South Bank, where developers are proposing a new quarter with 790 homes, and Centre Point, at Tottenham Court Road, where Almacantar has proposed to covert the tower into 82 high-end flats. The paper notes that the areas around Vauxhall, Victoria, Euston, Whitechapel, Waterloo and Hammersmith are all ripe for conversion because residential demand is growing and there a number of outdated office blocks.

However, housing associations fear relaxed planning rules will merely a trigger a boom in luxury developments and do little to ease the need for cheaper homes for young Londoners.  
The Independent, 44

Bins removed- A way to get rid of Rubbish

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has removed all bins from its residential streets in an attempt to reduce litter. From now on, passers-by will only be allowed to dispose of litter in busy areas, including shopping and tourist streets. A spokesman for the council, explaining the thinking behind the decision, said businesses were dumping large quantities of waste in the bins. While in a trial in one road, officials reported only a very slight increase in littering when the bins were removed.
The Daily Telegraph,