The Big Society and the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/12/2018 - 2:27am in

Volunteer holding the hand of a hospital patient

In the news this week…

The Daily Mail launches its campaign to create an army of NHS volunteers with the aim of freeing up more time for frontline staff to focus on patients’ clinical needs. Big celebrity names have stepped up to support the Mail’s campaign which has been backed by the Care Quality Commission and the Royal College of Nursing.  

Since its inception in 1948 volunteers have played a valued support role in the NHS. Today around 78,000 already carry out a range of duties from running cafes and shops and visiting patients to providing library services and staffing hospital radio; that should be celebrated.  However, we should be cautious about welcoming this proposed extension to volunteering and serious questions need to be asked.

The Big Society idea, as conceived by David Cameron who suggested in 2010 that it was a mechanism for ‘empowering communities,’ has proved to be less about transformation through fostering community spirit and reinvigorating civil society and more about government delivering its neoliberal agenda. Indeed, Ed Miliband who was Labour leader at the time suggested that it was a ‘cloak for the small state’.

Over the last eight years through its cuts to public spending the government has shifted its responsibility downwards to local government and communities whilst, at the same time, depriving them of sufficient funds to deliver services and forcing them to make draconian cuts. Local charities which depended on funding have found themselves struggling to continue their work and individuals have been encouraged to fill the gaps by giving their time for free to staff libraries for example – either that or face the closure of these services.

Now, in this cash strapped environment, the Big Society is being called upon to deliver the government’s ideologically driven agenda for the NHS. This is framed in NHS England’s Five Year Forward Plan where volunteering and social action will become key to service delivery. Replacing services, rather than simply providing support.  

Over the last eight years the NHS has been one of the major victims of cuts to public spending with catastrophic consequences for services, patients and staff. Staffing levels are at an all-time low and the pressures to deliver a quality service have never been greater.  Figures from June show that the health service has 107,743 unfilled posts which was up from 98,475 total just three months before. The NHS was also short of 41,722 nurses, the highest number yet, and similarly there were 11,576 vacancies for doctors. As a result of the withdrawal of nursing bursaries there are fewer students applying to study and, due to the government’s pay cap and more stressful working conditions, many have chosen to leave the profession. The situation has been worsened by the decision of many health professionals from Europe to leave as a result of growing intolerance and being made to feel not welcome despite being the linchpins of the NHS and without whom things can only get worse.  Experts have warned that understaffing is so serious that it threatens patient safety and is a national emergency.

And so, conveniently, in step the volunteers with the help of the Daily Mail who is working with the charity Helpforce. This is aCommunity Interest Company, which stands to benefit from £2.3m in funding from NHS England to develop a range of volunteer services. It has suggested for example that with the right training volunteers could work with heart-surgery patients in the gym, take notes during consultations, book people into outpatient clinics and offer support and comfort to bereaved families. As an aside, these sound very much like regular jobs not volunteer ones!  

It is risible when top advisers like Richard Murray fromthe King’s Fund think tank or Sir Robert Francis, head of Healthwatch applaud the role of volunteers and in the same breath stress that they must not be expected to make up for short-staffing or do the work of paid employees. In the current funding environment that is exactly what is being suggested in a language narrative that draws attention away from the consequences of austerity and cuts to NHS spending. And yet, as a Registered Nurse commented:

 “Letting untrained members of the public provide direct clinical care to patients puts them at risk. This list not only undermines the nursing profession but also fails to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of other allied healthcare professionals.” Adding; “Those who offer their time are amazing but it’s important we use their time and skills appropriately.”

A good government dedicated to ensuring the health of the nation instead of the interests of global health corporations would have used its currency issuing powers to train homegrown health professionals to fill the growing gaps in staffing levels. It would have invested for the long-term in a strategy to provide a top-quality publicly funded and provided health service. Instead, it has chosen to cut funding to the NHS causing hospital closures, rationing or closure of clinical services and poach staff from countries with few resources which are already struggling to provide a decent health service for their own citizens.

Serving an ideological agenda, the government and its institutional and ‘charitable’ lackeys have shamelessly exploited the goodwill of citizens expecting them to do work which could provide a paying job to someone. This is not to decry the valuable work that volunteers do, but it ignores a fundamental economic truth that spending equals income to someone, and depriving people of a paying job is detrimental to the economic health of the nation and its citizens. Let’s not forget that government spending on wages and salaries of NHS workers is spent back into the economy and in themselves generate economic activity – the Fiscal Multiplier.

Furthermore, it is unclear where this army to fill the gaps for free are to come from.  Are they to be older people? They are facing retiring later, on meagre state pensions, whilst also providing child care for their own financially overstretched children, who are also struggling to get by. Expecting them to volunteer is as ludicrous as expecting those in the middle of the generational divide, working and caring for both elderly parents and children, to offer their services for free whilst finding the time to juggle their own responsibilities.

Volunteering is all part of the Tory plan being played out under NHS England’s Five YearForward Plan.  But goodwill will not be enough to keep the NHS functioning any more than our public services or the wider economy. People deserve better. Instead of the government relying on volunteers wouldn’t it be better to ensure that workers have a right to a job that pays a living wage? Wouldn’t it be better to re-embrace a full-employment policy by introducing a Job Guarantee programme at a fair wage for those that find themselves without work? Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that those who can’t work receive sufficient benefits to allow them to live with dignity, instead of in living in a state of permanent anxiety? The advantage of such an approach is not just economic.  A society free from the fear of falling into penury creates healthier and happier people and communities, which benefits everyone.   

Sir Robert Francis, head of Healthwatch, suggested in October that hospital patients, once fit, could give back to the NHS by volunteering. He claimed that the NHS ‘would work so much better’ if everyone did their bit. Let’s of course celebrate the work dedicated volunteers do to create a more compassionate society, but let’s not confuse that with a reference to wartime spirit to get us through when the situation has been created through a deliberate, politically motivated choice.

Change will not come from the top. It can only be driven via grass roots action. It starts by challenging politicians who describe the money system as if it were like our own household budgets when that narrative is false and bears no relationship to monetary reality.  We need politicians that serve us by putting public and social purpose at the heart of government policy making for the best interests of the nation.    





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The Operation of Worker-Owned Companies in Martian SF

A week or so ago I put up a few passages from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars (London: HarperCollins 1996), a science fiction book about the colonization and terraformation of the Red Planet. In Robinson’s book, on breaking away from terrestrial domination the Martians establish a constitution which makes all the companies not owned by the global Martian state or its constituent cities worker-owned cooperatives, partly modelled on the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. On page 301 Robinson describes how Nadia, the new Martian president in the capital, Sheffield, works to transform the planet’s industries, including those formerly owned by terrestrial metanats – vast multinationals that now dominate the industries of whole countries – into the new system. Robinson writes

Nadia, however, never made it to this conference. She got caught up by affairs in Sheffield instead, mostly instituting the new economic system, which she thought important enough to keep her there. The legislature was passing the law of eco-economics, fleshing out the bones drawn up in the constitution. They directed co-ops that had existed before the revolution to help the newly independent metanat local subsidiaries to transform themselves into similar co-operative organisations. This process, called horizontalization, had very wide support, especially from the young natives, and so it was proceeding fairly smoothly. Every Martian business now had to be owned by its employees only. No co-op could exceed one thousand people; larger enterprises had to be made of co-op associations, working together. For their internal structures most of the firms chose variants of the Bogdanovist models, which themselves were based on the co-operative Basque community of Mondragon, Spain. In these firms all employees were co-owners, and they bought into their positions by paying the equivalent of about a year’s wages to the firms equity fund. This became the starter of their share in the firm, which grew every year they stayed, until it was given back to them as pension or departure payment. Councils elected from the work-force hired management, usually from outside, and this management then had the power to make executive decisions, but was subject to a yearly review by the councils. Credit and capital were obtained from central co-operative banks, or the global government’s start-up fund, or helper organisations such as Praxis and the Swiss. On the next level up, co-ops in the same industries or services wer associating for larger projects, and also sending representatives to industry guilds, which established professional practice boards, arbitration and mediation centres, and trade associations.

I can’t say I’m happy about the idea of worker managers buying their share of management with the equivalent of a year’s pay. This seems far too easy for someone to exploit to me. And I’m also not sure how practical it would be to turn all companies into co-operatives. However, we do need industrial democracy, if only to overturn the massive exploitation of working people that has gone on under Thatcherism. Under the current Thatcherite orthodoxy, wages are frozen, jobs insecure and the welfare system undermined and destroyed. A quarter of a million people have been forced to use foodbanks to save themselves from starvation, and 330,000-odd people are homeless. And the number of people dying on our streets, and the elderly in their homes due to Tory cuts in the cold weather payments, has shot up. And this has all been to give the rich tax cuts and provide employers with a cheap, cowed workforce.

Enough’s enough. We need a proper government with a proper vision that treats working people decently, with proper wages and rights at work, invigorates trade unions, restores a strong and health welfare state, builds properly affordable homes and reverses the privatization of the NHS. Only Corbyn’s Labour promises all that. And part of this promise is to put workers on the boards of all firms with over a certain number of employees.

Corbyn is the person we need to have in No.10. Not Tweezer and her gang of crooks and profiteers. Get them out, and Labour in.

Corbyn Attacks Tories for Calling Disabled People Scroungers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/12/2018 - 6:01am in

Another short video of less than a minute from RT, again showing Corbyn tearing into May for callousness towards the disabled.

It begins with May calling on the House to

Remember, Remember the Rt. Hon. member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, under Labour there is no money left.

Corbyn stands up and replies

Mr Speaker, when I hear a Prime Minister talking about difficult decisions, what always happens afterwards, in these contexts, is the poorest lose out in our society. 4.3 million disabled people are now in poverty, 50,000 were hit by appalling cuts in Employment Support Allowance Benefit alone last year, this government labeled disabled people scroungers, it called those unable to work skivers.

Corbyn continues, but the video cuts him off, showing instead Amber Rudd looking furious.

She may well rage, because once again, Corbyn’s right. I’ve noticed that every government, whenever they make benefit cuts, they always preface it with some spiel about it being a difficult decision. But it is always used as part justification for cuts that will hit the poor. It’s been like that since Thatcher, and I dare say it was part of political repertoire, and almost certainly Tory repertoire, long before then.

And it doesn’t matter how furiously Rudd and her gang of thugs and over-privileged bullies deny it, the Tories do regard the poor, the unemployed and the disabled as scroungers. As did New Labour. It’s built into the work capability test and its assumption that the mass of the disabled and long-term sick are malingerers. It’s in the lies the Tory media spouts about benefit cheats, which have led the public to believe that 25 per cent or so of all benefit claims are fraudulent, whilst the reality is less than 1 per cent.

I don’t know what May was talking about at the beginning of the video, but I guess it must have been about how funding for benefits was severely cut under Labour. Well, it may have been. Cameron and IDS organized their election strategy on campaigning against New Labour’s closures of hospitals and cuts to the NHS. But it was all hypocrisy. When they got into power, this policy was dropped as the act it was. They carried on closing hospitals, and broke their promise not to cut NHS funding. They lied, as they have always lied, because the Tories are a party of liars. And after they’ve made their cuts, they twist the statistics to claim that in real terms, they’re putting more money into the NHS or the welfare state than ever before. But that’s always just another set of lies.

May and the Tories have put disabled people in desperate poverty. They do regard them as scroungers and skivers, and now disabled people have to live with the abuse of an angry, misled public as well as the misery the Tories have directly inflicted. It’s long past time May, IDS, Rudd and the whole wretched lot were thrown out of power for good.

Cassetteboi Versus Theresa May

Here’s another satirical video taking a swipe at Tweezer from YouTube. This time it’s those jolly funsters Cassetteboi editing May’s speeches to make her sing about how stupid, evil and ridiculous her government is.

The lyrics they make her sing are

The government should be able
To say more than
‘Strong and Stable’
And it’s wrong
To believe the fable
That I belong
At the negotiating table
And how can I negotiate
If I can’t face Corbyn
In a debate?
It’s easy to investigate
Precisely why
I won’t participate
I want to make sure
I can ignore
The public concerns about
You have to learn
There is no proof
That I will tell you the truth
I don’t know why
People vote for me
It’s like
The more policies
I talk about
The more problems
You see
And let’s not forget
It’s me you elect
It means a harmful
Far-right Brexit
Everything we do
As we leave the EU
Will be not for the many
But for the few
I know whose side I’m on
Ordinary people are easy
To dismiss
And yes
The message we’re sending them
Is this:
I could go
Into a lot more detail
Explain why this government
Continues to fail
We’ve had cuts
On an industrial scale
And it’s plain
We must not prevail
We cut police spending
By more than a fifth
And lives are being put at risk
But I will lie to you
And say
We’ve made life safer
In the UK
There are other plans
You might have to confront
Think of one man, Jeremy Hunt
And surprise surprise
Yes, we want to privatise
Have we made the Health Service
Better or worse?
You can’t trust me
Ask a nurse
And our new rules
For education
Will underfund schools
So that they need donations
That is the absurd situation
We’re facing
That’s how
Right now
It’s difficult
For schools and hospitals
And if we win
It will be
Only trust the Conservatives
If you don’t rely on
Public services
And remember
At the heart of our agenda
We’re making life harder
For people with dementia
It doesn’t have to be this way
These things don’t have
To stay the same
You can use your vote to say
‘Not in my name’
I don’t know why
People vote for me
It’s like
The more policies
I talk about
The more problems
You see

The video ends simply with the word ‘Vote’ against a black background.

It was put up last year, 2017, and clearly refers to the election, which put May in power. And it’s still very relevant. She didn’t turn up to a debate with Jeremy Corbyn, sending Amber Rudd instead. Now she’s challenged him to another debate, but it’s still questionable whether she’ll turn up for that one. After all, she doesn’t like turning up for anything that it isn’t very carefully stage managed and packed with her supporters and no-one else.

And Tweezer and her cabinet of horrors are still aiming at a far-right Brexit, they’re still cutting public services, privatizing the NHS and making life very difficult for people with dementia, as well as everyone else who is sick, disabled, unemployed or simply poor. And our schools are horribly underfunded, because Tweezer and the rest would like to privatise them as well.

We do need a vote on this one. We need her Brexit vote to fail spectacularly, and her government to plunge into crisis.

We nee a new election. One that will get Corbyn into government, and the Tories out. Hopefully for a very, very long time.

Spice Girls Call on People to Support May in Brexit Negotiations

Here’s another story from the I, simply reporting a piece that was in another newspaper. Yesterday, the I was repeating a piece from the Sunday Times that David Miliband might come back to England to lead the new ‘centrist’ Blairite party that’s been debated for months now. Today, 13th November 2018, the I ran a piece about an article in the Scum, in which the Spice Girls called upon the people of Britain to support Tweezer in her Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

The article on page 7 of newspaper ran

The Spice Girls have called on Britons to back up Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.

The band were known for their girl power message during the 1990s, but Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, told The Sun of a change in message more than 20 years on. She said, “It’s people power. We’re about equality and bringing everyone together.”

Bandmate Geri Horner also backed Mrs May, saying the Prime Minister did not have an “easy position”.

She said: “We don’t have to agree on politics, it’s bigger than that. You can just support a woman doing the best she can and that’s it.”

Er, no, you don’t have to support May. She might be doing the best she can, but she’s the head of a party that has single-handedly done its absolute and level best to reduce ordinary working people, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed to grinding poverty. While at the same time depriving them of employment rights, privatizing the health service and stripping back the welfare state to make benefits as difficult and as humiliating to obtain as possible. As a result, something like 14 million are in poverty, a quarter of a million at least are using food banks, and homelessness has shot up. And there is an ongoing genocide of the disabled which is largely ignored by the mass media. Her predecessor, David Cameron, by calling the referendum did more to split the UK than Sinn Fein and the Scots Nats, because everyone in Northern Ireland and Scotland wishes to remain in Europe. It’s only we English, who swallowed the xenophobic rubbish and outright lies of the Leave campaign.

And whatever Tweezer says, any deal she makes will not benefit the vast majority of this country’s people. Despite her party’s rhetoric, there have no interest in doing anything to improve conditions for the rest of us. Quite the opposite. The Tory party is the party of the rich and affluent, the aristocracy and the business classes. Thanks to austerity, their wealth has massively increased while Britain’s working people have become much poorer. Any deal May will want to make with Brussels will be intended to benefit them, not us.

The best thing in the circumstances will be for Tweezer’s negotiations to fail, an election called and the Tories kicked out and replaced with a proper, Labour government that can actually do the job of rebuilding our economy, welfare state, NHS and relationship with Europe.

As for the Spice Girls themselves, I don’t hate them, but I was never a fan. They always struck me as Conservatives, and a number of my friends didn’t think much of them, regarding them as a manufactured band. As for their slogan ‘Girl Power’, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror film website, Moria, in its review of their film, Spice World, said it was meaningless. It was a kind of ‘post-feminist feminism’, and so was essentially as meaningless and empty as their music. The video for ‘Spice Up Your Life’, in which the girls fly through a dark, twilight city of towering skyscrapers, drenched in rain and given occasional illumination by a distant searchlight on high-tech surf boards seems so much based on Los Angeles of the SF film Blade Runner that I’m surprised Ridley Scott didn’t sue them for copyright. Blade Runner is one of the great classics of SF cinema, not least for its striking cityscape and Vangelis’ synthesizer score. It’s a downbeat, depressing movie, in sharp contrast to ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which is just a piece of inconsequential fun. But the movie had something deep to say about humanity and our assumptions of moral superiority over the biological machines we may create to serve us. Plus the fact that it had that awesome speech by Rutger Hauer as the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, to Harrison Ford’s Rik Deckard at the end: ‘Now you know what it’s like to be a slave. To live in fear. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, seen ships on fire off the shores of Orion…’ etc. Seeing the Spice Girls’ video of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ the other day on YouTube reminded of just how great a piece of cinematic art Blade Runner was.

As for ‘people power’ and the rhetoric about equality and bringing everyone together, that’s very rich coming from the Scum. The Scum’s the mouthpiece of the Tory party, which has done everything it can since it was founded by Murdoch to divide Britain, not least through its strident, persistent racism. It’s thanks to the Tory party and their imitators, New Labour, that there is now a yawning chasm between rich and poor, while the Tories have exacerbated and created further racial divisions by whipping up hatred and fear against immigrants and asylum seekers. Quite apart from the general hatred and fear the Tory press incites against the unemployed and disabled, whom they despise and denigrate as ‘scroungers’.

The Spice Girls are planning a comeback, and if people like their music, that’s fine. They gave people a lot of pleasure back in the 1990s. But this time, their message in the Scum is definitely best ignored.

An algorithm a day will keep the doctor at bay | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/11/2018 - 9:00pm in

Government plans to exploit personal data to target individuals is a shabby way to spend NHS money

“In the UK, we are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it,” the health secretary Matt Hancock said last week. “You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.” But Matt Hancock actually is an economist, so how does he know? I suppose he might have canvassed the views of some non-economists, but I’m sceptical about how rigorous that survey can have been.

“Hi Chris, Linda…” (good to get a gender balance) “… have you got a second?” Hancock may have asked his aides. “Of course, minister.” “You did classics and history respectively, right?” “That’s right.” (Chris is doing all the talking – come on, Linda!) “Great, so we’re spending £97bn on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it. Can you see that those numbers don’t stack up?” “Oh yes, absolutely,” says Chris. “Yes indeed, minister,” adds Linda.

A computer can instruct people on how not to get ill ... the fact that there’ll hardly be any hospitals will be an added incentive!

Related: People must take responsibility for own health, says Matt Hancock

Continue reading...

Tory Group Supported by Liam Fox Wants Private American Firms to Take Over NHS after Brexit

Yesterday, Mike put up a grim piece of news. The Institute of Free Trade has issued a report, edited by the Eurosceptic Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, recommending that after Brexit private American healthcare companies should compete with the NHS to run hospitals. The IFT also has the backing of the International Trade Minister Liam Fox. The IFT has also said that Britain should accept American environmental standards as equivalent to British, and end the ban on certain American imports like chlorinated chicken. These moves, the report argues, would allow Britain to rewrite the rules of global trade and embrace new trading freedoms after Britain leaves the EU.

As well as having the support of Fox, who is also in favour of feeding us all chlorinated American chicken, it’s also backed by Boris Johnson. Which shows you exactly how both Fox and Johnson hate the NHS, the British environment and food hygiene and standards.

Mike in his article concludes

So there you have it. It seems Brexit is being supported by the Conservatives as the excuse they need to fully privatise the National Health Service – or at least, the profitable parts of it.

They have tricked us into voting away our international reputation, our rights, our economy, and now – it seems – our health service.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/01/american-firms-should-run-hospitals-for-profit-after-brexit-says-group-supported-by-trade-minister/

I am not surprised that Daniel Hannan was involved in the compilation of this despicable document. The French philosophical Feline over at Guy Debord’s Cat has been critiquing him for donkey’s years. Hannan’s a right-wing Tory MEP for Dorset and is, or was, something to do with the Torygraph. And he hates the NHS and has demanded its privatization on numerous occasions. And like his party, he’s a shameless liar. So great is his mendacity that the Cat refers to him as ‘the Lyin’ King’.

As for American healthcare firms wanting to get their piece of juicy NHS action, that was always what the piecemeal privatization of the NHS was about. Peter Lilley, who pranced up and down with his cretinous little list of people he hated in front of the Tory conference in the 1990s, admitted that he created the Private Finance Initiative to open the NHS up to private enterprise. And the Tories great, molten idol, Maggie Thatcher, wanted to privatise the NHS completely. She was only stopped by a massive cabinet rebellion. But she and they still carried on with a plan to encourage people to take out private healthcare insurance and privatise whatever they could of the Health Service itself.

And Blair, Thatcher’s ideological spawn, fully endorsed this idea. The murderous work capability assessments were adopted on the recommendation and very definitely unscientific research by the American private health insurance firm, Unum. A firm prosecuted by the Federal government for massive fraud on its policy holders. Blair went ahead with the Tory’s part-privatization plans, opening up the Health Service to private healthcare companies and creating the CCGs which commission healthcare services, on a model taken from the American private healthcare company Kaiser Permanente.

And it’s also no real surprise that the Americans should want to come over here and steal our NHS. Thanks to those firms, the private healthcare system in America is damn well near collapse. A very large chunk of the American public can’t afford their insurance. Every year, tens if not hundreds of thousands die because they can’t afford treatment. The Young Turks have reported that down in Texas, people are hoarding medicines or taking drugs from vets because they can’t afford decent medical care. Other Americans are heading south into Mexico because medical treatment there is cheaper. Bernie Sanders, the very left-wing Democrat politician, has demanded Medicare For All – state payment for all Americans’ healthcare. The idea is gaining popularity, which is why the corporatist establishment, both Democrat and Republican, is trying to marginalize him and suppress the voting rights of the section of the American voting public, who support him. If you want to see what a trainwreck the American healthcare system is, and how badly Medicare For All is needed, go and read his book Our Revolution. In one chilling passage, he describes the tens of thousands of people, who sleep out in their cars once a month in Virginia, on the weekend that the dentists offer their work free. And a few years ago, the American healthcare system almost collapsed completely in certain areas.

This is what will happen over here, unless we kick the Tories out.

As for American environmental and food hygiene standards, they’re deplorable. The water in Flint, Michigan, is so polluted it should be undrinkable. And there are 25 other towns where it’s even worse. There are regular spills from the oil pipelines that cross the country, contaminating the water table. And thanks to Big Oil there are parts of the Louisiana swamps that are just one oily mess. But the Koch brothers spend big money to convince the American public that there’s no environmental threat here, and climate change isn’t happening.

This is also going to happen over here if Fox, Hannan and Johnson get their way. Don’t let them. Vote them out at the earliest opportunity.

Put the Planet and the People First and the Fiscal Deficit Will Look After Itself

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/11/2018 - 4:50am in

Gold coins with £ sign on each oneImage: © Chrisharvey – Dreamstime

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, delivered his Autumn Budget on Monday. Hammond took an upbeat tone, congratulating the public for its hard work and sacrifice which were now paying off, he said, allowing the economy to recover. Reassuring the House that austerity had always been about necessity and never ideology, ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ indulged himself at length in his introductory words in the classic but false framing of household budget economics focusing on tax windfalls, borrowing, deficit and debt narratives.

It was a budget that had no connection with the real world. Conveniently, the targets to eliminate the deficit (which have faded repeatedly into the distance and national debt has ballooned) were set aside. After eight years of punishing cuts and service closures which has caused economic and social distress to so many, the narrative is stuck in the myth where money for investment in the common wealth of the nation is still limited. It must be cautiously doled out, as gifts or rewards for good behaviour, not as the necessary spending of a government taking proper responsibility for the nation’s security and wellbeing.

Austerity is not over by any means.

Tax and Pay

Wealthy earners have benefited disproportionately from the income tax threshold increase. Hidden in the small print and left unmentioned in the Chancellor’s speech was an increase in National Insurance which diminished the income tax gains. Nonetheless, The Resolution Foundation has calculated that 84% of the gains related to the income tax cut will still flow to the top half of the income distribution and 37% to the top 10%.
There is substantial evidence that inequalities in income distribution have a direct relationship with inequalities to access essential services. There is a wealth of evidence that Universal Credit is having a seriously damaging impact on people’s lives and that people with disabilities are suffering disproportionately in cuts to their income and from cuts in services.
This budget does nothing at a time when wealth disparities are at their highest and people with low incomes and employment insecurity are already struggling to make ends meet. It would make far better economic and business sense to improve living standards of the lowest income section of society as they are the people who spend their additional income, unlike the richer sections of society who have a greater tendency to save.

Universal Credit and Social Security

The Conservative flagship policy Universal Credit has been coming under increasing pressure over recent months because of the suffering and hardship that has been caused. In 2017 The Resolution Foundation called the current design of Universal Credit ‘not fit for purpose’ in 21st century Britain. The UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is due to come to Britain in November to examine the impact of austerity, including Universal Credit.
The Chancellor has responded by allocating an additional £1bn to ‘smooth’ its roll out. He has made it clear, however, that Universal Credit won’t be slowed or stopped, and the cash injection will do little to deal with the inherent structural problems causing suffering and hardship often rendering people homeless and hungry.
The Treasury purse may have opened a crack but it will do nothing to make up or restore the losses of the last eight years of austerity. This is window dressing of the worst kind.


Three weeks on from the publication of the IPPC report the Chancellor did not mention climate change once in the budget. Caroline Lucas has challenged this inadequacy pointing out that it is in complete denial of the reality facing the country in our immediate future. Compare this to the Spanish Government’s recent announcement that they are closing coal mines and retraining the miners to develop sustainable energy.
Philip Hammond, by contrast, tinkered around the edges announcing a new tax on the manufacture of plastic packaging. For the ninth year running there is no increase in fuel duty but an allocation of £30bn for roads. This demonstrates a preference for cars over a strategic plan for developing an ecologically sound public transport system. Fossil fuel subsidies will continue. The Chancellor has allocated £60bn for tree planting, but environmentalists have questioned the value of this in the face of government support for environmentally damaging fracking over renewable energy.


The NHS continues to suffer as it not only faces the continued real squeeze on its finances but also on-going privatisation. The Chancellor’s award of extra money for mental health services by 2023-24 is not extra funding and will come from the £20.5bn announced by the government in June this year. This is too little and too late. The crisis in mental health is happening now.
Furthermore, funding for public health services, training doctors and nurses, buying equipment and building new infrastructure will be cut by £1bn next year. The NHS is under increasing pressure in real terms as it tries to cope with picking up the slack after eight years of cuts to social care. The £650m increase to the budget for social care is only a sticking plaster.
There is an extraordinary piece of double-speak in the budget as the Chancellor announced he would abolish the Private Finance Initiative. However, he pledged that existing PFI contracts would continue to be honoured thus locking the hospitals into repaying their substantial debts until 2050. The future direction of who runs public services is also sealed as he indicated that he was firmly ‘committed to the [continued] use of public-private partnership.’ PFI is dead, long live PFI.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that as a result of the Budget the public finances could deteriorate and that an increase in spending could push the national debt higher.
The current reality in the UK is that we have both unmet need in terms of provision of services and unused resources in the number of people who are currently in low paid work which does not sustain them, or have given up looking in despair. A respectable and responsible budget should address those needs first and foremost if we are to have a successful economy.
This budget continues to frame government debt as a burden which must be dealt with. What is more it makes it the overriding concern well ahead of any real life public purpose such as addressing human suffering or the urgent need to combat the effects of climate breakdown.
A political illusion has been created that government has to finance its spending through borrowing or that it needs tax before it can spend. On the contrary it is the government’s duty as an elected body to assess the real resources that it requires to deliver its public and social purpose policy.
The Chancellor prefers to couch his budget in the narrative of fiscal discipline because it enables him to present spending as a kindly act and careful budgeting as a prudent one. This enables the continued dismantling of the NHS and the welfare state. Indeed, it reframes spending as an act of Victorian philanthropy rather than as the creation of common wealth for the benefit of people and a sustainable planet.





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The post Put the Planet and the People First and the Fiscal Deficit Will Look After Itself appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Jeffrey Archer Demands Ban on Gambling Advertising in Radio Times

Heavens, and what is the world coming to! I’ve just read something by Jeffrey Archer that actually made sense, and with which I agreed. The scribe of Weston-Super-Mud is in the ‘Viewpoint’ column of the Radio Times today, for the week 3-9 November 2018. His piece is titled ‘We have a gambling epidemic’ and has the subheading ‘Cigarette advertising is banned – so why not ads for betting?’

Archer begins by talking about how the Beeb has lost much of its sport coverage to the commercial channels, and so he has his enjoyment of the footie, rugger, golf and cricket ruined by advertising for gambling. He describes how these try to tempt you into having a flutter, even though the odds are stacked against you. You may win occasionally, but in the long term you’ll lose. He then goes to compare this with tobacco advertising, which also took many years to ban because powerful commercial interests were involved, which also heavily sponsored sport. He also claims that the NHS wouldn’t be in crisis if no-one smoked, because the money thus saved would vastly outweigh the tax revenue tobacco brings in. He then writes

Fast forward: we now have a gambling epidemic. More than 400,000 punters have become addicts, 26,000 of them aged 16 or younger. So how long will it take the Government to ban gambling advertising on television? Far too long, I suspect. A good start was made at the Labour party conference in September by deputy leader Tom Watson, who promised immediate legislation to dealwith the problem if a Labour government were elected. Watson pointed out that several experts had shown that unfettered gambling causes impoverishment for the least fortunate in our society, and this often results in abusive behavior towards young children and partners,, and all too often ends in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicide.

Rewind: successive governments took years to acknowledge that “Smoking damages your health”, and even longer to admit that “Smoking kills” should be printed on every cigarette packet; and it took even more time before they finally stamped out all forms of smoking advertising. Please don’t let’s take another 20 years before the Government bans gambling advertising, and wastes a generation of young people simply because of the tax revenue.

He then recommends that Tweezer’s new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, should steal Watson’s clothes and bring in tough legislation dealing with gambling addiction before the next election, because ‘No one ever remembers whose idea it was, only the party person who passed the law.’

His piece ends ‘The slogan ‘When the fun stops stop’ is pathetic, and will reman so until it’s stopped.’ (p. 15).

Archer and Watson are absolutely right about the damage tobacco advertising has done, and which gambling and the advertising for it is continuing to do. And obviously a disagree with his recommendation that the Tories should appropriate Labour’s policy. If they did, it would only be token gesture of actually doing something for ordinary people, like Hammond’s wretched budget. A cosmetic improvement designed to get them re-elected so they can continue wrecking people’s lives in other ways, through destroying what remains of the welfare state and privatizing the health service.

But I’ve absolutely no fear whatsoever that the Tories will ban gambling advertising, for the same reason that they’ve never banned advertising for alcohol. There are heavy restrictions on the way booze is advertised, but not an outright ban. Which the European Union wished to bring in, according to Private Eye a few years ago.

The contemporary Tory party is a creature of its corporate donors. Always has been, to a certain extent. The Tories have always boasted that they represent business, and their MPs, like MPs generally in a political culture dominated by corporate cash, include the heads and managing directors of companies. Indeed, this is one of the reasons the Tories are dying at grassroots level. Ordinary party members in the constituencies are annoyed at the way they’re being ignored in favour of the donors from big business.

Going back 30 years to Major’s government, there was a demand in the early 1990s for an end to alcohol advertising. Major’s government was firmly against it. And one of the reasons was that very many Tory MPs had links to the drinks industry. Which Private Eye exposed, giving a list of those MPs and their links to particular companies.

I’m very confident that the Tory party now has very strong connections to the gambling industry, and so will very definitely not want to risk losing their cash. Just as it wouldn’t surprise me that if Labour did try to ban gambling advertising, the Thatcherite entryists in the party would turn against it. One of Tony Blair’s grotty schemes was the establishment of megacasinos in this country, modelled on America, of course. One of the ideas being kicked around was to turn Blackpool into a British Las Vegas. It’s a very good thing it failed.

Archer’s absolutely right to want gambling advertising to be banned. But the Tories are the last party that’s going to do it. If any party will, it will be Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn Criticizes the Tory Budget

The main news story today is Philip Hammond’s budget. Details of it were released a few days, and it’s been discussed ever since. In it, Hammond, dubbed by some ‘Phil the Bleak’, is trying to convince the voting public that austerity is coming to an end, and more money is going to be pumped into welfare services like mental health and the NHS, and town centre shopping in the high street will be revitalized as business rates for the shops in those areas will be dropped.

It’s strange how all these promises were suddenly made just when the Tory party is seriously challenged by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, and is being widely attacked for its colossal ineptitude and massive divisions over Brexit, and the immense hardship it is causing with Universal Credit. I don’t doubt that the Tory press will hail – or in the case of the Daily Mail, heil, the budget as a genuine boost to the economy, which should be enthusiastically embraced by all right-thinking Brits. Just like I can remember the Sun’s headline screaming the benefits of Norman Lamont’s budget back in the late ’80s or first years of the ’90s: ‘The Lager of Lamont’. Which pretty much shows the level the Scum is aimed at – drunken yobs. And for ordinary people, you have to be drunk to think there’s any substance or real benefit in the budget.

Mike’s extensively critiqued it on his blog over the past few days. Yesterday he put up a piece showing that it was all a tissue of lies. Despite his claim that austerity is over, public sector pay is not going to rise, nor are benefits, the bedroom tax ain’t going to be repealed and there aren’t going to be 20,000 more police on our streets.

Furthermore, the tax cuts he’s promising will only really benefit the rich. As Mike points out, this is another swindle to decrease the amount the state takes in tax, which is then redistributed as benefits to the poor, or spent on public services.

But the Tories are still going to introduce 7 billion pounds’ worth of cuts. Hammond also said that

Brexit would not affect spending plans because he had assumed an “average-type free trade deal” between the UK and EU after Brexit, and had £4.2 billion in reserve in the case of a no-deal scenario.

Mike ends his piece by stating that this is also a piece of deception, saying

But you can bet that this will not be enough to deal with the consequences of a Tory Brexit. They want harmful effects because they will then be able to justify harsh cuts to your rights and living standards.

About the only welcome announcement in the whole sorry mess was the decision to stop using hugely-wasteful Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes.

One of Mike’s many excellent commenters, Barry Davies, points out that the PF1 and PF2 deals would simply become PPP, so there’s really no change there.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/29/its-phil-the-bleaks-fantasy-budget-would-you-buy-anything-hes-offering-before-brexit/

Actually, I think all Hammond’s promises are worthless for the same reason Mike does: their provisional. They only have force until Brexit occurs in March, when I full expect Hammond to announce that the terrible deal forced upon Britain by the European Union will mean that they’ll have to reverse their policies and start cutting benefits, public services and again reverse their spending on the NHS.

It’s all lies, from a government of liars, who lie and lie again without qualm of conscience.

Jeremy Corbyn has already responded. This little video from RT UK, posted yesterday shows him denouncing it as ‘a broken budget’. He says

The Prime Minister says austerity is over. This, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a broken promise budget. What we’ve heard today are half measures and quick fixes while austerity grinds on and far from people’s hard work and sacrifices having paid off as the Chancellor claims, this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society. This budget won’t undo the damage done by 8 years of austerity and doesn’t begin to measure up to the scale of the job that needs to be done to rebuild Britain. The government claims austerity has worked, so now they can end it, but that is absolutely the opposite of the truth, austerity needs to end because it has failed.

Corbyn’s right: austerity has failed. It’s failed working people, the poor, the disabled, the long-term sick, and the unemployed. But it’s done wonders for the rich, who’ve benefited massively from the Tories’ tax cuts, and privatization of public services, including the NHS. And, of course, the provision of cheap labour through the welfare to work industry, pay freezes and the removal of workers’ rights. Reforms all intended to make workers easy to hire and discard, and create a cowed workforce in constant fear of the sack and starvation, which will accept any work, no matter how precarious or poorly paid.

And as you can see from the video, when Corbyn laid into the budget, he was greeted with the usual Tory sneers and laughter, especially from Hammond and the Maybot, who jerked and spasmed as if she was suffering a short-circuit. Well, the Tories always find working class poverty a great laugh. You just have to remember how Cameron and IDS had a right good guffaw in parliament when one woman’s suffering due to the benefit cuts was read out.

Well, let’s cut their cackling short, and vote them out at the earliest opportunity.