Faversham & Mid Kent: The frontline in the battle to save the NHS.

Faversham & Mid Kent: The frontline of the battle to save the NHS.

The National Health Service is the key issue in the General Election campaign: nowhere more so than in Faversham.

The Tories have imposed a top-down reorganisation of the NHS which nobody voted for. The Health and Social Care Act (2012) dismantled the Primary Care Trusts, set up Commissioning Groups, introduced the requirement to put NHS services out to tender and removed the Secretary of State’s duty to provide a National Health Service.

As a direct result of Tory reform NHS services have been moved out of Faversham to an office block near a dual carriageway outside Whitstable. This site is inaccessible by public transport. A bus service was promised. Controversially this would be paid for by taking almost £500,000 out of the health budget. However, East Kent NHS trust has not provided the bus service. The local NHS services are only accessible for those patients who can drive or afford a taxi. The privatisation and re-location of NHS services have been highly contested by Faversham residents.

In another blow to Faversham’s NHS services, the Canterbury and Coastal Commissioning Group (CCCG) proposed to close Faversham’s Minor Injuries Unit. No suitable provider tendered to run the service. At a packed public meeting we were told by the CCCG it would be illegal to allow the existing provider continue to provide the service. But apparently not. The public outcry caused a re-think, the service has continued and the contract is now out for tender again. The future of Faversham Cottage Hospital is also under threat.

At a hustings held at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham on 31st March 2015, the Conservative candidate for Faversham and Mid-Kent, Helen Whatley, chose not to tell us she is a management consultant or who she works for in her opening address. As the Green Party candidate, I was on the panel and pointed that she is a management consultant working for McKinsey & Company. McKinsey is American multinational corporation, and is one of the biggest management consultants in the world. The company has been heavily involved in advising government on the Health and Social Care Act and in advising clients on the privatisation of NHS services: a clear conflict of interest. Furthermore McKinsey are notoriously secretive about their clients. In response Helen Whately acknowledged the following:

  1. She works as a management consultant in healthcare employed by McKinsey, although she added “they are not paying me now”.
  2. Ex-McKinsey staff worked with government on drafting the Health and Social Care Act (2012).
  3. McKinsey staff advise private companies who bid for and run NHS contracts.
  4. Helen Whatley expressed the view that a major problem facing the NHS is that there are not enough mangers. More are needed. However, clinical staff are reluctant to become managers.

The local Conservative Association is pouring oil on troubled waters by adopting a candidate who has been working to dismantle our National Health Service. This issue stalks Helen Whately. In 2010 she contested Kingston and Surbiton for the Conservatives:

Helen Whately, former Conservative parliamentary candidate, has shrugged off any suggestion of a conflict of interest, after it emerged she works for the same consultants helping to draw up plans which could see the A+E or maternity unit at Kingston Hospital removed. (Source.)

The Conservatives are trying to hide Helen Whately’s conflict of interest. On a page headed ‘About Helen Whately’ her website states: “For nearly a decade, she has worked with NHS hospitals, helping them improve care and make the most of resources. She has also advised healthcare regulators and commissioners, and worked on healthcare policy.” However if you go to a Q & A page the following has been added in response to questions on twitter.

You’ve said you work in healthcare, but what do you actually do?

“I’ve been working in healthcare for the last 8 years, as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Over that time I’ve worked mainly with hospitals, but also with healthcare commissioners and regulators. My focus has been improving quality of care, particularly in hospitals, but also community services and mental healthcare. I have led several ‘hospital transformation’ programmes, where I’ve worked with staff from the CEO to frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants. Some of these projects have been about the whole hospital, others have been specific services like maternity or surgery. They have all aimed to dramatically improve patient care – both in clinical outcomes terms and patient experience.  I have also worked on transparency in healthcare, helping to launch two ground breaking online services giving patients and families information about the quality of local healthcare services. This is something I’d like to take further as an MP, as I think everyone should be able to find out how well their local healthcare services are doing and where there’s choice, be able to make truly informed choices.”

Helen Whately is an author of a report – ‘Transparency the most powerful driver of health care improvement?’ (Available here.) For a government set on privatisation of public services, transparency or league tables is a favourite tactic. League tables in our schools, universities and hospitals are used to undermine existing public provision and provide leverage for privatisation. Contrast Heln Whateley’s advocacy for transparency in the NHS with McKinsey’s values: “We guard client confidences”. “We don’t publicize our work for our clients.” (Source.) As a private company McKinsey is not subject to Freedom of Information. We are not allowed to know who they are advising. Do they advise Circle who have just handed back the first privatised hospital?(Source.) Do they advise Virgin Healthcare who have the structure to send profits earned from NHS contracts to an overseas tax haven? (Source.) Once privatised the companies running heath services can hide behind commercial confidentially and there is nothing we can do about it.

The Green Party’s policy is to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, re-instate a public NHS for all, and fund it properly by injecting £12bn in 2015 rising to £20bn in 2019. We will keep the NHS publicly provided and free to access. Only the Green Party is committing to keeping the profit motive out of the NHS. All other party’s will put the nation’s health up for auction. The choice for voters in Faversham and Mid Kent is very clear. On May 7th say “No” to the revolving door between government and multinational corporation’s interests. Vote Green.

We can afford a Green future.

In my previous blog I set out the Green Party’s main manifesto commitments (See: Why you should vote Green in Faversham & Mid Kent.)  I have been asked on twitter how we will pay for it all. It’s a fair question but difficult to answer in 140 characters, so I’m doing it here.

As I write, the Green Party manifesto has not been published yet. So I’ve set out the headlines that have already been announced. All of this is up to 2019.

First, we save money by cancelling: a replacement for Trident, HS2 and road building.

Second, the major new revenues we will raise in tax are: Wealth tax (£35bn), Robin Hood tax (22bn), reduced tax avoidance & evasion (£30bn), VAT and fuel duty on aviation (£20bn), abolish the Upper NI limit (£27bn), reduced tax relief on pensions (£19bn), abolish mortgage interest tax relief for landlords (£5.8bn).

Some of these measures make government spending fairer. For example, you only benefit from tax relief on pensions if you are lucky enough to be able to save for a pension. We will use this money to fund a higher level of pension for everybody. People who are well paid pay NI at a lower rate on most of their earnings than  people who are paid less. Others measures reduce inequality, for example, a wealth tax of on assets over £3m. A wealth tax already exists in several European countries. The Robin Hood tax raises revenue from the banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place, and will reduce the volatility of the markets. Eleven European countries already have a Robin Hood tax.

Our manifesto will contain a fully costed programme that will set out all of our spending and revenue plans. Our projections will be based on a much more conservative (with a small c of course) estimate for growth than the Conservative party. So our plans are more robust. We have a better track record for predicting growth than either the Conservatives or Labour. For the period 2010 – 2014 Labour predicted 15.6% growth, Conservatives predicted 12.5%, and the Green Party predicted 10.9%. Actual growth was 8.5% (Office for National Statistics, ONS). In 2010 the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found huge unfunded spending commitments  in both of the Labour and Conservative manifestos, but found the Green Party manifesto was fully funded.

I know there is still a lot of detail missing, but I hope this gives an idea of our plans. I will fill in any gaps once the manifesto is published. Watch this space. Do keep teeting your questions to @swalegreen

Why you should vote Green in Faversham & Mid Kent.

This is the text of a 5 minute presentation that I made  at the Faversham hustings on 31/03/2015.

Britain is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But our economic system isn’t working. It prioritises growth in company profits over the wellbeing of society. Money has been concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few; leaving the rest of us to suffer the Coalition’s austerity agenda. We now have a foodbank in Faversham, on which 383 people including 138 children have to rely to eat.

The Green Party believes there is a positive alternative: We will create an economy that works for us all.

  • We will end austerity and restore the public sector, creating over one million good jobs that pay at least a living wage.
  • We will pay for this with a new wealth tax on the top 1%, a Robin Hood Tax on the banks and we will close tax loopholes.
  • We will make the minimum wage, a living wage, rising to £10 an hour by 2020.

***

We know how important it is to have a health service that can provide the best possible care when you need it.

We don’t believe that the public’s health should ever be up for auction. That’s why we are completely opposed to the Conservatives’, Labour’s, and Liberal Democrats’ policies of introducing market forces and competition into the NHS – a process which is placing the interests of corporate profits ahead of the nation’s wellbeing. As a result we have seen clinics for Ophthalmology, Rheumatology, Geriatrics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology moved out of Faversham, and our Minor Injuries Unit and the Cottage Hospital threatened with closure.

  • We will fight for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use.
  • We will end the creeping privatisation of the NHS and repeal the Health and Social Care Act.
  • We will make mental health a much higher priority, with resources to match.

***

We want every young person to have access to a quality education, no matter what their family’s income.

That’s why we are opposed to the government’s privatisation and commercialisation of schools, colleges, and universities, which is making access to a good education dependent on financial privilege.

  • We will scrap university tuition fees.
  • We will bring Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority system.
  • We will ensure that classes are taught by qualified teachers.

***

We all want to feel at home where we live, to feel safe and secure. The Coalition has made this more difficult by pushing through the hated bedroom tax for social tenants, allowing landlords free reign to raise rents faster than inflation, and failing to invest in the supply of housing so that homes are over-priced and out of reach for many.

  • We will abolish the bedroom tax, which has taken £900 each from 800 families in Swale.
  • We will build 500,000 social rented homes by 2020 and bring empty homes back into use to ensure everyone has access to an affordable place to live.
  • We will cap rent and introduce longer tenancies to provide greater protection for tenants.

***

We believe that public transport should be run in the interests of passengers, not to maximise profit for shareholders.

The privatisation of Britain’s transport network has done a huge disservice to passengers: driving up prices and creating a race to the bottom in service provision.

It’s clear that passengers are not getting a fair ride.

  • We will return the railways to public hands to stop profits being put before passengers.
  • We will introduce an immediate cut in fares of 10% to give passengers a much-needed financial break.
  • We will make our towns and cities better places to walk and cycle.

***

The traditional Westminster parties are failing to act as guardians of our planet. Instead they back the big corporations who are doing the most damage, providing tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and allowing them to frack our countryside and pollute our air and water.

  • We will ban fracking, which is a big threat in Kent.
  • We will phase out fossil-fuel based energy generation and nuclear power.
  • We will invest in a public programme of renewable generation, flood defences and building insulation.

Whether I am elected or not, I will continue to work for a sustainable, more equal society, where everybody can thrive. It would be an honour to continue that work as your MP. I value the ideal of public service, which I know motivates many ordinary people in their everyday work. Unlike my political opponents, I do not accept that greed is good. Instead I will work for the common good.

Kent County Council must debate fracking

This is a letter published in KM group newspapers on 22nd January. It is in response to Kent Tories veto of a petition debate. See earlier post ‘Kent Tories ‘frit’ of fracking debate’.

Conservative members of KCC’s Environment and Transport committee give the public every reason to be disillusioned with politics (Green Party fury after Kent County Councillors vetoed a debate on whether Kent should be frack free – 15/01/2015). Under KCC rules 2,870 Kent residents, who signed a petition against fracking in Kent, were entitled to a debate on the issue. But conservative members were desperate to avoid debating their genuine concerns. Cllr. David Brazier, who expressed contempt of the people who signed the petition, falsely claimed that any statement against fracking may be used as evidence that a councilor had a pre-determined view of any planning application that may be submitted. Had he spent five minutes on the internet, Cllr. Brazier could have appraised himself of the Government’s guidance on the Localism Act which: “makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result. This will help them better represent their constituents and enrich local democratic debate.”

The motion before the committee was to ‘note [the officers’] report and debate the issue raised by the petition’. The opposition members proposed an amendment that the committee should note the concerns of almost 3,000 Kent residents and call on the Government to release in full the report on ‘Shale Gas Impacts on the Rural Economy’. There was absolutely no reason why the committee could not debate the motion and the amendment. In fact there was a duty to do so. KCC must now honour its commitment to the concerned citizens who worked so hard to bring the matter to their attention. A proper debate must be held at the committee’s next meeting on 9th April.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Tim Valentine

Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent

See also Kent Online article.

Kent Tories ‘frit’ of fracking debate.

Members of the Green Party present the petition to 'Keep Kent Frack Free' signed by 2,870 residents to Kent County Council.
Members of the Green Party present the petition to ‘Keep Kent Frack Free’ signed by 2,870 residents to Kent County Council.

The Government has issued licenses for shale gas and coal bed methane extraction in Kent. These processes may involve fracking, and can pose serious risks to human health and the environment. A petition signed by 2,870 local people expressed their concerns that onshore fossil fuel extraction will use excessive amounts of water, risk polluting our water supply, affect air quality, increase heavy goods traffic and industrialize the countryside.

Petitions with more than 2,500 signatures trigger a debate in committee. So Kent County Council Environment and Transport Committee was obliged to debate fracking today (14th January 2015).

As lead petitioner I proposed that the committee adopt a recommendation ‘to note’ the concern of nearly 3,000 residents, and to ask the government to release in full their report ‘Shale gas impacts on the rural economy.’ (The only version published has all conclusions deleted by the government censor.)

But the Tories were determined to deny the electorate the debate they were entitled to. A Tory amendment to end the debate was proposed as soon as the debate started. A vote on the amendment was drawn 6:6. All six Tories (including the chair) voted to end the debate, all opposition councilors (Green, Labour and UKIP) voted to continue debating the issues residents had raised. So the Tory Chair cast a second vote to end the debate. And that was that. Apparently that passes for democracy at Kent County Council.

The Tories would not even ‘note’ the concerns raised in the petition.

Kent’s Tories don’t care what residents think. Why can’t they debate the issues that fracking raises? What are they frightened of?

Watch the debate that never happened here: http://bit.ly/1C1jLuq

Why Kent County Council must ‘Keep Kent Frack Free’: Debate 14th Jan 2015 @10.00am

On 25th November 2014 members of Swale Green Party presented a petition to Kent County Council. The petition demanded that Kent County Council ‘Keep Kent Frack Free’. It was signed by 2,870 local people from all over Kent. Our many friends from No Fracking in East Kent, Canterbury Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Kent Green Party, together with local shops, businesses and individuals help collect signatures.

As the mineral planning authority Kent County Council is responsible for planning applications for all forms onshore oil and gas extraction. In Kent there are proposals for shale gas and oil extraction in West Kent; for coal bed methane in East Kent and for underground coal gassification st Sheerness. All are dangerous and highly polluting processes. The number of signatures on our petition has forced the council’s Environment and Transport Committee to debate the petition. The debate will take place during a meeting starting at 10am Wednesday 14th January. It  will be live streamed on the web at:

http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/159713

(Note there will be other business before the debate of fracking.)

As the lead petitioner I have been invited to make a five minute statement at the start of the debate. Also I have submitted a short written statement to the committee members. This is my statement. (I strongly recommend the report by Scientists for Global Responsibility and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health which is cited at the end):

Kent’s countryside and rural villages form a landscape of which we are all justifiable proud, and work together to protect. Over many years we have cleaned up rivers, and protected woodlands and wildlife habitats.

Climate change poses new dangers to the countryside we value: more extreme heat and drought; more frequent and extensive flooding; and higher storm surges on our coast. In recent years we have suffered from all of these weather events in Kent. Our water supplies are classified as ‘severely stressed’. The only responsible course of action is to reduce the risks we face. We owe this to our children, our grandchildren and to the people who live and work in Kent’s countryside now. Action on climate change starts at home.

We built our country on coal, gas and oil – leading the world into a new, prosperous era, but these resources are becoming increasingly expensive and dangerous to extract. Unconventional onshore oil and gas extraction will industrialize the countryside, create noise and disturbance from drilling and gas flaring, reduce air quality and generate many heavy goods journeys. Fracking uses vast quantities of fresh water and produces huge amounts of radioactive waste1. Shale gas does not travel far underground; so new wells must frequently be drilled. Onshore extraction will cause planning blight, reduce property values and adversely affect Kent’s rural economy, especially tourism. It will increase global carbon emissions.

Fortunately we are rich in the natural resources required to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Kent is one of the sunniest counties in the UK, ideal for solar energy. Kent has many woodlands, which if coppiced for biomass fuel, would improve their biodiversity. Developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency would make us more resilient by providing local energy security, independent of world energy markets. It would provide employment for local building trades and jobs in the countryside. Carbon-neutral gas can be generated using solar electricity.

We can build a green economy by harnessing what businesses do best: investing and innovating to improve society. Look how quickly computers have transformed our lives. Twenty years ago few people had a desktop computer; now most of us have one in our pocket. We need to apply ourselves in the same way to develop clean energy and energy efficiency.

Kent County council has a duty to ensure that permitted development is sustainable: That development meets the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. As the mineral planning authority the Council has a key role in securing a sustainable, clean energy future for Kent. Unconventional oil and gas cannot form a part of that future because it cannot reasonably be considered a sustainable development in Kent.

Reference:

  1. Harrison, G., Parkinson, S. & McFarlane. Shale gas and Fracking: examining the evidence. Scientists for Global Responsibility & Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Downloaded from: http://www.sgr.org.uk/sites/sgr.org.uk/files/SGR-CIEH-Shale-gas-bfg.pdf (An accessible overview of peer-reviewed literature and independent expert opinion.)

Why I’m standing as the Green Party candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent

Tim Valentine

I’ve lived in Selling near Faversham for over 14 years and coordinate the Swale Green Party. I’m a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I’m Head of the Forensic Psychology Unit. I’m pleased to say that my research on eyewitness memory led to a change in the law on eyewitness identification procedures, enabling identification evidence to be used more effectively.

My wife, Viv, and I run a company, Valentine Moore Associates Ltd. Through our company I’ve worked as an expert witness for the UK courts, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and the International Criminal Court. This work has involved some high profile cases including the murder of Jill Dando, the Lockerbie bomb, and the detention of Omar Deghayes in Guantanamo Bay.

Swale Greens recently led a ‘Keep Kent Frack Free’ petition which was presented to Kent County Council with 2,870 signatures.  I also campaign with the charity ShareAction to press the universities pension scheme to adopt an ethical investment policy based on the members’ own ethical views.

I’m standing as a Green Party candidate because I honestly believe in a fairer society, created for the people, run for the common good. I’m passionate about saving local NHS services. Only the Green Party will help me to change the minimum wage into a living wage, so that working people don’t have to rely on government handouts just to feed their families. I’m determined to protect local people from fracking despite the governments’ attempt to force it on us.I’m an enthusiastic supporter of renewable energy.

I’m a candidate for the Green Party because I know that only the Green Party will end austerity. Only the Green Party are pledged to rebuild public services and permanently reduce energy bills by improving energy efficiency. Only the Green Party will seriously tackle the deficit by making sure that  multi-national corporations and the super-rich pay their fair contribution of tax.