Category Archives: uncategorized
Camilla Hodgson reports that ten English authorities with the highest number of homes at serious flood risk plan to build homes in what the government considers “high-risk” areas. Almost 35,000 are planned – and more in lower-risk flood zones, according to local planning documents analysed by the FT.
Council planning officers at both Fenland and Hull councils said the risk of flooding must be balanced against the importance of economic growth.
Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at catastrophe risk modelling company Risk Management Solutions warns of several hazards, including:
- the failure to consider insurance during the planning process, so that some homes end up being uninsurable or very expensive to protect;
- councils’ inability to afford to monitor the installation of planned mitigation measures – such as raising the height of the electrics in new housing
- and that currently developers bear no further responsibility for properties after they are sold.
in November The Lincolnite reported that more than 5,000 homes have been proposed in high-risk zones of Lincolnshire, where roads and thousands of acres of farmland were flooded with some farms being totally marooned.
Andrew Ward, one of the affected farmers, described the ‘horrendous’ damage: “Potatoes, sugar beet and maize have been ruined and the loss of wildlife will be colossal here, all of their habitats will be ruined.”
He complains that the Environment Agency are using farmland as flood plains to prevent flooding in Lincoln: “The rivers need to be dredged but we haven’t ever seen it happen here”. The Environment Agency has insisted that it does carry out regular and ongoing maintenance and blamed problems on the heavy rainfall. See video link
On the campaign trail in flood-hit Derbyshire, the prime minister said: “We’ve got to stop building on flood plains. We’ve got to stop building on areas which are vulnerable to flooding.”
In due course this statement should be fact-checked.
Media 107: BBC removes account of Corbyn’s popularity, FT retains news of his standing ovation in Brussels
Readers in Stroud and Uganda sent links to the social media scoop featuring answers made by the Mirror’s political editor Nigel Nelson during the BBC interview pictured below.
Saturday night’s 10.30 edition of the BBC’s nightly review of the following day’s newspapers broadcast an admission of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity with the public. Click here for the video extract.
The BBC presenter had asked “Very quickly, what’s he like engaging with the public” and Nigel Nelson replied:‘The public love him. Wherever he turns up he’s greeted like a rock star’
Corbyn’s phenomenal energy, stamina and work-rate were covered. Nelson’s verdict: Corbyn is ‘prime ministerial’.
It was all too much – didn’t fit the mainstream narrative – and in the second edition of the review an hour later, Nigel Nelson’s contribution was omitted.
But the FT retained its account of the standing ovation for Jeremy Corbyn in Brussels not mentioned in other mainstream media.
Mr Corbyn “These documents confirm the US is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks.
Totally ignored when first presented, at yesterday’s Westminster press conference focussing only on the documents, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn presented the unredacted 451 pages covering six rounds of secret talks from July 2017 to ‘just a few months ago’. Though downplayed by our state media (no reference on radio & seen only at the bottom of the BBC website), a host of newspapers and other media outlets are highlighting this deeply significant news today.
Longer patents and reduced access to generics
On medicine pricing, Mr Corbyn said discussions had already been concluded between the two sides on lengthening patents. ‘Longer patents can only mean one thing – more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this,’
A key section of the documents relating to this claim states: ‘The impact of some patent issues raised on NHS access to generic drugs (i.e. cheaper drugs) will be a key consideration going forward.’ He pointed to the example to the drug Humira to back up his statement, which is used to treat Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It costs the NHS £1,409 a packet, while in the US the price of Humira is £8,115.
The Jacobin, the ‘leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture’ points out that in recent years Conservative governments have overseen a massive increase in NHS privatisation, with billions of pounds of contracts handed out to private providers.
Meanwhile, waiting times in NHS hospitals are now at their worst level since records began – earlier this year, numbers showed tens of thousands of patients waited more than four hours for a bed. That’s quite a distance from the party’s pledge that the NHS would be “safe in our hands.”
Opposition to the British National Health Service: 1940-2019
The author, Solomon Hughes, points out that there has been Tory resentment of the NHS from the beginning. Labour minister Aneurin Bevan founded the NHS in the 1940s after Winston Churchill Churchill’s Conservative Party voted against its creation twenty-two times, alleging that the legislation “undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment.
Hughes attributes Tory ‘resentment’ of the NHS to its size, initial efficiency and enduring popularity because it undermines the argument that market methods are preferable to public service. They have tended to underfund the NHS and have handed some services to private firms – and we add, many (with friends and families) taking shares and directorships in such companies.
He sees this Tory cabinet as being the most right-wing in decades –looking ‘longingly’ toward the United States, whose president lavishes praise on Boris Johnson as prime minister.
The United States can be seen as an aspirational model for Britain from a Tory perspective: a country with huge concentrations of wealth, no Labour Party, and a weak welfare state.
Highes sees the aim of this Conservative government as being to remake Britain in the image of United States, with a major step being the proposed free-trade agreement that will follow Brexit.
As a recent forthright Channel 4 program Dispatches made clear, US trade objectives for any deal include breaking NHS powers to buy US-made drugs at affordable rates. This would cost the NHS billions and enrich major drug companies. Hughes continues:
“But that is not the only danger of the trade agreement – with privatization also firmly on the card. The US trade objectives, published this February, say that any deal should “ensure that state owned entities act in accordance with commercial considerations with respect to the purchase and sale of goods and services.” This means that a state-owned entity, like the NHS, would be restricted in favoring NHS-owned hospitals as a “preferred provider” in future arrangements. The objectives also say that a deal must “increase opportunities for US firms to sell US products and services to the UK” through “government procurement.” The NHS is one of the largest bodies involved in that procurement process – which US corporations clearly view as a large, attractive market”.
Boris Johnson has stacked his cabinet with ministers who will support an extension of Thatcherite free-market reforms.: “In 2011, Liz Truss, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, and Chris Skidmore wrote a manifesto for a more radical Tory Party outside of its pact with the Lib Dems, titled “After the Coalition.” It advocated a health service where “two thirds” of hospitals “are run privately or not-for-profit” and argued that the NHS should “take advantage of the extra efficiencies private companies can provide.”
What will be in store for the NHS – and all who cannot afford private treatment – if the Tory Party wins the election?
Read The Jacobin article here.
Labour’s four-day-week policy: already working well for companies in New Zealand, Scotland, England and Ireland
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told the Labour conference in September that the party would reduce average full-time hours to 32 a week within a decade “with no loss of pay”. People should “work to live, not live to work”, he said.
The Times cites research by the Centre for Policy Studies, ‘The most influential think tank among Conservative MPs’, which was not revealed on their website. It was said to allege that reducing the hours of public sector employees, including doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters and police officers, would be costly because the workforce would have to expand.
That is not the experience of 4-day companies in New Zealand, Scotland England and Ireland
The ITV News website covers theory, adding statistics and recording at length the findings of Edinburgh restaurant Aizle, which has enjoyed its best financial year after moving to 4-day working. Its owner says the improvement in staff morale, which has helped to recruit and retain willing workers, has been the biggest positive.
It briefly refers to a New Zealand financial services company initiated the four-day-week and claimed it boosted productivity by 24%. Henley Business School research also mentions Perpetual Guardian, the New Zealand estate management firm, one of the first to go public with a research-backed assessment of its trial, before adopting the policy in November 2018, having found that productivity was unharmed by the shortened working week,
Another company Think Productive in Brighton and Hove switched seven years ago. It changed its five-day week into four extended weekdays and one Friday in four after a three-month trial, but staff are still given the option to work a traditional five-day week: “Most don’t, choosing to lose two commutes and gain the freedom of an extra day to pursue personal and professional interests beyond their primary income”.
Recruitment firm ICE Group this year became the first company in Ireland to adopt a four-day week for all its staff.
Henley Business School research: four-day week pays off for UK business
Henley’s ‘Four better or Four Worse?’ White Paper has gathered opinions from over 250 businesses who currently operate with a four-day working week.
- Two thirds reported improvements in staff productivity.
- The move has already saved implementing businesses an estimated £92 billion annually
- Three quarters of Brits back a four-day working week
- 67% of Gen Z say it would drive them to pick a place to work.
- 64% of those businesses who have already adopted a four-day working week have reported improvements in staff productivity.
- 78% of implementing businesses said staff were happier, 70% less stressed
- 62% took fewer days off ill..
- 63% of employers said that providing a four-day working week has helped them to attract and retain talent.
- 40% of employees said they use the time to upskill or develop professional skills.
- 25% said they use their fifth day to volunteer.
- 34% of business leaders surveyed and 46% of those in larger businesses, say making the switch to a four-day working week will be important for future business success.
The study shows that UK workers are keen for this workplace shakeup, with nearly three quarters (72%) agreeing it’s an attractive proposition and would be a firm driver when picking an employer. This is particularly important for Gen Z – with two thirds (67%) saying it would influence their choice of employment.
The research also added that, despite the financial, environmental and wellbeing advantages, 73% of employers cite concerns around taking up the change, with client and customer servicing and the need to be available, noted as the main barrier for 82% of businesses.
The four-day week also demonstrates a positive impact on the environment, as employees estimate they would drive 557.8 million fewer miles per week on average, leading to fewer transport emissions.
Quartz magazine presents new evidence that working less is good for productivity. In August 2019, Microsoft Japan embarked on a four-day week trial. Every Friday it closed the office and gave roughly 2,300 full-time employees a paid holiday.
According to an article in Sora News 24, there was an enormous jump in productivity. Based on sales per employee, workers were almost 40% more productive than they were the same month a year earlier, while staff stress levels were dramatically improved.
Other productivity hacks (shortcuts, tricks or strategies) were encouraged, including limiting meetings to 30 minutes and suggesting that instead of calling meetings, employees could more fully utilize software available for online collaboration.
Cassie Werber commented yesterday: “Microsoft Japan’s trial is significant because it’s the biggest yet in terms of staff numbers and the apparent effect on productivity. It’s caught the global imagination, perhaps, because Japan’s work culture is seen as particularly punishing. If a big Japanese tech company can change its ways and achieve startlingly better results, perhaps there’s hope for us all”.
On 20 July Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell launched a new Labour Party document, Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing. (1).
A September paper by Richard Hatcher, which may be read in full here, discusses its implications for social care, referring to Birmingham as a case study. Edited extracts follow (several hyperlinks added):
Democratising Local Public Services commits a future Labour government to reversing four decades of outsourcing by local councils by legislating to ensure that the default option for councils is for the public sector to deliver its own services.
The section headed ‘How Outsourcing Has Gone Wrong’ identifies two key issues:
- poor quality of provision: there is now widespread evidence of failures in service quality in services provided through outsourced contracts’ (p12)
- and lack of public accountability in different forms: the Information Commissioner has noted that just 23% of the public polled thought that the activities of private providers of public services were accessible. Information about outsourcing companies can only be requested by the public if it is held by a public authority on behalf of that outsourcing company. (p13)
Hatcher points out that social care is the largest single area of council spending, most of which goes to external providers, and finds it very surprising that there is only one reference to social care in the 53 pages of the Labour Party report. This is a regrettable missed opportunity because social care exemplifies the two major problems with outsourced provision that the Labour party report identifies and is therefore a prime candidate for insourcing.
The Thatcher government, we are reminded, created a lucrative new market in social care by forcing local authorities to spend 85% of their social care budget in the private sector, decimating local authority provision.
Since then the transformation towards a market in adult social care has progressed steadily, with no attempt by any government to halt or reverse the trend. [ ….] In 1979 64% of residential and nursing home beds were still provided by local authorities or the National Health Service; by 2012 the local authority share was 6%; in the case of domiciliary care, 95% was directly provided by local authorities as late as 1993; by 2012 it was just 11%. This also means the bulk of the adult social care workforce – around 72% – is now employed in the private and voluntary sectors, along with another 14% employed by individual service users making use of ‘personal budgets’, leaving just 14% employed by local authorities.’ (pp7-8) 
However, the prospect of exceptional profits attracted big equity investors into this new market. They bought up small providers and opened much larger homes for maximum profit, employing staff, largely women, on low pay, according to Social Care as a Local Economic Solution for the West Midlands, a report by David Powell, New Economics Foundation, with Karen Leach and Karen McCarthy, Localise West Midlands, published in 2017 :
Built into every contract to a major provider will be the underlying need to deliver a significant return on investment
CRESC [the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change] found that big care providers expect to offer 11% returns to investors (including costly debt repayments which often return to the parent operating company). The business models of the largest five residential care chain companies in the UK offer returns to investors that account for as much as 29p in every £1 of their costs – the second biggest drain on expenditure after wages.
The care ‘market’ is increasingly consolidating towards such providers. As of 2015, nearly 20% of all care beds were provided by the ‘big four’ care companies – Four Seasons, Bupa Care Homes, HC-One Ltd, and Barchester Healthcare. They are gradually increasing their market share – buying up small chains and taking over provision from family-owned homes. (p12) But now the care market is in crisis because the government cuts in local authority budgets have squeezed the flow of profits to the care businesses. More than 400 care home operators have collapsed in the last five years, including over 100 in 2018 (Guardian 12 March 2019).
Insourcing will be difficult as the social care market is highly fragmented. As Bob Hudson says :
There is no compact adult social care service that can be easily repatriated into public sector ownership. Rather the sector is characterised by many fragmented, competing providers. The care home sector supports round 410,000 residents across 11,300 homes from 5500 different providers (Competition and Markets Authority, 2017). The situation in home care is even more diverse with almost 900,000 people receiving help from over 10,000 regulated providers. (2018, pp1-2)
After a detailed seven-page Birmingham case-study of the privatised care industry, Richard Hatcher ends, “One section of Birmingham Council’s Local Manifesto 2018-2022 is titled ‘A Rebirth of Municipal Socialism’. It promises, “We will re-state the case for the municipal provision of services in Birmingham, heralding a new age of municipal socialism. And the Labour council in Birmingham will lead by example, calling time on the misplaced notion that the private sector always trumps the public sector by adopting a policy of in-house preferred for all contracts”. That was published in March 2018, a year and a half ago.
He asks “Where are the detailed plans to put this policy into practice?” and recommends Birmingham City Council to publish detailed plans to bring its out-sourced social care services in-house, open the books and make public these and all its other out-sourcing contracts so there can be genuine public accountability – and specifically for social care, the biggest sector of the Council’s outsourcing.
- The Labour Party (2019) Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing. http://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Democratising-Local-Public-Services.pdf
- Bob Hudson (2016) ‘The failure of privatised adult social care in England: what is to be done?’, The Centre for Health and the Public Interest. https://chpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/CHPI-SocialCare-Oct16-Proof01a.pdf
- Bob Hudson (n.d.) ‘Adult Social Care: An Irretrievable Outsourcing?’ https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/pdf/Hudson%20Social%20Care%202018.pdf
- David Powell, New Economics Foundation, with Karen Leach and Karen McCarthy, Localise West Midlands (2017) Social Care as a Local Economic Solution for the West Midlands. https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/West-Midlands-Social-Care-report.pdf
- Birmingham City Council website (2018) ‘Care Homes and Supported Living 2018’. https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory/55/care_homes_home_support_and_supported_living/category/1069
- CorporateWatch (2016) The Home Care Business. https://corporatewatch.org/the-home-care-business/#__RefHeading___Toc2989_782775029
- The Labour Party (2017) Alternative Models of Ownership. https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Alternative-Models-of-Ownership.pdf
- The Labour Party (2018) Democratic Public Ownership. https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Democratic-public-ownership-consulation.pdf
- Richard Hatcher (July 2019) ‘Co-production, social care and participatory democracy’. https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/pdf/1907%2019%20RH%20co-production%20article%20v3.pdf In ‘Health Campaigns Together: The Debate over Social Care – New Additional Reading’ https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/socialcare.php
- 10.‘Our Social Care System is Broken’. https://www.healthcampaignstogether.com/pdf/Social%20Care%20Leaflet%20draft%204%20final.pdf
Many watching Prime Minister’s Questions will agree that if teenage pupils behaved as badly as do many MPs, they’d be excluded.
Though not located in the chamber, this cartoon reflects the tone of our politics
After Mr Johnson claimed the best way to honour Ms Cox would be to get Brexit done, Widower Brendan Cox said: ‘Feel a bit sick at Jo’s name being used in this way”:
‘The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common . . . all inflammatory language should be avoided on both sides of the debate’. An hour later he added:
To his credit, MP Jacob Rees Mogg did not join in the barracking and looked quietly disturbed throughout. Might he reason with Boris Johnson, the Attorney General and anyone else in need?
Today in a very well-judged statement, the Speaker who had received an approach from two very senior members on either side of the House pressing the case for a formal consideration of our political culture, addressed the house before opening the day’s proceedings. He said:
“I think there is a widespread sense across the House and beyond that yesterday the House did itself no credit. There was an atmosphere in the chamber worse than any I’ve known in my 22 years in the house. On both sides passions were inflamed; angry words were uttered; the culture was toxic.
“This country faces the most challenging political issue that we have grappled with in decades. There are genuine, heartfelt, sincerely-subscribed-to differences of opinion about that matter … Members must be free to express themselves about it and to display, as they unfailingly do, the courage of their convictions.” ….
He ended by stressing that this is not a party-political matter and asked his colleagues, in the meantime, to try to treat each other as opponents, not as enemies.
‘Way to go’
It is imperative for colleagues friends and family – any people who are able to exercise influence on belligerent MPs and the Prime Minister – should do so, because, as the FT’s Robert Shrimsley writes:
“You have to ask whether he is really ready for the forces he is unleashing”.
Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
Relevant to visitors to this website: reproduced from ‘Watershed’:
Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.
Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.
The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.
Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.
A few recent accidents:
The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.
M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.
The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.
The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.
Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.
An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.
There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.
There is an alternative:
A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.
The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.
The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:
The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.
DSEI arms exhibition protestors call for government spending on peace, adequate public services and addressing climate change
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators, who used a signature XR boat to block access to the DSEI arms fair to be held in the Excel Centre in Royal Albert Way said that war creates devastating environmental damage and with a warming climate leading to more extreme weather and causing more failed harvests and droughts, as food and water runs out, we can expect more conflict and a much bigger refugee crisis. They added:
“The UK has to own up to its part in creating these global problems, take real leadership in reducing warming and conflict, and create deliberative democracies which can solve this emergency.”
West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “The DSEI arms fair causes a massive inconvenience for local residents every two years, from the added traffic and security it always requires. Added to the inconvenience to local people, the arms fair also piles an unwanted and unneeded burden on our local public services, like our police, ambulances, hospitals and transport, all already massively overstretched due to nine long years of Tory austerity cuts. Despite asking questions in Parliament for months, the Government haven’t been able to reassure me that we won’t be seeking to sell weapons to regimes that abuse human rights or are killing innocents in places like Yemen. I’m proud to stand with the Newham residents who are raising their voices against the arms fair this year, and I hope that together we can stop the DSEI from returning to our borough in 2021.”
Demonstrators advocated that instead of helping to promote and subsidise the sales of armaments, government should be creating an emergency budget:
- to bring down emissions and increase biodiversity,
- to transfer jobs from the arms industry into the sustainable economy now
- to stop fuelling conflict around the world
- and instead support ‘peace diplomacy’.
Extinction Rebellion’s Liam Geary Baulch said: “We envision a world where people have a right to a future and a right to live in peace with a home, food, and water – all things that are put at risk by fuelling conflict and the climate and ecological emergency around the world.