Gill Smith (pictured with Sheerness Councillor Angela Harrison) came a valiant second in yesterday’s Sheppey East By-Election. Gill polled 338 votes (30%, a 16% rise in voter share) against 522 for the Tories and 235 for UKIP. The Lib Dems got a rather pathetic 23. The increase in voter share was thanks to the work of over 60 volunteers from Sittingbourne, Sheppey and 7 other constituences from around Kent. Gill has determined to carry on and prepare the ground for next year’s full Borough Elections.
We are delighted to announce that Gill Smith has been selected as our candidate for the Sheppey East by-election set for May 3rd. Gill lives locally in the ward and has family links to the Island that go back over 100 years. She has many years of experience helping people and developing community projects, including 10 years as a foster carer. She has worked with young people and adults, tackling issues such as unemployment, mental health, addiction and homelessness. Gill has been an advisor for the Citizens Advice Bureau and most recently worked with children suffering problems with anti-social behavior and education. Gill is warm and approachable but assertive. She will speak up for Sheppey East.
She is a passionate member of the Labour Party, who believes that we must ensure that people can thrive in a democratic society that values us all and that encourages both enterprise and social justice. She believes this part of Sheppey badly needs stronger representation on Swale Borough Council.
By the end of next year the Government hope to have made a radical change to our National Health Service. It is called Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and in Kent it will be executed by a powerful Strategic Commissioner, with health practitioners being allowed only an advisory role.
The basic premise of STP is that we should reduce bed occupancy in acute general hospitals by making people more dependent for their own health care in their own homes. In the Labour Party we fear that financial pressures will reduce the options available to vulnerable people, whilst the continuing real term cuts to social care will make it undeliverable.
We also fear that behind STP is a wish to commission out fashionable and potentially lucrative parts of the NHS to private providers, including many from the USA. The Prime Minister’s evasive answer to this in the House of Commons rather supports our fear. What might be left behind is a number of struggling services like mental health, desperate for adequate finance and resourcing.
Even if some do not share our Labour misgivings, it is important that local people are properly informed, engaged and consulted in this historic change of direction. They are not. Small highly stage managed consultation meetings have been held but the public as a whole are being kept in the dark. It is impossible for elderly people who do not have internet access to be properly engaged.
It is frankly impossible to disentangle this process from the funding crisis in the Health Service. It is tiresome hearing the Health Minister, who is incidentally making it easy for himself to sell off NHS property, boasting about increases in funding when those increases never meet the growth in demand. We have an ageing population and vast improvements in medical technology. As a country we have to face the fact that we spend a much smaller proportion of our National wealth (GDP) on health and social care than other European Union countries. The gap was closed under the Blair government but it has widened ever since. The future looks bright for the few, but not for the many.
Rosie Duffield addressing the meeting
Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, was our guest at the 2018 Labour Constituency Gala Fundraising Dinner held on February 2 at the Hempstead House Hotel, Sittingbourne. The dinner was attended by members and supporters from Sittingbourne and Sheppey and from neighbouring constituencies as well. Rosie treated us to a fine, impassioned speech on her own trials and tribulations in becoming Kent’s only Labour MP last year and the steps we might take to emulate her success. She then took questions from the floor. Thanks to Rosie and her Fiancé Michael for attending, to all who helped organise the event and to Hempstead House Hotel for the lovely venue and meal.
Diners getting ready to enjoy the evening
Rosie with Local Councillors Roger Truelove, Tony Winckless and Ghlin Whelan and CLP Chair Simon Clark and Vice Chair Georgina Jessiman
Sittingbourne and Sheppey Labour Party would like to wish all our Members and Supporters a Very Merry Christmas.