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.
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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
KCC are considering a study to cut £4M off the Bus subsidies budget. This could decimate services around Sittingbourne and the vilages. You can protest by signing the Petition here: http://chn.ge/2ihMk6K
Local Labour Councillors have been doing so for some time but the public also need to protest if they genuinely want affordable housing – an article by Kay Murphy
Swale News Extra has reported more than once on developers reducing the number of affordable houses they build. They can do this using a legal loophole after planning permission has been granted. Based on the number of affordable houses they’ve given in the planning application, developers can later submit a viability assessment that argues it’s no longer financially viable to build that number and arguing for a reduction. Consultants are willing to help developers, advertising for example, ‘a good track record for securing reductions’ (in the number of affordable homes to be built) ‘including removing the requirement altogether’. The financial figures ‘proving’ the developers’ case are covered by commercial confidentiality so can’t usually be made public.
The battle for affordable housing isn’t being fought on an even playing field when developers are able to use viability assessments to maximise their profits by reducing the number of homes they build.
With so many developers wanting to build in Swale’ the public needs to be aware of what’s happening and start protesting. Viability assessments should be open to public scrutiny. The tide is turning, communities are beginning to take action – and some are winning.