LCC Goes Potty In Parrs Lane

 After his intervention over the appalling state of the gutters and grids, West Lancashire East LCC Cllr Paul Greenall sought action from LCC to have the dangerous Parrs Lane pothole shown above repaired. LCC has refused to repair it because it is less than the “40mm intervention level” and is therefore not actionable.

Cllr Greenall has asked “why do we pay our road tax?”. He might be surprised to find some councils have set the intervention depth at 75mm, or three inches in old money! The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has described the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s pledge of an additional £45 million to repair potholes as ‘paltry’. The funding pledge is in the small print of the Autumn Statement that states “good quality infrastructure is essential for the economy and productivity”.

The development of a first class global economy will not happen on a third world road network. Yet again, we have a chancellor who has failed to address the decades of under-investment in road maintenance. He has demonstrated no understanding that a well-maintained local road network is essential to the national economy”. Thank goodness I’m too old to ride my bike on Parrs Lane any more!

The Question Of Brexit Has Been Decided, Hasn’t It?

 If you were to be looking for politicians with a penchant for bare faced hypocrisy, you might be recalling the uproar that Cameron caused as we learned that “Every household in England will receive a glossy 14-page booklet through their letterbox next week making the case for Britain to remain in the European Union, as the government kicks off a £9m taxpayer-funded publicity blitz. As David Cameron steps up his efforts to persuade voters to vote to remain in the EU at the 23 June referendum, No 10 announced it would spend 34p per household on the booklets, which bear the government crest”.

You might remember that as you read a letter to the excellent QLocal website reproduced here. It’s from Maurice George, Yew Tree Road, Ormskirk…“It was an interesting experience for John Watt, William Gilmore and myself to stand in Ormskirk town centre on a cold December Saturday handing out leaflets about a ‘lost cause’. This refers to our impending departure from the EU (ie Brexit) – on the face of it, the question has been decided once and for all by the referendum which, by a narrow majority, committed us to leave the European Union. So why were three or four of us asking people how they feel now about a ‘cut-and-dried’ decision?

“Lots of passers-by ignored us but a surprising number were keen to share their opinions. It was quite clear that many young people were extremely worried about their futures in a UK faced with fast-rising prices and probable unemployment. Some older folk had voted to leave and had no regrets. Lots more were really sorry they had voted ‘out’ and now realise it was an enormous mistake. And even more had voted to remain and were now sure that Britain is facing a catastrophe outside the EU.

“The outcome is still uncertain because there are several things which could block Brexit: the present government is led by a deeply divided Conservative Party and could collapse at any moment – that would take us back to square one; and the Electoral Commission is investigating whether the Leave campaign broke the law on election spending. We’re glad we had the chance to chat with a large number of people and take a snapshot of their views on a matter which will determine our future for years and decades and maybe even centuries to come. Our only hope is that Brexit will not happen”.

Perhaps the letter reflects once again the disdain for democracy that has grown recently. People who would never have challenged national votes to elect national governments of whatever ilk are now, mainly through social media, brave enough to have a go with their “what have we got to lose” philosophies. On a 72 per cent turnout, 17,410,742 people voted Leave, the biggest vote in British history for anything, and it still isn’t enough for remoaners. As for the law on election spending, Cameron spent public money on his Remain position and lost it all! Mine included!

Shifting GP Contract To Private Provider ‘Increased Costs By 64%”

 The LCC has awarded Virgin Care a huge £104million health contract. Earlier this year it was reported in “Pulsetoday” that the procurement of an APMS contract to a private provider, after the closure of a GMS practice, meant costs to the NHS increased by 64%. Partners at the St Lawrence Medical Practice in Braintree, Essex, were forced to hand their GMS contract back after they were unable to recruit more partners, and NHS England replaced it with an APMS contract run by Virgin Care.

An FOI to NHS England, revealed by Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer from Hertfordshire LMC at the LMCs Conference in Edinburgh, showed that the first year of the Virgin Care practice contract cost 64% more than the final 12 months of St Lawrence’s GMS contract. The FOI, seen by Pulse, also revealed that the Sutherland Lodge practice in Essex was replaced by a Virgin Care APMS practice that increased costs by 16%. Sutherland Lodge had earlier been awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by the CQC but was forced to close due to the PMS reviews.

Now, it has come as a shock to read in the Lancashire Post that the Branson Virgin Care company has beaten Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust in the tendering process to run the county’s 0-19 Healthy Child Programme for the next five years.

The furious Labour leader on the county council branded the decision “privatisation by the back door.” Coun Azhar Ali, who is going to London today talking to MPs about the issue, stormed “This is a massive contract and it has major ramifications for healthcare in Lancashire. It is a terrible blow and could have an impact on the viability of the Lancashire Care Trust.”

“The programme, which covers services such as school nurses and health visitors for children and young people, is worth up to £20.8m a year. It is exactly what we have been warning people about. These contracts are now being given to the private sector and it is clearly the Government’s agenda. The service is currently carried out by the Lancashire Care Trust, but the contract runs out at the end of March”.

The Post understands Virgin pipped LCT by the narrowest of margins in the procurement process at County Hall. The deal is now in a legal “standstill” period to allow the unsuccessful bidders to lodge a formal appeal and The Post understands LCT are considering a challenge.

Unite official Steve Turner of the Protect Chorley Hospital from Cuts and Privatisation group said “This just shows the contempt that the Tories on the county council hold public sector workers in. It is exactly what we have been warning people about. These contracts are now being given to the private sector and it is clearly the Government’s agenda.The decision to award the contract comes only months after Virgin took over the running of community health and urgent care services in West Lancashire, replacing the Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust.

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said he would be holding talks in Westminster today with other Lancashire members to plan opposition to the decision which involves more than £100m of taxpayers’ cash in the county.“I am angry,” he said. “This is not privatisation by the back door, its privatisation by the front door. I am concerned that this is possibly a political decision, given the new political complexion at County Hall. I will be getting together with colleagues to decide what we should do about it and whether we should take this up with the Health Secretary.

All three key parties involved – Virgin, Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Care NHS Trust – have refused to give details of the bidding until after the standstill period has ended. A Virgin spokesman said: “We are currently involved in a procurement process and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time. The Trust said: “At present we are in a standstill period, this is part of a formal legal process and as such we cannot comment any further at this time. “LCC declined to even confirm names of the two bidders involved.

The private sector has been nibbling away at the NHS for years in Lancashire. It started with ancillary services like IT provision, contracts for cleaning and catering being farmed out to private providers. But now companies like Virgin are making inroads into healthcare provision, with NHS Trusts outsourcing medical services they can no longer afford to provide. In a Post investigation last year the trust which runs Preston and Chorley Hospitals was spending more than £30m on pharmacy services, £10m on outsourcing medical equipment and a further £11m on agency labour. On top of that £25m was being spent on privatised medical services including acute, renal, oncology, pathology and neurosurgery. Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle described the figures as “astonishing”.

Virgin bought a controlling interest in Assura Medical in 2010.It is now a private provider of more than 400 NHS and social care services across Britain.These include primary care services such as GP practices, urgent care centres, minor injury units and walk-in centres. The company also provides intermediate care services like audiology, opthalmology, physiotherapy and dermatology. On top of that Virgin provides wheelchair services, prison healthcare, a sexual health service, health visiting, district nursing and end of life care. In social care it also provides help for people with learning difficulties, supporting people to live independently and also to find work. But the company attracted some unfavourable publicity this week when, following a legal battle, it reportedly received a large out-of-court cash settlement from the NHS after it lost a bid to provide healthcare services in Surrey. Virgin sued after it lost out in the bidding for an £82m contract for a range of services for children. The contract was awarded to the Surrey Healthy Children and Families Service.

Leave Means Leave

 Many of us, not being economists, rely on those who are, or have shown, traits towards understanding economics. Economic facts are, to most of us, activity covering production, distribution, consumption and trade of goods and services. To understand the UK economy is a complex matter of measuring markets.

One market of interest is the Single Market of the EU. To quote a politician “We have a deficit with the rest of the European Union of between £80 and £100 billion a year. We are the major customer for the European Union, of any country in the world. Whilst we’re still in the EU the biggest customer is the US, once we’re out it will be us”. Data from the EU confirms the UK imported about £109 billion more in goods than it exported to the rest of the EU in 2015, according to EU data. But it exported about £17 billion more in services than it imported. So overall, the UK ran a trade deficit of about £92 billion”.

Our combined trade deficit has been increasing at the same time as the UK is living on debt. We now spend a smaller percentage of our GDP on our NHS than do France and Germany and we are planning to spend a reducing percentage of our national income on health, at a time where demand is rising rapidly. Public spending on the NHS across the UK is projected to go from 7.3% of GDP in 2015/16 to to 6.7% of GDP by the end of this parliament.

We are already taxed to broadly the historic limit of taxation in the economy. If you look at figures going back to the 1970s, the tax take to GDP varies between 34% and 38%. If you look at the Treasury red book we are heading back towards the 38% level.

A Labour politician claimed “The Government seems to want to strike a deal with the EU that allows us to control free movement of people and yet at the same time somehow retain access to the single market, including keeping passporting in the City. I do not believe such a deal is possible. Let’s not give up on an ambitious negotiating strategy which allows us to stay in the single market and make some changes to freedom of movement, which is really why most people voted for Leave”.

Did we? I can’t recall voting leave just to change freedom of movement. Perhaps some did. But I didn’t want to have citizenship of a federal government thrust on me. I didn’t want total loss of sovereignty to Juncker et al. And above all I didn’t want our fishing, agriculture, and financial services to continue to feed the greedy German economy at the expense of our own. Germany’s trade surplus for 2016 rose to 252.9 billion euros ($270.05 billion), surpassing the previous high of 244.3 billion euros in 2015. [Source the German Federal Statistics Office]. The French economy is in deficit of €45.7bn [Source finfacts].

All in all we are borrowing to pay for our imports. Very simply, if goods with greater value are flowing INTO the country than the value of goods being exported, logically the MONEY going out is greater than the money coming in. As a result, there is less money, or wealth INSIDE our economy, which means the same number (or greater as population increases), are competing for a piece of the “pie”, a pie that gets smaller and smaller as the trade deficit continues.

Given the above, why would anybody want to negotiate for the UK to retain so called economic benefits of the EU single market that only benefits Germany? In Florence Theresa May said “The British people have decided to leave the EU and to be a global, free-trading nation, able to chart our own way in the world. The strength of feeling that the British people have about this need for control and the direct accountability of their politicians is one reason why, throughout its membership, the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union”.

Music To “BrexitEars”

 In the “New Opportunity” for “Reaching out to EU Citizens” which is all about “Winning hearts and minds to create a federal EU” you can read that the general public’s trust in the European Union, as in other political institutions, has steadily eroded over the past decades, with a significant drop since the start of the financial and economic crisis in 2008. Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, acknowledged this worrying trend in his inaugural speech at the European Parliament in November 2014, when he set the tone for his ‘last-chance Commission’. ‘Either we succeed in bringing the European citizens closer to Europe — or we will fail’. Now, more than ever, the Union must confront the cynics, the sceptics and the critics, and show that it is delivering.

“The EU needs to urgently establish a continuous debate between the citizens and the Union’s institutions, ‘a disempowered dialogue of emancipated people’, to quote the philosopher Jürgen Habermas and this need received new impetus in 2016, with the referendum in the United Kingdom on Brexit”.

Perhaps that is why today, asked if the [UK] deal meant that the default position is remaining in the single market, Barnier said “No. You haven’t understood that well…beyond its decision to leave the EU…the British government has confirmed that it wishes also to leave the single market and the customs union which is not obligatory. There are countries who are not EU members, who are part because that is their wish, whilst respecting of the rules of the single market. But that’s not the choice taken by the UK. So you have not understood that well”. But now they will!

From Sam “A Relatively Dull Person” Currie

 Sailor Sam Currie has taken over the “Tory-in-a-paddy” Toy Pram previously used by Wally. He tweets “As a #westlancs resident, I’d be interested to know which of @UKLabour #brexit policies @rosie4westlancs supports? Or does it change daily according to the whip? Perhaps she could make a statement @Visiter @champnews”

Can’t Currie read the published statement like the rest of us? Rosie Cooper said “I voted in favour of holding a referendum, I voted in favour of triggering Article 50, and I will continue to vote to represent the will of West Lancashire residents”.
http://www.rosiecooper.net/statement_on_european_union_withdrawal_bill

As has been written today “Our [Tory] government on our behalf is reportedly offering to pay the EU around €45-50 billion of money that we don’t legally owe, to submit to our courts being overruled by a wholly foreign court after we have left the EU, and to make commitments keep our regulation in agriculture and possibly other fields “aligned” with the EU in order to resolve the Irish border issue. This is all so that we can reach the nirvana of having not a trade deal, but talks about a trade deal”.

Perhaps this is OK with “whipped by the West Lancashire Conservative Party” Sam Currie?

Agreement, With A Full Irish Breakfast?

 JOINT REPORT FROM THE NEGOTIATORS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE UNITED KINGDOM GOVERNMENT ON PROGRESS DURING PHASE 1 OF NEGOTIATIONS UNDER ARTICLE 50 TEU ON THE UNITED KINGDOM’S ORDERLY WITHDRAWAL FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION

1. This report, presented jointly by the negotiators of the European Union (Union) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), records the progress made in the first phase of negotiations under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) on the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the Union.
2. Both Parties have reached agreement in principle across the following three areas under consideration in the first phase of negotiations, on which further detail is set out in this report: a. protecting the rights of Union citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the Union; b. the framework for addressing the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland; and c. the financial settlement.
3. Progress was also made in achieving agreement on aspects of other separation issues.
4. The positions detailed in this report form a single and coherent package. Agreement in principle has been reached on the package as a whole, as opposed to individual elements.

5. Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out below in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail. This does not prejudge any adaptations that might be appropriate in case transitional arrangements were to be agreed in the second phase of the negotiations, and is without prejudice to discussions on the framework of the future relationship.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader has secured “six substantive changes” to the text on the Irish border. She said “There is no red line down the Irish sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the Europen Union, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union”.

Perhaps this might mean we escape from the United States of Europe, as German federalist Martin Schulz has told the SDP party conference that a new treaty should be presented to member states creating a United States of Europe and countries who oppose it must leave the EU. He demanded “there to be a constitutional treaty to create a federal Europe… the treaty will be presented to the member states and those who are against should just leave the European Union… We want the United States of Europe”. His plan is for this to come into existence by 2025.