LibDems pledge cash for NHS as Gloucester A&E wait hits SIX HOURS

Outside Cheltenham A&E at the last election. Photo: Anna Lythgoe 07801819711

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £65m for Gloucestershire, with £42m for the NHS, including mental health, and £23m for social care each year.

This is the party’s flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats will also set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services in their manifesto.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra 1p in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, an ITV poll found last October (link).

Former Liberal Democrat MP and now parliamentary candidate, Martin Horwood, said:

“This morning in Gloucester the waiting time to be seen by a doctor or nurse hit a staggering six hours while Cheltenham A&E was still turning away ambulances until half an hour ago because of the night-time downgrade.  This can’t go on.  It’s blindingly obvious we need two fully-functioning A&E departments in this county and that Gloucester Royal just can’t cope on its own at night.”

“This is a national problem as well as a local one.  Our NHS Trust isn’t the only one that has plunged into deficit in the last two years of Tory government.  And the Conservative candidate here voted for all the spending plans and Budgets that are making this happen.  He didn’t even mention Cheltenham A&E in Parliament for the best part of two years.

“The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all need to chip in a little more.
A penny in the pound here could be used be to pay hard-to-recruit rates and get the doctors we need into both A&Es, while the extra money for social care would ease pressure on the NHS too.  Only the Lib Dems seem to want to make this happen.

“This Conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded – and while the crisis gets worse they just don’t seem to care.

“We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more without giving them the resources they need.”

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

“A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

“But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term.”
NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrats manifesto will set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services. This will include a 1% rise on the basic, higher, additional and dividend rates of income tax in the next financial year raising around £6bn per year, which will be ringfenced to be spent on NHS and care services and public health.
  • A regional breakdown of how the £6bn would be distributed, based on current funding allocations for both the NHS and social care, can be found here
  • Emergency departnment (A&E) waiting times at Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General can be checked online here
  • Alex Chalk’s failure to mention Cheltenham A&E in parliament until 11 January 2017 can be checked on the independent website theyworkforyou.com.  He is no longer technically the MP following the dissolution of Parliament for the election.

Former MP says he won’t take second job if elected

Martin Horwood on the campaign trail for the 2017 General Election. Photo: Anna Lythgoe 07801 819711

Former Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has signed the national petition calling on the Conservative MP for Tatton, former Chancellor George Osborne, to resign following his appointment as editor of the London Evening Standard. 

The petition on campaign website 38degrees now has 189,000 signatures.  The website highlights the impossibility of Mr Osborne doing a proper job for his constituents as well as that of editor of a major newspaper.  It also points out the inevitable conflcits of interest.

‘I always found being Member of Parliament was more than a full-time job and I certainly won’t take a second one if I’m elected as MP for Cheltenham again in the future.  Some of George Osborne’s appointments – such as chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which he championed as Chancellor, don’t seem that inappropriate,’ commented Martin ‘but taking a one-day a week job advising an American fund management firm and then taking the editorship of a major newspaper as well is just taking the mickey.  If I was one of his constituents I’d want my money back.’

Mr Osborne is reputed to be earning £650,000 for the one day a week job with fund managers Blackrock.

‘MPs earn a good enough salary at £75,000 a year’, added Martin.  ‘I know my successor as MP for Cheltenham has earned nearly £4,000 on top of that as a London barrister since being elected in 2015.  I understand he wants to keep his hand in.  But that’s small beer in comparison to the sums George Osborne expects to rake in when he should be representing his constituents.  It’s simple, old-fashioned greed and he should resign.  And in any case, how he can possibly be an independent editor, holding ministers to account, while taking the government whip in the Commons?’

NOTES

  • Alex Chalk MP’s outside earnings are declared in the Register of Member’s Interests which can be seen on theyworkforyou.com at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25340/alex_chalk/cheltenham.   Earnings marked “0 hours since election” are discounted from the £3,941 total earned since the election.

Rate of EU staff leaving Glos NHS trust has doubled

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff nurses quit Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2016

The Liberal Democrats have called for an “NHS Passport” to secure the rights of EU nationals working in the NHS, as figures have revealed a sharp rise in staff from the EU in Gloucestershire quitting the health service.

68 EU nurses, doctors and other staff left the NHS here in 2016, just over double the figure two years ago.  The number, obtained in a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat party, includes 26 nurses, 26 doctors and 16 other staff and covers the period leading up to and including the Brexit referendum.   The sharpest rise was between 2014 and 2015, the period covering the General Election campaign and the announcement of the EU referendum but 2016 saw the total number rise even higher.

Separate figures from the Royal College of Nursing have shown the number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92%, while there are 24,000 nurse jobs unfilled in the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats have called for an immediate guaranteed right to live and work in the UK for all EU citizens working in NHS and care services, in a motion passed by members at the party’s Spring Conference this week.

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood commented:

“These figures are really alarming and show the significant support that EU nationals provide for the NHS is at real risk.  It’s quite possible that the anti-European rhetoric of the General Election and Brexit referendum campaigns have played a big part in this sharp rise by making NHS workers from the rest of the EU feel so unwelcome.

“My own message to EU workers in the local NHS is ‘Please stay. Our health service needs you.’

“The Conservative Government’s heartless and divisive approach to Brexit risks driving away the hard-working nurses and doctors on which Cheltenham General and other local hospitals rely. And their reckless decision to abolish bursaries for student nurses has led to a huge fall in the number of people studying to become nurses.

“If I’d voted Leave on the basis that Brexit would help the NHS, I’d be feeling pretty cheated by Boris Johnson and the rest right now.

“Theresa May must do the decent thing and give the right for EU nationals in Gloucestershire to stay, with an immediate guarantee for those working in health and social care.”

NOTES

  • The Liberal Democrat party obtained these numnbers through a Freedom of Information request:
NHS TRUST TOTAL EU NATIONALS LEAVING EU NURSES LEAVING EU DOCTORS LEAVING EU OTHER STAFF LEAVING
2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016 2014 2015 2016
Gloucestershire Hospitals 33 66 68 4 36 26 20 21 26 9 9 16

Budget fails Cheltenham

Philip Hammond’s first and last Spring Budget today has failed Cheltenham, say local Liberal Democrats.

‘This was the crunch moment for NHS funding and an opportunity to put right the looming financial crisis facing many Cheltenham schools as well’ said Martin Horwood, Cheltenham’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and former MP. ‘And on top of that he has hit our 6,800 strong army of self-employed workers with a bigger bill too.’

‘Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust (which runs Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal) is in the red and going deeper into the red’ he said ‘and after the failure of the Fair Funding campaign headed by our own MP, we now know many local schools are heading that way too.’
‘The Chancellor could have sorted out both these problems today but he failed on both counts’.

‘The NHS got an extra £425m but that won’t even clear this year’s deficit of nearly a billion pounds. The NHS could have received a much bigger cash injection while all parties discussed a long-term solution to the funding of social care, acute hospitals and mental health in this country, as the Lib Dems in parliament have been calling for. We heard more for social care which is welcome but won’t get Cheltenham General off the critical list’

‘And the Chancellor announced money for new grammar and faith schools but nothing at all that will help secondary schools like Balcarras, Pate’s and Bournside and many local primary schools which are now facing the prospect of growing deficits and some very hard choices after the failure of the Fair Funding campaign. Far from correcting the historic underfunding of Gloucestershire schools, the government’s proposed new national funding formula is actually going to leave many existing local schools worse off and the Chancellor did nothing to help with this looming crisis today.’

‘To cap it all, he has hit the self-employed with a National Insurance hike as well, breaking a clear Conservative manifesto pledge. Cheltenham has a big self-employed population – over 6,800 people according to a recent survey and the Conservatives have told them that instead of sharing in the benefits of the economic growth they are helping to create, they basically have to cough up more.’

Cheltenham EU citizens deserve right to remain

Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood has called on the government to accept their defeat in the Lords on Wednesday and accept the right of EU citizens already in this country to remain after Brexit.

Speaking to a meeting of Cheltenham’s Polish Tenants & Residents Association earlier this week he strongly condemned the government’s plan not to guarantee the right to remain of citizens of other EU countries until reciprocal rights for British citizens in the rest of the EU had been secured as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations – ‘as soon as they can’.

“Those negotiations could drag on for many years and agreement might never be reached” Martin told the TARA. “Yet the government could sort this tomorrow if it wanted.  It is just immoral to use people as bargaining chips in this way. People have lived here for years and have always been told they had the right to remain here.  They have jobs, families, children that can’t simply be uprooted. They are working hard, paying taxes and keeping the NHS and care sector functioning.  No-one imagines that a sane British government would actually deport them on the day we leave the European Union but employers and landlords and banks would start to ask for evidence of their right to live and work in the UK and make life more and more difficult.  Yet it is entirely within the power of the UK government to guarantee their right to remain regardless of the negotiations.”

Cheltenham is thought to have thousands of citizens of other EU countries living and working here, including in the NHS and in local technology companies.  Martin Horwood criticised Theresa May’s hardline stance on this issue during the Conservative leadership contest last year (http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/martin-horwood-criticises-theresa-may-over-eu-citizens-stance/story-29478677-detail/story.html).  The TARA meeting heard many Polish Cheltonians complain about the uncertainty the row had suddenly caused them and how current Home Office systems to grant permanent leave to remain were simply not set up for people who had always had that right and never before needed documentary proof of permanent residence.

Following Wednesday’s House of Lords vote Martin Horwood added: “The House of Lords have shown the government the way by amending the Brexit bill to guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain.  The government should accept this defeat gracefully and do the right thing for our European friends, neighbours, family members and workmates.  The House of Lords isn’t seeking to stop Brexit, just impose some moderation and humanity on the process.  The government should follow their Lordships’ lead and make the guarantee now.”

Schools funding ‘hoax’ condemned

Cheltenham’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and former MP Martin Horwood has condemned as a ‘hoax’ the government’s planned National Funding Formula (‘NFF’) which was supposed to deliver ‘Fair Funding’ for local schools and correct the historic underfunding of counties like Gloucestershire but is actually going to mean two Cheltenham secondary schools LOSING £161,000 a year between them and gives only a fractional increase in funding to a third.

The figures buried deep in a Department of Education spreadsheet reveal the following changes from the planned ‘NFF’ for Cheltenham schools.  The first year of the NFF limits losses to 1.5% in Year 1 but the table below shows the hit schools will take if the NFF is later implemented in full:

Baseline funding 2016/17 Funding under NFF Loss/gain % change Protected Yr1 funding under NFF Loss/gain % change
Pate’s £2,675,000 £2,614,000 -£61,000 -2.3% £2,636,000 -£39,000 -1.5%
Balcarras £4,499,000 £4,399,000 -£100,000 -2.2% £4,434,000 -£65,000 -1.4%
Bournside £6,174,000 £6,189,000 £15,000 0.2% £6,189,000 £15,000 0.2%
Pittville £3,135,000 £3,238,000 £103,000 3.3% £3,225,000 £90,000 2.9%
All Saints £4,147,000 £4,461,000 £314,000 7.6% £4,268,000 £121,000 2.9%

Source:Department for Education (http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/schoolsnet/article/122078/DfE-Announcements-on-a-national-funding-formula-for-schools, spreadsheet at https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/supporting_documents/Impact%20of%20the%20proposed%20schools%20NFF_20161220.xlsm)

So Pate’s stands to lose at least £39,000 in Year 1 and then £61,00 a year if this formula is implemented in full.  Balcarras stands to lose £65,000 in Year 1 and then £100,00 each year if the formula is then implemented in full.  Bournside gains only a fractional 0.2% increase under the formula.

Martin said: “We fought a cross-party ‘Fair Funding’ campaign for years to correct the historic underfunding of Gloucestershire schools.  If the government presents this as the answer to that long campaign, then this is a complete hoax.  Two out of our five secondary schools are going to lose out even more – over a hundred thousand pounds a year between them even in the protected first year.  Our biggest school Bournside gets only a derisory 0.2% increase.  This doesn’t only do nothing to correct the longstanding unfairness in school funding for Gloucestershire, it’s actually going to make things worse for thousands of Cheltenham students.

Worse still, the deficits I warned about in the election campaign if Tory spending plans went ahead are still on the cards and this will do nothing to stop them.  Within two years, schools across Cheltenham are either going to be plunging into deficit like our NHS trusts or cutting back on classes and facilities.  The speed with which this Conservative government is unravelling the good financial mnanagement of the coalition years is breathtaking.”

Autumn Statement means no extra cash for desperate local NHS

Today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond includes no extra cash for local NHS trusts facing spiralling deficits and looming cuts to local services.

The Chancellor said in his speech: ‘The government, Mr Speaker, has pledged to invest in our NHS and we are delivering on that promise: backing the NHS’ Five Year Forward View plan for the future with £10 billion of additional funding a year by the end of 2020-21.’

But this ‘additional’ funding was a re-announcement of current plans and was first promised during the General Election campaign after the Liberal Democrats manifesto raised the issue of NHS finance.  The Government’s version of this funding has been condemned as misleading by the Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston who recently wrote to the government telling them that they were giving a “false impression that the NHS is awash with cash” and that they had “given the NHS what it asked for” when this was not true and that in fact local NHS trusts faced “overwhelming” financial pressures. 

Liberal Democrats in parliament had called for an urgent extra cash injection of £4 billion for health and social care this year, on top of already announced plans.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report by the independent health think tank, the King’s Fund, two-thirds of NHS trusts across the country are now in deficit and the trend for the NHS as a whole is going sharply downwards [see link to King’s Fund charts below]. Nothing in today’s statement changes this.

Cheltenham Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood said today: ‘Astonishingly the Chancellor barely mentioned the NHS and only then to repeat an earlier funding announcment which has already been exposed as misleading.  It is quite clear from independent analysis that there is a mounting financial crisis in the NHS and that two-thirds of local NHS trusts are now deficit – in contrast to the situation under the previous coalition government.  We now know this includes Gloucestershire with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS hospital Trusts alone facing an estimated £24 million pound deficit this year.’

‘This poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services like A&E, mental health services and local maternity units’ he said.  ‘Without that extra cash injection local NHS chiefs will be forced into making damaging cuts.  I understand that Brexit has made the financial situation much tighter with lower projected growth next year and for years ahead.  But the government has found enough money to put off the fuel duty increase and spend welcome billions on infrastructure, so they should have realised that the NHS needed invetsment too.’

‘The time for our local MPs to speak out is now. Most of them have a record of complete loyalty to Theresa May’s Brexit government so far – Cheltenham’s new Conservative MP has voted as the party whips have told him in every single vote.  But this Autumn Statement poses a direct threat to valued local NHS services.  So now is his moment to break ranks and speak up for and vote for local NHS services.’

NOTES

  • Commons Health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston’s letter to the Chancellor accusing the government is giving a false impression of NHS finances can be found here.
  • Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP’s call for extra tax revenue for the NHS can be found here.
  • The independent King’s Fund report into NHS finances can be found here but key charts highlighting how the NHS is funded and its deteriorating financial situation are shown in the previous news release post.

Hinkley C a ‘bad deal’

Cheltenham Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood today [Monday] moved a motion at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton to oppose the planned nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.

He quoted a National Audit Office report that confirmed the likely cost of Hinkley to UK energy billpayers had risen from £6 billion (estimated in 2013) to £30 billion. And he criticised the Conservative government for reversing Coalition support for renewables and ditching the promise not to provide public subsidy for nuclear power.  He warned that the 35 year Hinkley deal would burden a generation with higher energy bills.
“There hasn’t been a single nuclear power station built anywhere in the world on time, on budget and without public subsidy” he told delegates in Brighton. “And the EPR model being used at Hinkley hasn’t actually been built at all yet. And the two in progress, in Finland and France, are billions over budget and years late.”
“Just four new large offshore windfarms would add as much electricity to the grid as Hinkley”.
“Hinkley C is a bad deal. We need a UK energy policy based on renewables, energy efficiency and storage and interconnection with other countries.”
The motion opposing Hinkley C was passed overwhelmingly.
NOTES

Tories break broadband promise

The former Cheltenham MP who first raised the issue of poor broadband service in parts of Cheltenham has accused the new Tory government of breaking its promises and his Tory successor of dropping the ball.

Former LibDem MP Martin Horwood called a special debate in Parliament in November 2014, just months before the May 2015 general election, once it became clear that many hundreds of houses across Cheltenham with historically poor broadband speeds were being left out of both commercial upgrade opportunities by BT and Virgin AND the government subsidised programme administered in Gloucestershire by the County Council under the name ‘Fastershire’.

‘The Tory minister spent most of that debate on his mobile phone but he did promise to ‘knock heads together’ and get the problem sorted. And the coalition government’s pledge was that by 2016 everyone in the country would have a decent basic connection speed of at least 2 megabits per second’ said Martin. ‘Both those promises have been broken: the gaps in Cheltenham haven’t been filled despite the fact that just before the election I supplied both commercial suppliers and the County Council with the addresses of more than 600 affected homes so they had no excuse that one side wasn’t telling the other who had been left out. Parts of Cheltenham are still plagued with very low connection speeds and still have no prospect of an upgrade, making it nearly impossible to do business, online homework, online banking and shopping and many other transactions many of us now take for granted.’

‘The Tory County Council’s Fastershire programme hasn’t solved the problem and the Tory government has dropped the coalition’s 2 megabit pledge, pretending the only places affected are in the Outer Hebrides or other far flung rural areas where people ‘don’t want to be connected.’

‘My team and I were hot on the heels of ministers, commercial suppliers and the County Council right up to the election. Since then my Tory successor seems to have completely dropped the ball. He was very quick to jump on the bandwagon during the election campaign but seems to have fallen right off it afterwards.’

 

NOTES

  • The worst affected areas combining both poor connection speeds and inability to upgrade are in Pittville, Up Hatherley and Benhall wards. Cheltenham councillors in some of these these areas include Cllr Dennis Parsons 07540 398914, Cllr Roger Whyborn 07960 240090 and Cllr Nigel Britter 07752 109307.

Technical note: the historically slow broadband speeds in Cheltenham are due to the unusual centralised telephone exchange which leaves outlying areas with a really poor broadband service, often under 2Mbps. Commercial suppliers, principally BT and Virgin have delivered ‘superfast’ broadband upgrade availability across much of the town where they believe this is commercially viable – mainly via large BT cabinets serving whole neighbourhoods. But newer estates like the former Midwinters site off Tommy Taylor’s Lane in Pittville ward, Manor Farm in Up Harherley ward and Grace Gardens in Benhall typically have cabinets serving smaller populations and failed the commercial suppliers’ viability test. The County Council has been subsidised by the government to provide for less viable areas but has exclusively targeted more rural areas (see  http://www.fastershire.com/where-when ), having broadly categorised entire Cheltenham postcodes as ‘commercially viable’ and so ineligible for subsidy under EU competition rules – but failing to find out from commercial suppliers which exact addresses, for instance in newer estates, were not actually commercially viable.  This subsidised programme – which they have called ‘Fastershire’ – has completed much of its work and is due to end by 2018.

LibDems vote to ban fracking

Fracking.JPG
The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference in York has voted for an outright ban on fracking – the extraction of shale gas using the high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks.

 

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham voted for the successful motion: “Fracking poses really significant risks to the local environment wherever it is allowed” said Martin, “from the millions of litres of water pumped below the water table and lost to local water systems, to the pollution and disruption caused by the thousands of trucks transporting water and gas to and from the wells. I’m horrified that the Conservatives even plan to allow fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like the Cotswolds.”

“It’s also a crazy energy strategy. We’ve just committed to a low-carbon future for the planet in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. So why put direct investment into a new fossil fuel industry instead of energy efficiency and renewables? Fracking for gas won’t even displace coal because dirty coal will be on the way out anyway by the time fracking delivers any significant supply in the 2030s.”
During the General Election campaign last year, Alex Chalk – now Cheltenham’s Conservative MP – promised to oppose fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But in December 2015, he voted to support it.