Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Not the time to go nuclear !

In Dinosaur on April 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Do you sometimes suffer from one of those days when somehow your timing seems all wrong? When the odd remark that could have been perfectly innocent in a different context goes down like a lead balloon? Or worse?

So, what about this one for bad timing. On March 12, the Citizen came out with a front page headline, “Nuclear Hope for Thousands”. Jobs could be secured for generations to come, it declared.

The nub of the news item was that Gloucestershire could become a major centre for the nuclear industry, with thousands of “high quality” jobs being created. “If there is a certainty for the nuclear industry then there will be people needed to work in this sector,” the Tory MP for Stroud, Neil Carmichael, was quoted as saying.

Good news perhaps for those who liked that kind of thing! Of course, it goes without saying that we don’t. But on the same day, the news broke of the tragic earthquake and consequent tsunami in Japan. And, to make things worse, a few days later we heard that a nuclear power complex had been destabilised and was in danger of going critical. With radiation levels rising, the battle commenced to prevent the Fukushima plant from becoming another Chernobyl.

Now we on the Clarion have never believed that we should go down the nuclear road – and we’ve printed numerous articles pointing to the dangers and difficulties involved. Now surely is the time to stop flannelling and think again?

{click here for the Forest-side anti-nuclear presence on Facebook}

Making the most of our post…

There’s probably not many folk around these days who can remember the halcyon days when a letter cost a few pence (in old money) to post – let alone the time when if you popped it in the pillar box early enough it would be delivered the same day.

Back then the GPO was a government department, headed by a Minister called the Postmaster General. Not only did it handle the mail, but also pioneered the telephone system, routing our calls through a network of telephone exchanges who could connect you with places throughout the world. And you could have telegrams delivered, if you lacked a phone and had urgent news to send. And it was never afraid to embrace the latest technology when it came along.

Ah, those were the days! The rot set in, when MacMillan’s Government first allowed the GPO to distribute “junk mail” with our post. Later, the whole system was hived off, to become a public corporation.

Since then it’s been a sitting target for the circling vultures. It’s already faced the debilitating impact of “competition” – and now the Government wants to sell it off to the highest bidder – as the Tories under Thatcher did with the telephone system.

It’s no wonder that postal workers are campaigning to save the service and keep it in public hands. If we value our post, we should give them our backing.

Time for some cautious celebration?

Since our last issue, folk in the Dean have been celebrating victory in the campaign to save the Forest from the Government’s plans to snatch it from us – and then sell it back again. And we’ve every right to make a bit of whoopee.

But of course it ain’t necessarily over yet – and Jan Royall who led the campaign from the front was right to suggest we should stay vigilant. Whilst the Government has scrapped its plans for a wholesale sell off, they’ve appointing a panel to look at future plans and report back. I’m sure many folk will be waiting for its conclusions with bated breath.

Of course, this didn’t stop campaigners throughout the country from taking to the woods for a day of celebration on Sunday, March 20. Here in the Dean it was held at Wenchford. It was good to see so many people around the barbecues, strolling amongst the trees, and generally relaxing. One campaigner said to me, “it’s so good to be able to celebrate a victory, for a change!”

I agree. But there are so many more battles to be fought – and, who knows, there may be more victories to come, and times for more celebration!

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SAVE OUR HEALTH SERVICE!

In A.Graham, Editorial on April 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The campaign to save our National Health Service has now moved into top gear. We now have more details of what the Government really has in store for us – and opposition is now mounting, both within the medical profession and outside.

The British Medical Association, at a special conference, voted against the Government’s “reforms” – and even the Liberal Democrats voted overwhelmingly against them at their Spring conference. Meanwhile the online petition group, “38 Degrees” is gaining more and more signatures every day from those opposing the sell-off of the NHS.

Initially, the Government tried to sell its plans for the break-up of the Health Service as merely a move to give GPs more power and influence over how the NHS should be run. Even that was bad enough – but the real motivation, the fragmentation and privatisation of the Service, was hidden in the detail.

As veteran Lib Dem politician, Shirley Williams, told The Observer in an interview: “I don’t know if they were deliberately hidden or just lost in the civil service flam – but because of this vast flow of material you would suddenly find a reference, for example, to ‘we are going to lift the cap on the number of private beds in NHS hospitals’ very deep in the impact memorandum” She realised it was a plan to dismantle the NHS and called the agenda one of “stealth privatisation”.

This from one of the Lib Dems most respected elders – a viewpoint that is totally opposed to that of the Government in which her party leader is Deputy Prime Minister. There were other points buried in the detail, too: such as the one that says provision of health services should be open to “any willing provider” – allowing the private health sector to swamp the NHS. An alien concept, competition on a massive scale, would be introduced into our Health Service, and at the end of the day the NHS would be reduced to a rump, picking up the pieces that the profit seeking private sector simply doesn’t want to deal with. And the idea that we, the public, would have any choice is a mere illusion.

Those who will benefit most won’t be the patients, or even those GPs who might think that they could gain a slice of the action. It will be the big health care corporations, many of them American-owned, who see this break-up of NHS as an opportunity to make millions. And neither will it save the Government money. Statistics show that the deeply flawed US health system costs a far higher percentage of that country’s national budget than does our NHS. And once they have gained control of the health system in Britain they will be able to name their own price.

Over the past fifty years or so, the NHS has become a treasured icon in our welfare society. It is the bedrock of a society that was pledged to look after its citizens “from the cradle to the grave”. It must be defended, for those of us who use it, and for the generations to come.

The Government, of course, wants to rush its legislation through Parliament as quickly as it can. It’s up to us all to stand up and defend the NHS before it’s too late.

And, as a starting point, those who haven’t already done so can log on to the 38 Degrees website: www.38degrees.org.uk/NHS-petition, and sign up!

The end of the NHS as we know it

Under Tory plans for the “reform” of our Health Service, the NHS as we know it would cease to exist. It would effectively become a National Health Market, according to Dr. Chris Cox.

He was speaking at a meeting called by the Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party in Cinderford in March. The NHS, said Dr. Cox, was a complex organisation that had evolved over sixty years, but together it works.

The blueprint for proposed changes tell us that the service could in future be in the hands of “any willing provider” – meaning, in effect, the private sector. Ultimately there could be no NHS hospitals, and no NHS nurses or ancilliary staff. The whole of the NHS would be opened up to private companies. It would become a national health market – except that it would no longer be national.

MAKING PROFITS:

Savings, of course, would have to be made – and such efficiency savings would mean that areas of treatment or care not deemed to be profitable by the new “providers” would be hived off. The duty of private companies is to make profits for their shareholders. That is their sole imperative.

He warned that “commercial confidentiality” would mean that we would not be allowed access to details of how such companies performed.

With the blurring of the lines between private and NHS care, we could find that those people fortunate enough to have money would be given priority, whilst those who wanted NHS treatment would have to join the back of the queue. And with this distortion in priorities, standards would inevitably deteriorate. “None of the professional health bodies worth their salt support these reforms,” declared Dr. Cox. And he mourned the passing of Community Health Councils which had once acted as watch dogs on health care matters in the communities they served.

Meanwhile, Di Martin warned of a significant impact on local provision. NHS Gloucestershire would be split up so that those who work in the service would be hived off to become a “social enterprise” – Gloucestershire Care Services. Effectively a social enterprise is a business, in competition with outside bodies. We have to become political, and fight for what we have, she declared.

Growing pains, in Tory Britain:

Johanna Baxter, from the union “Prospect” declared that we ought to thank Nick Clegg for successfully radicalising an entire generation of young people – though doubtless he will live to regret it.

The previous Government had done much for young people, from the “Sure Start” programme upwards. Many of these initiatives are now being scrapped, such as the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), or cut back – with the support of the Liberal Democrats. And the raising of student fees led to 50,000 young people marching through London. Now the Tories are drawing up a White Paper on the role of student unions. “Let’s not agonise, but organise!” she declared.

Bruce Hogan told us how he had grown up in the post-war era, when the national debt was far, far higher than it is now. But education was free, in schools, colleges and universities, and he went on to become a teacher.

We are now facing a “lost generation”, he said, just as we did in the 1980s. EMAs will no longer be available for the current intake seeking to enter further and higher education, whilst other job initiatives for young people are being abolished.

Tuition fees (which had first been introduced by a Labour Government) are now being raised astronomically to £9,000 – a sum that will merely compensate universities for the money that is being taken away from them by the Government.

He ended with an attack on the Liberal Democrats, whose candidates had pledged themselves to vote against any increase in student tuition fees – and then when they joined the coalition government went back on their word.

A lively discussion followed, with members of the audience criticising the previous, Labour, Government for introducing reforms in the structure of the NHS that effectively paved the way for Cameron’s plans for the virtual sell-out of the Health Service. Memories of the campaign to save the two community hospitals in the Forest of Dean, in 2006, were evoked.

But on one issue both the audience and the platform agreed. They would be supporting the rally against the cuts in London, on March 26.