Saturday, 29 January 2011

Save the Cheque!

The campaign to save the cheque is getting underway, as the below article in the Southport Visiter shows.

Please make sure to sign the petition which you will find at the bottom of the edition of 'Southport News' which should be winging its way through your door any day now!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Future Funding of Public Health or How Much Will LA's Get ?

Earlier this week, I attended the regular meeting of the Oversight & Scrutiny Committee for Health & Social Care for Sefton Council.  I think this is a fantastic committee that is chaired superbly by my lib dem colleague Anthony Hill.  The meeting on Tuesday included a presentation by Hannah Chellaswamy; Acting Director of Public Health (NHS Sefton  & Sefton Council ), Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England

Basically under the new proposals the responsibility for public health will return once again to the Local Authorities, after an absence of 40 years. At the meeting there was an open and frank discussion around this during which I raised the question of funding since in my experience its always good to know where the money is. From April 2013 local authorities will receive a ring fenced public health budget however what I wanted to know is how this budget is going to be decided, effectively what funding formulae is going to be used to determine how much each LA would receive.

This question generated a debate around the various communities that make up Sefton however Hannah was at this stage unable to give a clear answer and it was agreed that this question would form part of the response from Sefton Council to the NHS white paper.

Imagine my delight then when later that evening I was able to pose exactly the same question to Paul Burstow MP Lib Dem Health Minister.

I have to say Paul understood exactly the point I was trying to make and agreed that he would look into the possibility of using the Super Output Area data from Indices of Multiple Deprivation to determinine the funding stream.

Now thats what I call communication!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gobsmacked by NHS Bosses decision

In the past I have posted on here about the ongoing (7 years plus) campaign to get some form of emergency service for children in Southport. In my last posting on the subject NHS Stitch Up I explained how we had reached stalemate and how we hoped that a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley may be able to move the situation forward.

Well, the revised report requested by the Minister has been produced and guess what absolutely no movement with regard to the Primary Care Trusts decision regarding a WIC for Children in Southport. You could even say that their position has become even more entrenched when NHS bosses say that there is no need for any children's facility and that nobody wants one anyway.

The public consultation undertaken as part of this report and which the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley specifically asked to be included is farcical  - the equivalent of asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Harsh comments I know but I should add that the report does highlight some positive steps forward in health service provision for children in Southport. There will be better care for those children with long term health conditions and complex needs, there will also be a return of some outpatients clinics to Southport (they shouldn't have been moved in the first place but don't get me started), and better provision for children and adolescent mental health services.

So where to from here - one of the main points in this 2nd report is the creation of a Children's Hub at the Houghton Street Health and Wellbeing clinic in Southport town centre.  This clinic, which is part of the LIFT (PFI) Project in Sefton already holds a newly commissioned Darzi Practice so maybe there is the potential here for a GP led MIU.  Certainly it is something that should be investigated further.

So once again I ask you to watch this space.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

we are banking on change..

Bankers bonuses have provided a convenient side show for a lot of the media and trade unions, who rage against the bonus culture and believe that its this that is the root of all banking evil.

Truth is, the crash didn't just come about because a lot of men (and the odd woman no doubt) got paid an excessive amount of money to take silly risks. It was far more complex than that, and had as much to do with poor regulation and systemic weaknesses than bankers greed.

Its good to see that the Independent Banking Commission established by Osborne and Cable has recommended 'wide-ranging reform.' One of the possibilities would be to separate investment arms of banks from their retail operations, which would mean that if the investment arm of an institution failed, it could fold without impacting upon depositors sums.

Banks were bailed out in 2008 because they were judged 'too big to fail;' the task now is to ensure that there is a banking system that does not and cannot rely on the state to step in if things go pear shaped . What is also to be welcomed about this Commission's findings is that they recognise that the EU Basel rules, introduced last summer are not adequate, and that bigger banks such as Barclays and RBS should be required to hold more than the 7% minimum ratio of equity capital to assets that Basel set down. This is essentially a buffer fund in the event of a bank going insolvent, and should in theory prevent taxpayers footing a bail out.

Bubbles are nothing new. The first recorded speculative bubble was in the mid 1600's and centred around tulips; the beginning of this century saw the dot com bubble bursting. However, the Housing bubble almost brought the world financial system to its knees because banks failed to have adequate capital, and the slicing and dicing of 'bad debt' into various financial packages that were passed to and fro within the system without being subject to adequate checks. This Commission's findings are a reminder that things are going to have to change, and lessons must be learned.

At the same time there has to be a dose of reality in the debates and arguments around the banking industry. Change has to be made; but the industry has to retain a competitive edge especially now when it is massively important for the private sector economy to grow and jobs to be created.

Essentially the Commission is proposing tougher rules on the amount of capital that institutions hold, and also questioning the wisdom of just six banks controlling 90% of the UK's deposits. Lets hope that George Osborne and Vince Cable have the courage to act when the Commission reports its full findings later on this year, in the face of the inevitable lobbying and PR onslaught from the British Bankers Association.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Over but not out...

It will feel strange not heading up to Oldham this week. How I will miss the steep hills, murky weather and extremely irritated constituents who were receiving at least three telephone canvassers, four door canvassers and an untold amount of literature a day.

Of course, By-elections are treated as a barometer of public political feeling and as a result immense money, time and effort gets ploughed in by all parties.

After reading the newspapers, watching Newsnight, listening to the radio and following national YouGov polls, you could be forgiven for thinking that the result was going to be a foregone conclusion: Labour romping home to victory.

Well this wasn't what happened. Yes, our candidate Elwyn Watkins came second, but we actually increased our vote share to 31.9%.

Bear in mind Oldham East and Saddleworth has been a Labour seat for the previous FOUR general elections, and was a Labour hold at the height of Clegg mania. According to the Labour party and its new leader Ed Miliband the Coalition are being reckless with people's livelihoods, cutting too fast and generally being nasty. Most of the election literature centred round the VAT tax bombshell, and tuition fees. (erm, Labour introduced tuition fees and Darling also had plans to raise the tax....) If this was indeed true, then Labour would and should have stormed to victory.

On the doorsteps it was apparent that many people understand why cuts have to be made and are quite aware that while Labour have quietly admitted that they would also have to have made cuts, they have not outlined any sort of credible plan. It was also clear that even at a late stage many people had genuinely not made up their mind about whether they would vote Labour or Lib Dem. This really doesn't bear out the argument that the Lib Dems are now seen as synonymous with the Conservatives, or that all those who voted for us in May now feel disillusioned and angry and are turning to Labour in their droves.

Electorally, Labour should be in the perfect position. Grim economic times and Government cuts make great fodder for media soundbites and big speeches. With no responsibility for balancing the budget and making tough decisions, its easy to criticise and level the charge of unfairness. However, the election result proves that there are many voters who can see through this, and that core Lib Dem support is holding up well and not flooding to Labour, as Miliband desperately hopes it will.

In the words of Tim Farron ... 'And let’s not forget, the last time a Government party made a by-election gain was in 1982 amid the chaos and fear of the Falklands War, so unless we had persuaded some far off country to invade British territory we were always going to be up against it!'

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Its the right way up!

I spotted that Mark Pack wrote an article on Lib Dem Voice regarding Conservative MP Nick Boles' book 'Which Way's Up?'

Its worth a read (and not only because it is very thin and can easily be read in a day!) Its fascinating because its essentially a Conservative MP setting out his arguments about why he believes the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives should form an electoral pact.

An electoral pact is not something I would want to see happen. I joined the Liberal Democrats because unlike the other main parties it has a strong democratic party structure, attracts and welcomes a diverse range of people and has principled and strong Parliamentarians. Its a party that believes in hard work and campaigning at a local and national level, with fairness really at the heart of the agenda.

But enough of this party political broadcast! What is important about this book, and what I think is important to stress when we Lib Dems are labelled as 'sell-outs' and 'unprincipled,' is that it emphasises that the Conservatives are NOT the party of the 1980's. In fact, Nick Boles identifies five key areas where policy overlaps: environment, importance of personal freedom, desire to give local communities more power, offering more opportunities to those born into poverty, and the need to kickstart the economy and revive investment and exports.

If these aren't progressive aims, then I don't know what is. Far from being a 'sell-out' this Coalition is going to give us an opportunity for many of our aims to be realised. Look no further than the Localism Bill to see that things are starting to happen. It would have been a sell-out if we had walked away from the negotiating table, or worse entered into an unstable 'rainbow' coalition with the Labour Party.

Yes, that progressive Labour party which let a housing bubble run unchecked and kept low earners languishing in the income tax bracket while spending money recklessly on quangos and needless bureaucracy. Not to mention a legally dubious invasion of Iraq.

The power and right of the individual is at the heart of this Government, and that is the central tenet of Liberalism. We definitely made the right call.