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Showing posts from April, 2006

Campaign for Accountable Government

One of the things I am doing is campaigning to improve the accountability of government (the executive).

I have done quite a bit of studying of Constitutional Law recently and concluded that there is a mechanism to force ministers to answer some of the questions they refuse to answer.

A good example of failing to answer questions was the situation with the prisoners that should have been deported.

So far I have reported Five Ministers to the Cabinet Secretary for Breaching the Ministerial Code of Conduct and started a process of Judicial Review against one of those five on the basis that she has failed to answer a question properly.

Clearly this will go on for some time, but we really do need to improve the way in which ministers are held to account. Too often they refuse to answer questions.
Some MPs find Freedom of Information legislation a better mechanism for getting answers than Parliamentary Questions. I am running a few appeals through that process at the moment as well.

Election Fraud 2006

The Times Article brings together a number of allegations from across the country.

It seems quite clear that in Tower Hamlets there is a big postal vote stealing operation going on.

A lot of media attention was given to the investigation of 14 postal votes in Nechells Ward. These votes were sent to a house which belongs to the Family of the Lib Dem Candidate for the Ward. They include his vote, his wife's vote and those of his children. Somehow this warranted an issue of a press release indicating that his wife had been arrested such that he found out via the media rather than his wife - which sounds odd to me.

I accept the point that 3 of the 14 votes relate to votes which have been sent from different addresses. This, therefore, needs investigating. There are 23 other similar situations across the city which also require investigation.

Clearly it would be wrong to make any judgement in advance of the police investigation. We have investigated the three votes and we do not see …

NHS Jobwatch 10994

One thing that Blogger is not good at handling is large tables.

With the following list we are now up to about 11,000 announced job losses

North Middlesex NHS Trust Apr-19 50 http://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.735730.0.hospital_on_critical_list_jobs_to_go_as_part_of_15m_cuts.php
West Hertfordshire NHS Trusts Apr-13 700 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,8122-2130210,00.html
Gloucestershire NHS Community Hospital 86 beds Apr-03 172 guess http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/main.jhtml?xml=/health/2006/04/03/hjuniord03.xml&sSheet=/health/2006/04/03/ixhfeatures.html
United Lincolnshire NHS Trust Mar-10 26 Times
Buckinghamshire Hospitals 95 The times
Hammersmith Hospitals 350
Isle of Wight PCT 6
North Tees and Hartlepool 74
Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust Apr-28 645 http://www.24dash.com/content/news/viewNews.php?navID=47&newsID=5238
East Sussex Apr-25 250 http://www.24dash.com/content/news/viewNews.php?navID=47&newsID=5…

Questions and Answers

The saga with prisoners who should have been deported is a good example of how the government's failure to answer questions undermines government.

From Hansard:
Feb 2005 : Column 961W

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many applicants for asylum who have been granted temporary leave to remain in the UK who have served, or are serving, custodial sentences for crimes committed in the UK in each of the last five years for which there are records, have been (a) returned to their country of origin and (b) had their status revoked; and if he will make a statement; [208945]

(2) how many applicants for asylum who have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK who have served, or are serving, custodial sentences for crimes committed in the UK in each of the last five years for which there are records, have been (a) returned to their country of origin and (b) had their status revoked; and if he will make a statement. [208946]

Mr. Browne: The Prison…

In office, but not in power

The saga with the released prisoners shows another example of a government which is in office, but not in power.

Charles Clark's use of the passive voice today when he referred to IND has improved implies that he did not expect to be able to have any impact on whether or not IND would improve.

There are also a number of areas (health cuts) where the government deny all responsibility.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 26th April 2006

Millennium Dome
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the cost has been of the Millennium Dome to public funds in each year since its inception. (John Hemming)

A:The information is as follows.

(1) Grants from National Lottery funds were made by the Millennium Commission to the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) as follows.

Grant (£)
1997–98 449
1998–99 nil
1999–2000 60
2000–01 119
2001–02 nil
2002–03 nil
2003–04 nil
2004–05 (23)nil
2005–06 (24)nil

(23)£24 million (unrequired funds decommitted from NMEC by the Millennium Commission for use on other projects)

(24)£1 million (unrequired funds decommitted from NMEC by the Millennium Commission for use on other projects)

(2) In addition, English Partnerships has been meeting management, maintenance, security and other costs at the site from 1 July 2001, and will continue to do so until the redevelopment of the arena by the Anschutz Entertainment Group is completed, expected in summer 2007, at which time Anschu…

Labour and Consistency

Labour have frequently critisised the Lib Dems for being inconsistent. For example they criticise us for the fact that the Edinburgh Lib Dems have not implemented a congestion charge.

Our response is that it is "horses for courses" and what is appropriate locally should apply.

Now Labour are delivering leaflets in Birmingham criticising the administration for introducing a congestion charge. Firstly the administration does not actually have a policy of introducing a congestion charge. Furthermore, however, Labour can either claim that consistency should apply in which case they should be consistent.

Alternatively they should allow local discretion and not criticise the Lib Dems for using local discrretion.

The same Labour leaflet criticises the extension of the Metro system. This is a policy supported by Labour.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 25th April 2006

Non-Emergency Situations
Q:To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria he used in deciding that (a) drug dealing, (b) drunken behaviour, (c) harassment and (d) intimidation should be treated as non-emergency situations; and if he will make a statement.(John Hemming)

A:My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not be making a statement as the criteria for what constitutes an emergency or non-emergency situation is an operational matter for which the Association of Chief Police Officers have existing standards for call handling in police contact centres that include definitions of emergency and non-emergency contacts. 101, the new single non-emergency number, complies with these standards and will work alongside 999 and other non-emergency numbers to provide a service for less urgent community safety and antisocial behaviour problems.

101 operators will direct callers to the emergency service if the call requires a 999 response. A non-emergency situation wil…

DOA = £71

Inevitably there is a price the PCT pays a hospital if someone turns up DOA (Dead on Arrival). That price for 6-7 is £71.

There is a ratchet effect on emergencies (I suppose you wouldn't have an elective DOA) so only 50% of the tariff counts in a cash sense - £35.50.

We have had some luck in getting info about the Czech experience which was that a tariff encouraged Hospitals to press the payment button.

It remains that the tariff has assumed 2.5% efficiency savings. That is part of Gershon, but remains challenging.

NHS Deficits - are they understated?

I recently asked a question about NHS deficits and was given the forecast as at period 6 (end of September). One thing I have not been clear on is whether or not for the last financial year the inter Trust balances have been reconciled.

A lot of payments are made between NHS Trusts. That means that if one claims a debt and the other denies it then there is a hidden deficit. I have asked questions of the Department of Health which would tease this out, but they have failed to answer.

I have seen figures for Lincolnshire with a deficit of 17.5 Million, but been unable to check them against the written answer as I only have that on paper and it has not as yet gone into Hansard.

Gasoline Shortages Continue On Friday

From NBC:
Gas stations in three East Coast states ran out of fuel on Thursday as gas prices soared. Shortages were reported in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania starting on Thursday afternoon. They could last as long as 30 days.

This is only indirectly related to hydrocarbon depletion. It links moreso to a changeover to ethanol mixed fuel. I am really not sure that ethanol is a good source of real energy when you take into account the fertiliser needed to grow the plants to ferment into ethanol. (C2H5OH aka Alcohol).

One issue I have left alone for a while is oil depletion. There does seem to be a gradual movement internationally towards recognising the realities of depletion. The government's chief Scientific Officer was looking at the issue.

I have been trying to pin down the gas situation for the winter coming. As usual it will depend primarily on the weather, but there are issues. The long term issue is one of paying for the gas. This winter, however, there remain prac…

How Central Government is Pushing up Council Tax (and how they deny it)

Only some of the money that councils have to spend comes from Council Tax. The rest is doled out by Central Government. Central Government (the Offfice of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)) have a set of formulas which they use to determine how much cash each council gets. Part of these forumla is an assumption about how much money will be raised in council tax by the council: The more money a council raises itself the less it needs from ODPM. This is designed to even things out between rich and poorer areas. The table below shows how ODPM's assumptions about the amount raised in council tax by councils has been rising above the rate of inflation for each year since 1994/1995 apart from 2004/2005.

This means that if a council wishes to maintain the same income in real terms over two years it will have to increase council tax: it will be recieving less from central government. Council Tax has to rise in order for the council's spending to stand still.

Assumed Band D Council Tax v…

Children's hospital services 'at risk' from tariff system

(The Times)The chief executives of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, Alder Hey in Liverpool and Sheffield and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals say in a letter that the operation of the tariff — the list of fixed prices for NHS procedures — will leave them about £22 million a year worse off.

I do think that Labour taking on the children's hospitals is ill advised. Children's hospitals do tend to be more expensive for operations because of the additional care that goes in to handling children and involving parents.

Based on calculations that they have made so far, Great Ormond Street expects to lose £5.93 million in 2006-07, Alder Hey £11.03 million, Sheffield £2.5 million, and Birmingham Children’s Hospital at least £2.6 million — a total of £22 million.

Probation - the Devil's in the detail - like most things

According to the Independent a report later this month will
"question the ability of the Probation Service to protect the public from dangerous criminals"

In a sense this shows the way in which many issues cause a mass of column inches, but little is actually done to resolve the problems that are highlighted. The criminal justice system has so many errors in it that we should not be surprised when things go wrong. The government's solution with the police and Probation Service tends to focus on filling in forms rather than dealing with offenders. In the mean time rather than look from a whole system perspective and develop a plan that reduces criminality we end up with ideological battles over small parts of the system. In the mean time we have a system that actually acts to encourage criminality.

The important aspects of any system rest within the detail, but rarely is any proper attention given to the detail and hence little happens.

I have been spending some time look…

Progressive Scan - don't press the button

Having bought a new DVD player for the kids, for some reason it didn't display anything even though we bought a new SCART cable. Hence we returned it to the shop who also could not get it to work.

We replaced it and I watched the kids install it. The first question it asks is whether or not to use Progressive Scan. Had it said Progressive or Interlaced then I would have had some idea what that means. However, I thought it was scanning for channels so we said yes.

The end result was that the display again stopped working. Having resorted to RTFM it turns out that it is a different approach to the lines on the screen. Luckily by random pressings of the "pscan" button it stops. The manual said "press three times". That didn't really work. But some random pressing of the button linked with an element of cosmic ordering (or hoping) did elicit a display.

The lesson of the day is that if the DVD player says "do you want progressive scan" the answer…

Brown goes to South Africa - Birmingham gets a hospital

For the government to only reduce the hospital by 108 beds is a small cut in comparison to those they are making elsewhere. We, therefore, should welcome the final announcement of the new hospital.

It has taken some time, but we have finally got there. The irony is that it appeared to require Gordon Brown's absence before it was signed off.

Still a new hospital is a new hospital.

Lone Parents Work Survey - request for responses

Two lone parents who live in Yardley are writing a book of advice for lone parents about how to cope both with working and being a lone parent.

They say:"We are two lone parents writing a book that provides information, and a true reflection of lone parenting…that’s the good, the bad and the ugly bits!

If you would to contribute by sharing your thoughts and experiences with us or are interested in completing our survey please email us on the address below. "

loneparents_sanity@hotmail.co.uk

Cautions and Rape

It is interesting how the issue about when a caution is appropriate has just hit the public agenda.

There are massive numbers of cautions and clearly sometimes a caution is appropriate. The Home Office, however, has done no research as to what the recidivism rates are. This has to be the key issue.

The Frietag Method

There has been some debate in the media recently about children and delivering leaflets. Now and again I take my own children out delivering leaflets as I did with two this morning.

There is an interesting question as to how old a child has to be before they actually do more to help than hinder. My 5 year old, who said today that she had not been to the park for "ten years", is very close to being about to do more work delivering leaflets than it takes me for to wait whilst she runs around. Sadly, however, she has not actually got that far. I suppose her enthusiasm for going delivering leaflets will wane when the work done exceeds the time it takes for me to wait for her.

I think the threshold is probably at about 7. It does also depend upon whether the leaflets are addressed (and from time to time I deliver a road with leaflets only noticing part way down the road that they are addressed.)

One Million to lose NHS Dentistry

The local SHA are talking about 95% signup rather than the 90% nationally. It remains, however, that many are signing up "in dispute" rather than accepting the contract.

The situation continues.

In the mean time the PbR tariff is turning out to have hidden traps. I have been looking at what happened with the Czech Republic's reforms. It looks that we may end up with a form of "melt down" with over 50% of NHS organisations in effective deficit by about period 6.

Predicting the year-end deficit is difficult for the first few months and only starts becoming reliable after about period 5.

Still whatever happens does not look good although with a bit of luck Eastern Birmingham will not suffer that much. Indeed if the DoH show good sense in going for 3 PCTs in Birmingham rather than 1 then we could come out relatively well.

In Staffordshire where they are merging 6 PCTs into 1 (probably) there will be chaos. (There already is quite a bit of chaos).

See my NHS Jobwatch for …

Labour's NHS Job Cuts [ NHS Jobwatch total 10994 ]

I shall try to keep this table of job cuts in the NHS as uptodate as possible. If you know of anything that is missing or wrong please email me.
Hospital TrustFirst ReportedJob lossesLinkNIGEL CRISP, NHS Chief ExecutiveMar-071BBCRoyal Cornwall HospitalMar-08300BBC
Peterborough and Stamford HospitalsMar-13185BBCUniversity Hospital of North StaffordshireMar-161000BBCRoyal Shrewsbury Hspital and Princess Royal HospitalMar-20291BBC
Derriford Hospital, PlymouthMar-20200BBCNew Cross Hospital, WolverhamptonMar-21300BBC
Royal Free Hospital, NW LondonMar-22480BBCQueen Mary's Hospital, SidcupMar-23190GuardianCounty Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals TrustMar-23700BBCBrighton and Sussex University Hospitals TrustMar-29325BBCMid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS TrustMar-29150BBCQueen Elizabeth Hospital, WoolwichMar-31100TelegraphSurrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS TrustApr-04400BBCMedway NHS TrustApr-04160BBCJames Paget NHS TrustApr-05100BBCRoyal United Hospital, BathApr-05300BBCWorcestershire…

Birmingham Blood Service Scheduled to Close

I really don't think the government understand how to make things efficient. Large national processing centres do not in themselves make things more efficient. There is, of course, a critical mass that matters.

In the case of the Birmingham National Blood Service Centre currently in Vincent Drive the plan is for processing, testing and cross matching to go to Bristol.

That means that local donations will go there and then be brought back to Birmingham.

The anti-natal service is to be moved to Sheffield.

Apart from the job implications (which is 210 local jobs lost) there really are questions about the merits of increasing the amount of transport required, both in terms of time and cost of transportation.

The service currently operates for 35 hospitals from Oswestry to Rugby, Stoke and Hereford.

This is an issue I will raise with the Health Minister.

Yardley Photographic Society Celebrates George Bate

After my advice bureau I visited the Yardley Photographic Societies exhibition of photos taken by their oldest member George Bate. The photos in the background are his. He has done quite a lot of work on reenactment photos.

Meanwhile we have a few photos from the week campaigning on NHS and disability issues.