Commenting on social, political, economic and general topics

Archive for June 2009

Cancer in the NHS

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Patients in England suspected of suffering from cancer are to have the right to see a specialist within two weeks; and quite rightly so.

However, primary care trusts will be required to pay for private consultations if the timescale cannot be met.

There could also be financial penalties for failing to keep to the two-week limit, described at the moment as ‘only a target’.

So, the underfunded, ailing NHS is given another target it has to meet. Failure will result in financial penalties, not just once but twice. Effectively the NHS will have to pay for its own demise, backdoor privatisation, and be fined to do so!

I believe the funding issue for the NHS has two root causes.

First, a significant proportion of the NHS budget pays managers and book-keepers whose focus is (financial) efficiency and cost cutting. This is not compatible with a non profit, state owned institution and is morally indefensible where healthcare is concerned.

Second, direct taxation, particularly for the wealthy has fallen significantly over the last 30 years resulting in less money to spend on the public services most of us, and in particular the poorest of us rely on. Hence the introduction of managers and book-keepers trying to cut costs but actually contributing to them through bloated salaries with no advantage to treatment.

These issues did not exist pre 1980 when hospitals were run by doctors and nurses and funding was adequate.

What the government should do is sack the managers and book-keepers and let the doctors and nurses run the hospitals on clinical grounds and direct employment of cleaners and other ancillary staff who will be directly accountable to the NHS.

This will mean more funding going to treatment rather than non-clinical staff and any shortfall should be paid for by those most able to pay, the wealthy through direct taxation.


Written by Smiling Carcass

30/06/2009 at 7:58 AM

Posted in ed balls, NHS, taxation

Pontcysyllte aqueduct

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At last, some good news to comment on. The Pontcysyllte aqueduct has been given World Heritage status.

This is a magnificent piece of engineering, carrying the Llangollen canal over the valley of the River Dee. Built of cast iron and caulked with flannel dipped in boiling sugar and then sealed with lead!

The amazing thing is, as far as I am aware, this original and inventive caulking is still what holds the water in to this day, 204 years later.

Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop it is over 1,000 feet long and stands on 120 foot tall masonry piers. Again, amazingly it is a mere 11 feet wide!

Some of today’s engineers and architects would do well to take a leaf from their book and stop building concrete and glass horrors that might last 50 years.

Written by Smiling Carcass

29/06/2009 at 8:30 AM

Posted in aqueduct, Pontcysyllte

More Power for the Bank of England?

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George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor and MP for Tatton suggests that a Tory administration would give more powers to the Bank of England to oversee financial institutions. Mr. Osborne says “The tripartite system between the chancellor, the Bank of England and the FSA has simply failed.”

That may be so, but giving more control to the Bank of England will in my view create more problems. The Bank of England is a financial institute and quite rightly is wholly or at least mainly concerned with financial affairs. (Quite advantageous to rich Tories, I suggest.)

Better the Bank of England should be given control over financial considerations, but where these financial considerations have an impact on the social structure and the poorer members of society who have no means of controlling the decisions that impact on them, a body of politicians (multi party), charitable institutions, sociologists and independent thinkers should be a party to those decisions with a power of veto if the majority disagree with the Bank of England.

Each member of this committee should show they have no personal interests in the policy and decisions of the Bank of England over and above those of the ordinary citizen. To declare an interest should not be enough.

I consider that this committee should consist of volunteers who will not benefit from being a committee member. No wages, no expenses, merely a commitment to fair play and policies to benefit the people, not the rich people.

To prevent the super rich commandeering the committee, being the only ones who can afford to do it for free a reasonable allowance could be allowable for those that can show genuine hardship.

And how about a sub-committee of us plebeians, elected to the job by local people to whom the committee report and take a remit?

This is my suggestion for a fair system of financial and economic decision making. The mechanics of how it might work must be decided by those more able than I in such matters.

Written by Smiling Carcass

28/06/2009 at 11:16 AM

£16m Rover Report

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An independent report into the collapse of MG-Rover has been handed to the government. It cost £16m and took four years.

In 2005 Andrew Johnson and Steve Bloomfield for The Independent asked MG Rover Closure: ‘What happened to all that money?’

The cost of support packages had £171m allocated and a projected likely spend was £146m. (Figures are from the National Audit Office. (Download Links in PDF format.)

It seems while the workforce were working overtime, seven days a week to try to make the plant and the company profitable and save their jobs, the ‘Phoenix Four’ were busy lining their pockets as quickly as possible in advance of the collapse.

When you look at the amount of money spent on closing the plant with the loss of 6,000 jobs, at least £187m (not counting the extra costs to the NHS treating depression and related problems, neither the lost revenue from 6,000 taxpayers or the impact on local communities, both financial and social.) it really doesn’t seem to make economic, political or social sense. Even if they all got a job at Tesco’s (suggested by Margaret Hodge, work and pensions minister at the time) the difference in wages, and therefore the tax they would pay would be considerable.

It seems to be just another case of the workforce making all the effort, the bosses taking all the credit and profit and the workforce paying the price. Oh yes, while the government stand back, with their gold-plated unassailable wages, expenses and pensions doing nothing but spout rhetoric and commission expensive ‘independent’ reports that give their pals a ‘raison d’être’.

And I ask, what good will the report be? Will it highlight how things might have been done better, perhaps saving jobs? Probably not, but too late if it does. Will it highlight the failings of the Phoenix Four? Maybe, but will anything be done? Doubtful. Will it change government attitudes or produce a different strategy to save jobs in future? Well, ignoring the fact that this was the last big employer, certainly in the car industry, definitely in the West Midlands and so a similar situation is unlikely it won’t change government attitudes until there is a change in political, social and economic thinking. The recent closure of LDV with a refusal to help from New Labour proves this. The banks got billions, changed little though this was a requirement of the funding and are now shedding staff. Yet the relative pittance LDV asked for as a bridging loan while takeover negotiations continued was refused.

This country was once great because of the industrial revolution; because of its strong manufacturing base and because of engineering skills this manufacturing base produced. This country is now collapsing socially, economically and politically because we are allowing these strengths to fail Lack of investment has led a decline (often blamed on unions and the workforce). In the 1970’s I was milling cylinder heads on pre-war milling machines, drilling sumps on pre-war radial drills. We need to reverse this trend by injecting money into engineering and manufacturing alongside new technologies. It will be expensive and painful. But we might once again lead the world and make a better future for our children and our children’s children.

Written by Smiling Carcass

27/06/2009 at 1:16 PM

Michael Jackson R.I.P. (Please!)

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I am fed up of it. Every time I turn the TV on or go on the internet it’s all Michael Jackson. Somebody has just likened his death to that of Elvis or Diana.

Now I didn’t like the bloke. I didn’t like Elvis or Diana. I accept there are those who do and they feel a loss at their passing. Grieve, but don’t force it down my throat. But it isn’t really news. It certainly isn’t news now. We’ve all heard, now move on and do some real reporting and give us the news!

Written by Smiling Carcass

26/06/2009 at 7:48 PM

Smoking Ban

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Birmingham MP John Hemming is calling for the smoking ban to be relaxed. It seems to be because of the number of pubs closing which has been associated with the ban.

I agree. The law as it stands is draconian. Much better, as was suggested would be smoking only rooms with staffed by employees who smoke themselves. One could also make it an option with the final say going to the landlord/lady.

If the government wants to ban something, ban chewing gum. It is everywhere, sticks to everything that comes into contact with it and probably harbours a plethora of bacteria and viruses.

Written by Smiling Carcass

25/06/2009 at 8:54 AM

Business Managers for Schools

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Schools minister Vernon Coaker says a business manager could help schools ride out the recession, claiming they could save schools thousands of pounds per year.

The claim is that they can save head teachers up to 20% of their time to devote to teaching.

Well, I think it is just another bureaucrat creating bureaucracy to give jobs to the boys.

Margaret Thatcher did this in the 1980’s. While she destroyed manufacturing, she created thousands of non-jobs paying intellectuals huge salaries to sort out finances and to manage in the National Health Service. Most weren’t worried about people. The onus was on cutting costs. We’ve all seen the result of that.

Not only is this an issue, but also the move to privatise public service industries by the back door by introducing such jobs. Once the principle of ‘business management’ is accepted, we are on our way to privatising education. And isn’t it odd that this idea has been thought up at a time when the government is meeting strong opposition to their attempt to introduce private academies?

Here are a few figures I have put together. Not scientific or statistically accurate. But accurate enough, I believe to give some idea of what we are heading towards. I got my figures by a Google search any one of you could try.



Average Salary

Minimum Salary

20% of Salary

Head Teacher

£ 100,000.00

£ 70,000.00

£ 20,000.00

£ 14,000.00

Business Manager

£ 50,000.00

£ 25,000.00




So you can see that even paying a business manager the minimum salary of £25,000, while saving 20% of the average salary of £100,000 of a head teacher (£20,000), the difference is £5,000 which presumably the business manager will have to save (cut) from the budget just to break even.

Pupils are already buying their own books. Where will it come from? Education is non-profit making and one of the most important public services we have. Do we want to see it brought to its knees like the health service?

So is this just another ‘jobs for the boys’ and/or a ‘make it look like we’re doing something’ exercise?

Either way, we have seen what managers did to the health service. Do we want it to happen to our schools?


Written by Smiling Carcass

24/06/2009 at 7:13 AM

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