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Archive for June, 2010

I’ve just signed a letter calling on Frank Dobson to sign Early Day Motion 186, which reads:

That this House welcomes the coalition Government’s commitment to give patients control of their health records; considers that any decision to continue to allow uploading of patients’ details to the Summary Care Record (SCR) System is inconsistent with this commitment; and calls on the Government to halt all SCR updates, effective immediately, pending its promised comprehensive review of NHS IT systems.

The letter notes that independent research by UCL on the programme indicates that more than 80% of the patients sent letters warning them about this scheme (and the fact that they have only one chance at the start to opt out) had thrown away the letters unread or had no recollection of receiving them.

Furthermore, the research found that there were many errors in the records and (correctly) doctors were not trusting them:

The researchers found no direct evidence that the care records system led to safer care, though they said that access to the database may reduce some rare medication errors. There was no clear evidence that consultations between doctors and patients are quicker – and in some cases use of summary care records made consultations longer.

Almost 40 million letters have now been sent out across the UK, most without including opt out forms, which you can download from this website.

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There was a good turnout and passionate anger and determination at the anti-cuts protests on Tuesday night outside Camden Town Hall (as covered by the CNJ).

George Binette, Camden Unison’s branch secretary, was a lead speaker at the protest, as was Somers Town campaigner Candy Udwin.

But George had possibly the best news of the day, saying that while 15 schools in Camden had been offered the chance for immediate academy status, under Michael Gove’s divisive, discriminatory programme, governors at all of them had turned it down.

It was also great to hear him acknowledge the role Camden Green Party has played in campaigning for all Camden council workers, including contractors, be paid the London living wage (now £7.85) – some of them are now on the national minimum wage – poverty pay.

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Many prestigious economists, including Paul Krugman and David Blanchflower make clear the implications of the programme of swingeing cuts our government embarked on today. Our expensively educated chancellor does not know his history: cut too deep and you exacerbate recession, as well as causing immense human pain and suffering. He has forgotten the persistent poverty and unemployment of the 1980s, the conflict of the miners’ strikes and the riots of Brixton and Tottenham (let alone the outcome of austerity in Weimar Germany).

Those who voted for the Lib-Dems are still waiting to hear the moderate voices of Vince Cable or Chris Huhne, while Labour is rudderless and about to fail us again, with its current attraction to “debating a better yesterday”.

The Green Party is offering the only political alternative: a real Green New Deal. This is about using public expenditure to take us out of recession and to keep people in work instead of squandering public resources to keep big business happy. Expensive PFIs, unnecessary demolition and rebuilding of housing and schools, and VAT cuts to encourage wasteful purchases are not part of this policy. It’s about investing our shared resources carefully and systematically in the greener infrastructure that we so desperately need to tackle climate change. It’s about a defence policy aimed at real threats, rather than pointless foreign wars and pretending we still have an empire. It’s about a resilient economy for the future of ever-rising fuel prices which Deepwater has brought even closer. Our country needs a far-sighted and courageous leadership to make all this happen.

At a local level this will mean the Council protesting against central cuts. It will involve a search for innovative funding solutions from using prudential borrowing to community bonds. It will involve solutions to avoid job losses – by reducing working hours or maybe even taking pay freezes instead. Our Green Party councillor, Maya de Souza, will push for Camden to seek such local solutions to avoid the human pain of large scale unemployment.

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The UKCMRI consortium last week unveiled its rejigged plans for the outside appearance of the proposed medical lab behind the British Library.

It has not had the courtesy to provide detailed information on the web at time of writing (there’s nothing at all on its own website) – or directly to local residents in Somers Town, but rather has focused on the hard-sell with soft-focus artist impressions and sweeping videos (in which the local residents – for whom it claims it wants to be a “good neighbour” – see their homes reduced to beige blocks).

The Guardian has the video, the BBC one of the artist impressions.

What’s carefully not mentioned in any of these reports is the fact that this is the second attempt at a design; new architects were brought in to work on the outside after the first effort met with widespread disgust.

Not that this appears to be a great deal different – if anything the huge mass, so out of scale not just with the surrounding residential area, but also the British Library and St Pancras station, is even further amplified.

The most interesting press report, however, is from Nature. This highly respected industry source is clearly less than enamoured with the whole project, describing it as a “grandiose plan” that will not come cheap, adding: “The stiff price tag comes at a difficult time, as several of the project’s backers are facing a grim economic future.”

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I went last week to a very well-attended Central London meeting held to express solidarity with the BA strikers.

The statement that struck me was from the BA worker: “This is clearly an attack on the unions. By the company’s reckoning we came within £9m of the cuts they needed – yet the most recent days of action cost £100 million. This is not about money.”

Steve Hedley, London Region RMT organiser, spoke also about the 800 frontline jobs that were planned to be cut from the Tube. He suggested that instead of looking at the jobs of the workers who answer questions on platforms, who evacuate passengers during fire alarms etc, the posts of the more than 200 people working for the Tube who are paid more than the Prime Minister might be considered.

The CNJ also reported on the meeting.

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Green Cllr Maya de Souza says:

The new Labour Council is planning to review and perhaps remove Area Forums in favour of neighbourhood networks. My view is that the Area Forum was a success but we also need a network along the lines of the on Highgate Newtown Partnership in some areas. What do you think?

Please leave a comment here or email maya.desouza@camden.gov.uk.

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This is what the final electoral maths looks like in Camden:

Percentage of votes No of seats Percentage of seats Votes per Councillor
Labour 33.35% 30 56% 2774
Lib-dems 29.05% 13 24% 5576
Conservatives 26.24% 10 19% 6549
Greens 10.97% 1 2% 27, 372

This means that it took just 2774 votes to elect a Labour councillor, 5576 votes to elect a Lib-dem, 6549 to elect a Conservative and 27, 372 votes to elect a Green councillor.

And many people would have voted Green if their vote would have made a difference: in the European elections where we have a fairer system, the vote in Camden was…

Labour – 23.65%
Cons – 22.05%
Lib-dems – 21.59%
Green 17%

Labour’s majority in the council of 17  over the next largest party bears little relation to the percentage of votes it received – only about 33% of the votes cast.

Yet in Camden, one of Labour’s first steps since taking power has been to strengthen its hold on it.

Both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, the most visible face of the Council, will now be Labour. There are no plans at the moment to continue to have a cross-party Sustainable Taskforce (as set up by the Lib-dem/Cons administration).  The Scrutiny Committees will all (except for Health where Labour generously gave one of their seats to the Greens) have an inbuilt Labour majority.

So one of the things, Camden Green Party needs to continue to highlight is the unfairness of the electoral system.

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