Next time you have an appointment cancelled at hospital, or a headteacher tells you their school will be losing staff because of budget cuts, ask how much PFI debt they have – the answer may surprise you. My hospital trust, in north-east London, spends nearly £150m a year repaying its PFI debt – nearly half of which is on interest payments. If Theresa May is serious about taking on the unacceptable face of capitalism, she could save Britain a fortune if she goes after the legal loan sharks of the public sector.
New research from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) shows just how much these debts are hurting our NHS. Over the next five years, almost £1bn of taxpayer funds will go to PFI companies in the form of pre-tax profits. That’s 22% of the extra £4.5bn given to the Department of Health in the 2015 spending review, and money that would otherwise have been available for patient care.
The company that holds the contract for University College London hospital has made pre-tax profits of £190m over the past decade, out of the £725m the NHS has paid out. This alone could have built a whole new hospital as 80% of PFI hospitals cost less than this to construct. This is not just about poor financial control in the NHS – UK PFI debt now stands at over £300bn for projects with an original capital cost of £55bn.
Private finance initiatives are like hire-purchase agreements – superficially a cheap way to buy something, but the costs quickly add up, and before you know it the debt is crippling.
For decades, governments of both main parties have used them for the simple but ultimately short-sighted view that it keeps borrowing off the books – helping reduce the amount of debt the country appears to have, but at great longer-term expense. Its now painfully clear that the intended benefits of private sector skills to help manage projects have been subsumed in the one-sided nature of these contracts, to devastating effect on budgets.
No political party can claim the moral high ground. The Tories conveniently ignore the fact that these contracts started under the John Major government – and are expanding again under Theresa May, with the PF2 scheme. Labour veers between defensive rhetoric that PFI was the best way to fund the investment our public sector so desperately needed during its last government, and angrily demanding such contracts be cancelled outright, wilfully ignoring what damage this would do to any government’s ability to ever borrow again.
It’s time to grasp the nettle and get Britain a better line of credit. That requires both tough action on the existing contracts to protect taxpayers’ interests, and getting a better deal on future borrowing. Some have already bought out contracts – Northumbria council took out a loan to buy out Hexham hospital’s PFI, and in doing so saved £3.5m every year over the remaining 19-year term. But as the National Audit Office has shown, gains from renegotiating individual contracts are likely to be minimal – what is saved in costs is paid out in fees to arrange.
However, the CHPI research also shows up another interesting facet of PFI. Just eight companies own or appear to have equity stakes in 92% of all the PFI companies in the NHS. Renegotiating not the individual deals done for hospitals or schools, but across the portfolios of the companies themselves could realise substantial gains. Innisfree, which manages my local hospital’s PFI and others across the country and has just 25 staff, stands to make £18bn alone over the coming years. If these companies are resistant to consolidating these loans into a more realistic cost, then it’s time to look again at their tax reliefs, or – given the evidence of excessive profits in this industry that shareholders have received – resurrect one of New Labour’s early hits with a windfall tax on the returns made.
Longer term, we need to ensure there is much more competition for the business of the state. Despite interest rates being low for over a decade, these loans have stayed stubbornly expensive. The lack of viable alternatives – whether public borrowing or bonds – gives these companies a captive market. If the government wants better rates, it needs to ensure there are more options to choose between, whether by allowing local authorities to issue bonds, or reforming Treasury rules that penalise public sector borrowing in the first place.
As our public services struggle under the pressure of PFI, Labour must lead this debate to show how we can not only learn from our past, but also provide answers for the future too. The government has already spent £100bn buying the debt of banks through quantitative easing. With Brexit expected not only to add £60bn to our country’s debt but also affect our access to European central bank funds, taking on our expensive creditors is a battle no prime minister can ignore in the fight to stop Britain going bust.
This article was originally published by the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday August 30th 2017.
Thank you to everyone who attended our follow up meeting with our local police senior leadership team to discuss their progress in addressing anti social behaviour and crime in our area. This is an update on what was discussed at this meeting and the information provided to residents, and an alert for local residents regarding possible further changes to our policing provision in Walthamstow.
The Borough Commander Richard Tucker led the meeting along with Superintendent Paul Clements. He started meeting by acknowledging the progress that has been made with policing in Walthamstow since the previous meeting, and that it had made him realise previously removing the dedicated high street team was a mistake. As a result, since the meeting in May, there is now one Sergeant and six police officers dedicated to the High Street and St James area.
Paul Clements explained that since last meeting, police have made fifty five arrests in the area involving drugs, and executed five warrants for house searches for drugs. They have also seized eight knives and made 170 stop and searches on drug-related grounds. Superintendent Clements reports that of those who have been arrests a significant number have been for those with possession of enough drugs to suggest they are supplying.
Both Superintendent Clements and Commander Tucker discussed the twin challenges they face of addressing the underlying causes of drug led criminality in Walthamstow and the impact of a 40% cut to the Metropolitan police in the next four years. They also explained they were seeking public support for the continued use of targeted stop and search based on intelligence from the public.
Superintendent Clements also discussed recent concerns about increases in crime using corrosive substances such as acid or bleach and mopeds. Superintendent Clements highlighted that attacks involving corrosive substances are still rare in Walthamstow and that the Met Police have a central team looking into increase of the use of such substances. He highlighted that stop and searches now include looking for corrosive substances and that any one carrying a liquid may be asked to consume it. He also said that the police are asking local businesses to exercise their responsibility to question why they are selling such substances to young people.
The Borough Commander pointed out that police are now prioritising tackling the 3,500% increase in use of mopeds to commit crime in London and asking for reports from public to help improve intelligence on who is using these vehicles for such purposes. Residents then asked a range of questions which can be groups into three categories:
Concerns about inappropriate use of stop and search and the importance of involving young people in policing
- As of Monday all police in the borough now have body cameras, police want to listen and learn about how to improve stop and search in way that is targeted
- Police are working with spark2life who are working on gang issues in Walthamstow and ask for patience from community
- Youth Engagement team from the council are working on ‘Detached’ project – joint work between police, young people, ex-gang members and council
- Lighting will be improved in high street area to reduce spaces for criminal activity
Concern over increase in knife crime and young people carrying knives
- The police highlighted that there are twenty two schools officers in borough working with young people. Parents are encouraged to cooperate and search their children if they are concerned.
Concern over drug use and anti social behaviour on housing estates
- Police have identified 150 long term drug users who need intervention and are working with the Council and healthcare services. They are also seeking to ask Housing Associations to address their failure to tackle ASB behaviour
The Borough commander pledged to continue the deployment of resources in the High Street and St James area – but also warned he has to play his part with central London policing requests and cuts and so this will impact on other services the police provide. Residents were encouraged to be part of safer neighbourhood panels and become active in helping to address local challenges and the date of the next High Street Ward Panel was given as Tuesday 12th September.
I will continue to liaise with the police on these issues and update residents on them via my weekly e-newsletter. If you don’t receive this – which includes the dates of Safer Neighbourhood Panels- please do email me and I will add you to that mailing list.
At the end of the meeting, the Borough Commander announced that the police were considering the closure of the Walthamstow police contact point, which would mean residents would need to go to Chingford to report issues to the police. Since the meeting my office has been seeking urgent information about these proposals to share with residents and details of who will make this decision. I will be asking for the help of Walthamstow residents to fight these proposals as soon as I receive this information.
With your help, next week the UK Parliament can right a 50 year old wrong and make sure equality isn't ignored in the Queen's Speech.
Email your MP now to ask them to support #mypledgeherchoice
Its 50 years since the 1967 Abortion Act, which granted reproductive rights to women.
However, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland (except in the most extreme circumstances), and as a result hundreds of NI women travel to England for an abortion every year.
Despite being UK citizens and UK taxpayers, NI women are not entitled to NHS funding for their treatment, and therefore must meet the cost of both travel and treatment personally.
This month Jeremy Hunt fought and won a court case on his right to charge Northern Irish women for abortions if they have them in England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly.
Unless he changes his mind a decision made in Belfast has consequences for UK citizens choosing to access services in Birmingham, Blackpool or Brighton.
Email your MP now to ask them to support #mypledgeherchoice
So whilst the UK funds access to abortion through its overseas aid budget, we deny our own citizens the same support.
I have tabled an amendment to the Queens Speech to address this which has received cross party support.
Now we need your help to ask other MPs to join the call for equal treatment.
Please use this link to ask your MP to support this change and to commit to backing legislation in principle if the Secretary of State won't change his mind.
Email your MP now to ask them to support #mypledgeherchoice
Together we can ensure equality is on the agenda and all UK women are treated fairly.
The humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society.
Many Walthamstow residents have written to me about the Prime Minister's recent proposal to hold a vote on overturning the ban on foxhunting- if I am re-elected as the MP for Walthamstow, I will always vote against any attempts to overturn the ban on foxhunting.
In the last parliament I also supported attempts to increase the penalties for animal cruelty brought forward by my colleague Anna Turley- The current penalties for animal welfare cases in England are amongst the lowest in Europe. It is time this changed.
I have also repeatedly voted to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, and would support a total ban on the trading of ivory in contrast to the decision of the Conservatives to abandon their pledge on this issue. I would also support a ban on the third-party sale of puppies and live animal exports.
During my time as an MP I have also opposed the culling of badgers to control bovine TB. If Labour wins the election we would immediately end the ineffective and cruel badger cull, instead focusing on an evidence-based approach driven by science, not ideology.
So too many residents have raised with me concerns about antibiotic resistance. It is a major public health concern, and awareness is still too low. I am concerned that antibiotics are employed too liberally, including whilst rearing animals and so if I am re-elected I would raise this with the Secretary of State for Health and investigate what measures we might take to protect the public.
Finally, given the decision of President Trump to reject the Paris Accord and the impact this could have on our food production, if re-elected I will work with other MPs to challenge this and ensure that our farming practices promote high animal welfare and environmental standards.
I ask for your support on Thursday to be re-elected as our local MP. If you are voting for me, you can let me know by clicking here.
Thank you to everyone who came to our meeting to discuss the new union for the self employed.
Join the Union for the Self Employed here.
At the meeting Community Union and Indycube explained this will offer services to its members including a factoring system to chase invoices so they can be guaranteed payment, and legal advice.
With £56 million owed to 6,000 businesses in Walthamstow each year in late payments, and £12 million spent chasing these funds, it is clear helping to tackle late payments could make a big difference to many local businesses as well as bring more money to our local area.
Join the Union for the Self Employed here.
We are also developing more Walthamstow specific services too including seeking premises and business start up support.
If I am re-elected, supporting and developing this project in partnership with Indycube and Community to help the self employed in Walthamstow will be a priority for me.
Please feel free to share the details of this initiative with other local self employed people and small businesses, and to ask them to email if they would like to receive updates on this project as it develops.
With less than two weeks to the General Election, I am asking for your vote on June 8th to send a message that equality matters to our community and our country.
Let me know if you will be voting for me by clicking here.
Many key employment rights for women are directly underpinned by being members of the European Union. You can read my speech about this here- if I am re-elected I will fight to protect these rights against those seeking to diminish them.
My track record shows my determination to prioritise addressing violence against women- along with addressing unequal pay, paternity and maternity leave and the lack of women in leadership positions.
This is a commitment that will never waiver.
Let me know if you will be voting for me by clicking here.
So too, as abortion rights are threatened, I will always speak up to protect a woman’s right to choose.
I spoke up for the importance of including same sex relationships in sex and relationships education in our schools. If I am re-elected I will continue to work with Stonewall and local teachers to make this a reality.
As reported hate crime rises in our city, I have championed community cohesion initiatives in Walthamstow and challenged the Government on its public sector duties towards minorities.
So too, Labour is committed to scrapping the Personal Independence Payments assessments and Work Capability Assessments, and incorporating into law the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
By voting for me on Thursday 8th June, you can send a powerful message that equality is not an optional extra, but critical to our nation's future.
On Monday 15th May Cllr Clare Coghill hosted a meeting at the Blackhorse Road Baptist Church regarding anti social behaviour in the High Street area. If you weren't able to attend, please note I also tried to capture the details of the discussion and the questions raised through a series of facebook posts which you can find here.
Further to this meeting, residents requested the following information. Firstly, this is the latest press release from the police which gives details of developments in the ongoing investigation into the murder of Elijah Dornelly and details of two arrests that have been made that were mentioned this evening:
- High Street Ward Panel- Tuesday, 23rd May, 7pm, The Mall offices (above ASDA). The organisers have asked that if you intend to go you email them so they can make sure they are able to accommodate all attendees and suggest checking their website in case of a change of venue.
- Markhouse Ward Panel- Wednesday 7th June 7pm, Queens Road Adult Education Centre
Standing Up For Walthamstow and For Britain: My Pledge To You To Fight for Our Future in The Single Market
Today I joined eighteen other London Labour candidates to launch our pledge to fight for Britain to have full access to the European single market if re-elected.
Being able to trade in the single market is crucial to the future of Walthamstow and Britain- in London alone, the EU buys 39% of our exports and 650,000 jobs depend on trade with Europe.
I voted against triggering Article 50 because the deal Theresa May says she wants would involve leaving the single market, risking the livelihoods of many here in Walthamstow and around Britain through her desire for a hard Brexit.
Any deal which creates barriers to trade will inevitably lead to lower growth and fewer jobs, damaging the prospects of our community and our country.
Now that negotiations have started, if I am re-elected as MP for Walthamstow I will continue to fight for cooperation with Europe, for the rights of EU citizens here in the UK and for staying in the single market and the Customs Union.
I will also work with other politicians who share these concerns- because as my track record shows, I will always work to get the best deal for Walthamstow and for Britain.
If you would like to support my campaign to be re-elected, click here to request a poster or volunteer.
Tory cuts to school budgets will see some schools in Walthamstow face a 20% reduction in their funding, meaning many will have to either make teachers redundant or cut back on classes and vital services for our young people. To give some sense of the scale of cuts involved, Frederik Bremer School alone will lose £800,000 over the next four years. Calculations done by our local Council show that schools here in Waltham Forest face real-terms budget cuts of £21m between 2016 and 2020 – based on increased costs of £17m from unfunded new cost pressures, such as the government’s apprenticeship levy in addition to about £4.3m from changes to the national funding formula for schools.
As the local MP I have been working with the Council to raise concerns with the Government about these plans, as well as my fellow Labour MPs - so was shocked that the Minister responded to us to suggest that if schools could not manage with such cuts they should simply renegotiate their photocopier contracts or energy bills. Such an attitude suggests the Ministers don't understand either how schools manage their funds or the impact of the cuts they are imposing on them- leading to likely devastating consequences for our local children. You can read more about this here from the Guardian newspaper- if I am re-elected as Walthamstow's MP in the election I will continue to fight for our schools to get the funding they need to be able to give every child in Walthamstow the best start in life.
Anger into Action: Tampon Tax Challenge and Four Ways You Can Make A Difference Today By Being a FAN
We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced
Our UK Government has today announced taxes paid by women for tampons will be used to fund anti-abortion organisations.
Turn your anger into action by joining with us to fight back through the Feminist Action Network.
FAN brings campaigners together in common cause to show the power of equality to change the lives of everyone for the better.
Here are five ways you can do that today:
- The UK Government has given £250,000 of public money to Life, the anti-abortion organization, from the so called tampon tax fund. If you believe this decision is wrong demand Ministers review this decision here.
- On Tuesday 18th April from 6 - 7.30pm we will be running a "Circular Firing Up Squad" in parliament. This is a free, non partisan women's leadership workshop open to any woman aged 16 or over to help inspire herself and others onto positions of power and influence in their own lives- to book your place at this event please email to RSVP.
- 70% of those claiming bereaved parents allowance are women- on the 6th April the Government is cutting this help and says this is because women now work. Help us challenge this decision by writing to your MP here to support grieving parents.
- Holler4 are organsing flashmob choirs across the country to support the #icantkeepquiet campaign following the women’s march. They’re holding a workshop on Saturday 8th April Sign up here to join one of these choirs.
- Horrified by recent court cases involving violence against women? A new consultation has started on the sentencing of intimidatory offences and domestic abuse. Have your say here now.
Please share this information and spread the word about how we can take action together to make a positive difference.
Any activists that would like to be part of our #FAN2017 network and receive updates on campaigns should email firstname.lastname@example.org with FAN2017 in the title.