Something for nothing- private health and the N Staffs Health Economy

Something for nothing- private health and North Staffs Health economy

There is much talk in the media nowadays about ” something for nothing” society and “welfare dependency”. Usually these comments are directed at someone who has been on benefit for a long time and is deemed as putting nothing in to the community. And barely a day goes by that the newspaper exposes someone for fraud.

There is another form of dependency, which costs the taxpayer far more than those felons reported on in the pages of the Sentinel. Continue reading

Why not a maximum wage?

David Cameron writes today in the Guardian that Public sector chiefs earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year would have their salaries cut back by a Conservative government under a radical scheme to link their earnings to the lowest-paid workers in their organisation.

The Leader of the Tories suggests a difference of 20 times between the highest and lowest paid worker in the public sector

An interesting idea where the Chief Executive of Stoke City Council earns over £190,000 more than the Prime Minister. His is not the only high post locally as the Guardian also revealed that the Vice Chancellors of both Staffordshire and Keele University earn £246,000 and £248,000 respectively. A number of other senior officers in the universities are paid over £100,00

One question which might usefully considered is the wage inflation that seems to have gripped the pay of senior executives especially in the City Council here the pay of Brian Smith the Chief executive of the City Council less than a decade ago was £120,000 whilst Mr Van Der Laarschott salary is £70,000 more than that. Could it be that it is in the interest of the agencies that are recruiting for senior officers to talk up pay because of commission that they might be had from pay inflation?

It seems absurd to me that the Chief Executive of the City Council should receive a higher age than the Prime Minister a man who has his finger of the nuclear button.

But why stop in the public sector?

In Britain billions in taxpayer’s money have gone to bail out banks whose top executives recklessly drove their enterprises straight into the ditch as they chased after personal pay windfalls. Those same banks, buoyed up by bailout subsidies are now re-stuffing their pockets. Enough! A maximum wage has a number of positives. Last year a book “the Spirit Level” outlined the damage to well being that inequality was doing .The disparity in society has had many damaging effects such as health inequalities. Major inequalities also have environmental consequences.

At the opposite end of the scale I fully support a living wage as much as supporting the concept of a maximum wage. Stoke is a low wage area. The average wage of the area is £22,000 a year about £6k below the average- although a significant proportion of the working population earn far below that. I also think we should have a basic liveable income ending the reliance on a creaking benefits system.

Meeting Sisulu

Today is the 20th anniversary of the freeing of Nelson Mandela. In the group were Pollsmoor Prison to meet Mandela and walk the last yards to fredom was her old friend, confidante, mentor and fellow prisonner Walter Sisulu.

Sisulu was a Freeman of Stoke and the campaign to make him so is outlined in a piece I wrote a few years ago for a writing competition sponsored by the Commonwealth Institute.

I’m in his autobiography and in the index, sandwiched between Fidel Castro and Joseph Chamberlain. I met him in November 1996 and this is an account of my involvement.

Even as a child I knew what was right and wrong. There was a news item about the bombing of a black church in Mississippi in 1963. Two seven year old girls were dead, they were about my age. As I got older I took in the speeches of Martin Luther King and I became aware of South Africa and the apartheid regime. I readily identified with the civil rights movement.

At school I voiced progressive opinions while my classmates were deeply reactionary. I was interested in knowing more about what was going on in South Africa and I wondered whether I became familiar with the name Sisulu and the African National Congress then. In 1970 I gave a talk in my class on the anti apartheid movement the response was hostile.

I was at York University during the troubled late 70s My sympathies were reinforced by students who were at the South African Studies Department.

In the following decade my political involvement increased as I became a Councillor in Stoke. There were so many big brave causes around of which what was happening in South Africa was the most vital. In October 1983 I met a representative from the ANC and it was then I suggested that we try giving the freedom of Stoke to Walter Sisulu. I worked out my tactics on how this could be done.

In 1930 the City Council had given the freedom of the city to General Herzog, one of the architects of the apartheid state. I felt that this was wrong and that we had an opportunity to right this historic injustice. I swayed members of the ruling Labour Party Group and the freedom ceremony took place in November 1984.

Before the freedom of Stoke the local newspaper showed a picture of Sisulu before his imprisonment. He looked a stern individual basilisk eyed with a goatee. The local Tories called him a “Marxist Terrorist”.

The day arrived and was notably for one of the most magnificent speeches I had ever heard, I can still recall the force of the oratory. It was delivered by Seretse Choabi from the ANC who was to die young in 1991. I followed and I am quoted as saying “by honouring Walter Sisulu, the council was putting right a grievous wrong and removing an insult which cruelly and outrageously linked Stoke on Trent with apartheid in South Africa “.

I finally met Sisulu in November 1996. He had been to Stoke a couple of years before and the local University had named a building after him and made him a Chancellor. I was introduced to him. A frail man he was dwarfed by the large civic chair he was sitting in. He gave an impression of serenity and resolve. His hair was snow white which enhanced the sense of kindliness. I came away from this fleeting moment proud that I had played a part in honouring a man who had played a significant part in the liberation of his own country in the greatest moral struggle of the 20th century.

He died in May 2003. His great friend and fellow prisoner on Robbins Island Nelson Mandela issued a statement remarking that part of him had died. I wrote a letter to the local paper to mark the moment.

“He lived to see the dream of a liberated South Africa fulfilled. His was the voice of the voiceless”.

Powers to force people out of their homes against their will should be revoked

Hundreds of homes have been demolished, whilst more remain derelict, shuttered-up with painted boards in a vain attempt to make the place less like a slum, and yet the city council and Renew are still pressing on with their plans to throw people out of their homes, against their will.

This week, councillors will contemplate more clearance which partner Renew favours for the scrap heap in Middleport, an area which has already seen the unpopular demise of the vicinity of Slater Street for what residents
could see as no good reason. Some in fact still remain amid the desolation awaiting a fair deal in recompense for
their untimely and unwanted move.

Over in Eaton Street, Hanley, after a couple of years of struggle from the half of the homeowners who could be
bothered to dare to argue with the council that they deserved to stay in the houses they thought were theirs for keeps, the block is still standing, awaiting a fate which is yet to be announced.

But the so-called regeneration machine just keeps finding excuses to announce the next bulldozing project. The council meeting will take place in private this Wednesday to debate the fate of this new set of 127 homes in Shirley Street, Middleport, which for whatever reason have been selected by Renew’s team of redevelopment experts to be either knocked down, do them up, or just leave them the way they are.

And according to The Sentinel, Renew has already indicated that it prefers the clearance to make for ‘better quality
housing’ option.

The question is, how dare they? How dare Renew have a preferred option of people’s houses? I have interviewed
scores and scores of people who have been directly affected by these Compulsory Purchase Orders, and I have yet to come across someone who owned their house in one of the earmarked areas say they were in favour of the proposals. In Slater Street, the overwhelming opinion was that they might as well take what they can get from the
council, since they believed they had no choice but to leave their homes, even though they didn’t want to. Others
stayed on to fight a long, unsuccessful battle which ended up being a waste of time after the public inquiry found that the CPO should stand and the people would have no choice but to up and leave their properties.

In Eaton Street, many residents fought against the council in another case which saw a public inquiry find in favour
of the authority’s proposals.

People like Eve Maley in Eaton Street, as far away as Elizabeth Pascoe in Liverpool, took their plight to the High Court when they found themselves in the same position, and now even talk of some regret the move, despite vowing never to leave their homes against their will, having wasted years of their lives on a fruitless campaign which took a huge toll on their health, their wallets, and their sanity.

Yet the authorities along with partners like Renew, continue to make decisions like this which they believe are right for ‘the city’, with no regard for those who get in their way, even if they are the ones who made the houses their homes. Why should people be forced out of their homes, their community shattered, and forced to move to a new area where they don’t know a soul, and have to fight for a fair price for their property, all in the name of the regeneration of Stoke? It’s simply not right. But, with those who chose not to accept a fate allotted to them taking their cries of help all the way to the High Court and still found no relief, it appears there’s no stopping them.