Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Secrecy surrounding Weston Hospital's Privatisation Project

Why is Weston Hospital being so secretive about it's procurement project, which could result in a private company taking over our local hospital?

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) Request submitted to Weston Area Health Trust was denied. The FOI asked for the following information:

Copy of the Strategic Business Case
Minutes and Reports considered by the Project Board and the Stakeholder and Quality Assurance Group

The Trust's Response is here 

A review of their decision has been requested,

Save Weston Hospital Public Event 29th June

Today was the start of the campaign to stop our local hospital from being privatised. We had 7 speakers who came to the meeting to give their support to the campaign to Stop Weston Hospital being privatised and to talk about their fears of privatisation.

Photo (c) Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance

Mike Bell, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weston Central said that Weston Hospital is faced with 2 unpalatable options - being take over by a private company and as a result run for profit, or being taken over by another NHS Trust. Councillor Bell does not support either option. He talked about how Weston Hospital has always been underfunded, but that there is no evidence that a private company will save money. He also described the engagement undertaken by the Trust as appalling, and that the people of Weston need to let them know that they will fight to defend their local hospital.

Donald Davies, Independent Councillor for Pill talked about why the NHS was created back in 1948 - it was to serve the people of this country, regardless of where they lived or their ability to pay. The current threat to Weston Hospital could mean that we end up with no local hospital. He went on to say that our political masters would love to give the NHS to the private sector, but the private sector would run the hospital for profit for their shareholders rather than in the interests of the people of Weston. He also emphasised that Weston is a small cog in a much larger machine. If Weston Hospital is privatised other hospitals will follow and that we're heading towards an American style insurance system, where the NHS is just a brand - just like Subway or McDonalds - run by multi-national health care companies.

Catherine Gibbons, Labour Councillor for Weston East brought a message of support from the Labour party. She talked about her own personal experience of Weston Hospital and the admiration she has for the staff working there. She also said that the recent adverse publicity and uncertainty surrounding the hospital's future is demoralising for hospital staff. She described the Coalition government's top down re-organisation of the NHS as causing a crisis in health care. She emphasised Labour's promise to repeal the Health and Social Care Act. She understands that under the current conditions it makes sense for the hospital to merge with another NHS Trust. But she cannot understand the reasons behind privatisation for Weston Hospital. She is ideologoically opposed to privatisation, but also thinks that the case for privatisation does not stack up financially - if the finances don't work with the hospital in the NHS, how will a private company be able to run it - their priority will be shareholders, not patients. Councillor Gibbons also referred to the NHS' 65th Birthday this coming week, and talked about how when the NHS was founded we were a country which had been bankrupted by war. We had the will to create the NHS then, we must have the will to keep it going. She also talked about Danny Boyle's Olympics Opening Ceremony and his tribute to the NHS. She ended by urging everyone to sign the petition to Keep Weston Hospital in the NHS.

Dr Richard Lawson, a former GP from Congresbury, former Woodspring councillor and Green Party member talked about how the Tories are obsessed with privatisation - they have an ideological belief that private is good and public is bad. But the reason for this is that many Coalition Government cabinet members have links with Healthcare Corporations. He also talked about how private companies always have to expand into other markets - U.S. Healthcare companies are looking at the UK currently. Dr Lawson said that the NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world in terms of money. But it had been made ready for privatisation for a number of years by both Tory and Labour governments. We will need to organise a hell of a campaign to stop the hospital being privatised, and it may be a good idea to lobby our local MP John Penrose. Richard gave us the vision of hundreds of Weston residents queueing outside John Penrose's surgery, and being kettled in the Conservative Association. He ended by saying that in 20 years time if we fail then do not be old, do not be sick and do not be poor.

Photo (c) UNISON South West

UNISON South West Regional Secretary Joanne Kaye talked about the NHS reaching its 65th birthday and how the Tories want to retire the NHS at 65, unlike the rest of us. She also referred to the time before the NHS was created when people worried about whether they could afford to pay for a Dr or midwife to come to see them. But that after the horrors of the Second World War the Labour government created the NHS and the welfare state so that people had security if they were sick, or lost their job. She went on to say that the budget for the NHS is billions of pounds and private companies want a slice. They are selling privatisation to us by saying it will still be the NHS and it will still be free, but this is not the case. Joanne talked about Circle Health Care, a company created by bankers, who have been given a 10 year contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. They have said they will make £311 million of savings, but will also be allowed to make a profit of £31 million. But in the first 6 months of Circle being in charge the losses at the hospital have doubled. She went on to say that NHS finances will always go up and down because people don't know when they're going to be ill or what sickness they're going to have. She referred to the fact that the NHS has been broken up since the 1990s and that we need to go back to a co-operative NHS. She ended with Nye Bevan's quote that the NHS will last as long as there are folk with the faith to fight for it.

Dr Gabriel Scally told the audience that he was a former Regional Director of Public Health and member of the Strategic Health Authority but resigned from the Dept of Health over the Health and Social Care bill. because he couldn't work in the NHS as it was being dismantled. He also talked about the media's role in the dismantling of the NHS particularly the BBC who did little to challenge the Health & Social Care Bill as it went through parliament. He talked about the disintegration of NHS services and that the government don't want the NHS to work. The government want it to be split up for their friends to make profits. Before the Coalition came to power the NHS had high approval ratings. The NHS is the most efficient service in the world and it provides excellent value for money. The Government have told us they're increasing funding for the NHS but that is a lie. In recent announcements they have taken £2 billion from the NHS to fund social care, because social care is in crisis - but social care is in crisis because they've cut Local Authority funding. As a result they are robbing Peter to pay Paul, and also robbing Paul. Last year the NHS surplus of £2.2 billion went back to the treasury instead of being invested in the NHS. Lack of funding is why the NHS is in crisis. The Health & Social Care Act also removed the Secretary of State for Health's responsbility for the NHS. Now Jeremy Hunt stands up in parliament and attacks GPs and hospitals. He ended by saying that the public have made is clear that they don't want to see services closed and they don't want a postcode lottery - they want to keep the National in National Health Service.

Kay Carberry, Assistant General Secretary of the TUC spoke about Hospital campaigns in other parts of the country which have been successful. But it is a tragedy that as the NHS approaches its 65th birthday its facing its greatest crisis. If we allow privatisation we will have a service which is accountable to shareholders and not patients. David Cameron said he would cut the deficit not the NHS, but 50,000 jobs have gone in the NHS.

A number of speakers from the floor suggested the following actions:

A massive demonstration and march in Weston
Attending the demonstraton in defence of the NHS at the Tory party conference on 29th September
Getting the message out to people across North Somerset - a leafleting campaign in every village in North Somerset, contacting Parish councils and using Parish magazines
A leafleting campaign in Weston super Mare
A local referendum asking the people of Weston whether they want their hospital to be privatised
Lobbying John Penrose, MP
Lobbying the Trust Board

These actions will be discussed at the Organising meeting to be held at 7 pm on 2nd July at the Working Men's Club in Weston super Mare.

Photo (c) UNISON South West

Saturday, 22 June 2013

People's Assembly London 22nd June - Proposed Declaration and Action Plan

The proposed declaration and action plan of the People’s Assembly

The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.

The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus  national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.

 The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:

We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.

We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.

We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.

Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.

Proposed actions:

The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking protest and strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.

Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.

The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.

We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.

We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity on November 5th and a national demonstration in Spring 2014.

We will support the call for local demonstrations on 5th July, the 65th Birthday of our NHS and specifically, at Trafford Hospital, Manchester, the birthplace of the NHS.

We will work with the trade unions, campaign groups and others to organise and mobilise for a national demonstration at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester in support of our NHS on 29th September 2013.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Weston Hospital Anti-Privatisation Campaign - Latest News

We are getting closer to the Public Event on 29th June from 10 till 2 at Weston Football Club

Speakers confirmed so far are:

Joanne Kaye, South West Regional Secretary, UNISON
Dr Gabriel Scally, University of the West of England
Dr Richard Lawson, Green Party
Mike Bell, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weston Central
Don Davies, Independent Councillor for Pill
Catherine Gibbons, Labour Councillor for Weston super Mare East

Further details here:

Facebook Event page:

Facebook Campaign page:

There are now going to be 2 double decker buses visiting the Public Event - The People United and the TUC's Austerity Uncovered Bus will both be there.

The NHS will be 65 on 5th July - will Weston Hospital make it to 66 in the NHS? - come to Rafters Restaurant in the Hospital between 11 am and 2 pm for some celebration cake.

Meetings for UNISON members at Weston Hospital on 8th July:

Academy - Waverley Room 12 - 1 pm 
Academy - Lecture Theatre 2.30 - 5.30 pm

Weston Labour Party have set up an online petition:

Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council have set up an organising meeting on 2nd July:

We're getting some media and blog coverage:

BBC News:

BBC Radio Somerset - Kelvin MacDonald Fraser talks about the campaign - 1 hour, 4 minutes in:

Bristol Evening Post:

Pam Field has written an article for Think Left:

The Socialist Health Association have added info to their website:

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Local Government Pay in 2013 and beyond - the future looks grim but we still have a world to win...

Today I've heard via Jon Rogers blog that the result of the consultative ballot of Local Government members is approximately 60% for acceptance of the 1% pay offer (in fact a 2 % pay cut), with 40% voting to reject and being prepared to take sustained industrial action. Sadly this pretty much reflects the result of the North Somerset consultative ballot.

But how different would that result have been if the consultative ballot paper had given the options for selective strike action combined with a work to rule, and odd days of all out strikes? How different would the result have been if as Jon Rogers rightly says the Local Government Service Group had recommended rejection? Obviously it's impossible to say, but I tend to agree with Jon that the result would have been very different.

But now we have a situation where the 3 year pay freeze which has resulted in the loss of 16% of our pay is followed by a year where our pay is effectively being cut by 2% because inflation is at 3%, and the prospects for future years pay settlements look grim, unless we are prepared to do something about it.

Hundreds of thousands of Local Government jobs have gone, and those staff that remain are seeing their workloads increase massively. My council will make a further 30% of cuts from 2014 to 2018 on top of the almost 30% of cuts made in the last 3 years. Local Government workers have also seen detrimental changes to their terms and conditions over the last few years. Here in North Somerset there is still (6 years on) bitterness at the loss of the Essential Car User Allowance, and not that long ago there was uproar when the council changed the Flexi / TOIL policy.

Many Local Government jobs have been outsourced. In my own branch we have had members transferred to private sector organisations, on the grounds that this will save jobs, only to see redundancies and reductions to their terms and conditions within months of the transfer. Our members at Parkwood have had enhancements reduced, and hardly any of the TUPE transferred staff remain - 2 years since the transfer. At Agilisys there have also been many redundancies, reductions to enhancements, and currently staff are being consulted on the complete removal of enhancements.

In a blog entry I wrote back in March I paraphrased the Communist Manifesto when I wrote that Local Government workers have nothing to lose but their chains by rejecting the then 1% with strings attached pay offer. I still believe that to be true and that we have a world to win if we were only prepared to do something about it.

North Somerset Youth Services Cuts - Appeal in High Court today

On 13 June 2013, Aaron Hunt will ask the Court of Appeal to reverse the earlier decision of the High Court and quash the decision of North Somerset Council to cut funding to youth centres in the area.

A three judge Court of Appeal will be asked by Mr Hunt to find the following:

That the Council did not take sufficient steps to ascertain the views of young persons before taking the decision to cut funding.

That the Council and the Court could not assume that Councillors had read critical equalities and consultation documentation when it was not in the paperwork put before them.

The Court of Appeal’s consideration of the case comes amid on-going uncertainty over the future of youth services in North Somerset as the Council’s funding reductions continue to bite. As the Council’s plans to remove centralised funding for youth clubs are realised, commissioning networks across the region are trying desperately to find alternative funding to allow youth service provision to continue into the future.

The hearing will be heard from 10:30 am in Court Room 70, Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, London.

Cianan Good of Public Interest Lawyers said as follows:

“With uncertainty still surrounding the future of youth services, the Court of Appeal will be asked to consider crucial issues affecting the futures of a great many young people in North Somerset. These individuals should have been given the opportunity to consult with North Somerset Council at the time of the original decision to cut this key service. Having not been afforded that opportunity, the Court of Appeal will now be asked to quash the decision of the Council, requiring it to rethink – this time taking lawful account of the views of its young people – spending cuts to youth clubs whilst also deciding how they should be run through coming months and years.”

Monday, 10 June 2013

TUC Austerity Uncovered Bus in Weston super Mare on 29th June




9.30 am - 2.30 pm at Weston Football Club, Winterstoke Road, Weston super Mare, BS24 9AA

3 - 5 pm at the For All Healthy Living Centre, 68 Lonsdale Avenue, Weston super Mare, BS23 3SJ

Britain is hurting. Too many politicians have no idea just how tough life is for the many. Prices are rising while wages are held back. Service cuts are biting hard. And getting tough on cheats is used as an excuse to cut vital benefits and tax credits for millions who have played by the rules.

In June 2013, the TUC and Britain’s trade unions will be travelling across the country letting people tell their own story about life in Britain today. We are making videos, blogging what we find, and bringing journalists to report life on the front line of austerity Britain.

We are gathering the evidence to convict government policies. They are hurting, but they are not working.

Download the flyer here

More information at:

Saturday, 8 June 2013

People's Assembly 22nd June - Coach from Weston

The Peoples Assembly will take place in London on Saturday June 22nd. The Assembly will be a large gathering of trade union and political activists against austerity. Bristol and South West Unite the Resistance have organised a coach from Bristol (supported by North Somerset NUT) for those wishing to go.

Coach will pick up at 7.00 am at Weston locking rd coach station then onto Anchor rd. Bristol. It’s on Saturday 22nd of June and looks very exciting as over 2,000 people have signed up already. It’s easy to book a place

Tickets for the coach are £10 waged and £7 concessions and can be obtained by emailing Anne Lemon (NUT) at


Monday, 3 June 2013

TUC Campaign Bus coming to Weston super Mare on 29th June

Saturday 29th June, 10 am to 2 pm
Woodspring Stadium, Winterstoke Road, Weston-super-Mare BS24 9AA 

The TUC are coordinating two weeks of action to highlight the impact of austerity and cuts on communities up and down the country. As part of this two weeks of action the TUC are arranging a bus tour of towns and cities. The TUC bus is touring the country to capture the real stories from people living in austerity Britain and to promote the union alternative.

The TUC bus will be at the Save Weston Hospital from Privatisation event at Weston Football Club on Saturday 29th June.

The Save Weston Hospital Facebook page is here:

Come and tell them what the impact of the cuts has been on you, your family and your community.