Just over 13 months ago, residents of the London Borough of Lewisham launched a campaign against proposals — by senior NHS managers — to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital. To pay for the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which had nothing to do with Lewisham (and were, in part, because of ruinously expensive PFI deals for two new hospitals), Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator, appointed by the outgoing health secretary Andrew Lansley, proposed closing Lewisham’s A&E Department, which would have had a catastrophic effect on all other acute services. Lewisham’s acclaimed children’s A&E Department would have closed, and nine out of ten mothers in a borough of 270,000 people would have been unable to give birth at Lewisham Hospital, in case there were any complications. The A&E chosen to replace Lewisham — at Queen Elizabeth Hiospital in Woolwich, one of the SLHT’s financially troubled hospitals — is miles away, and would be required to serve not just the population of Greenwich and Lewisham, but Bexley as well, a total of three quarters of a million people.
Through a campaign led by a wonderful team of activists, local residents and medical personnel, and 25,000 people prepared to march through the streets of Lewisham in January this year, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign — and Lewisham Council — eventually won. Although Jeremy Hunt, the current health secretary, approved Kershaw’s proposals in January, the campaigners and the council launched two judicial reviews, on the basis that the legislation used to deal with the indebted trust, the Unsustainable Providers Regime, didn’t allow the government to draw neighbouring hospitals into plans for dealing with failed NHS trusts.
The Lewisham campaigners secured a powerful victory in the judicial reviews, in July, but Hunt then appealed, losing again in October. This should have been the end of the story, but the ghoulish Hunt is back for a third time, this time with what is being called the “hospital closure clause” — Clause 118 of the current Care Bill, which is being debated by parliament next week. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the petition on Change.org, asking London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, not to approve a £1bn plan to turn Henry VIII’s former Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf in Deptford into a luxury, high-rise housing development that would be more at home in Dubai.
All over London, housing developments that are unaffordable for the majority of Londoners continue to rise up, and equally unaffordable new projects continue to be approved. Councils are either cash-strapped and desperate, or they are seduced by developers’ promises that their developments will be of benefit to the community at large, even though the entry level for luxury developments is a household income of £72,000, way above the £53,000 that even a couple on the average UK income (£26,500) can afford. When you consider that the median income in the UK is £14,000 (the one that 50 percent of people earn more than, and 50 percent earn less than), it’s easy to see how the entire situation is out of control and is doing nothing for local people, or the majority of hard-working Londoners.
Down the road from where I live in south east London is Deptford, a vibrant but not affluent part of the London Borough of Lewisham, with a huge maritime history. Where Deptford meets the River Thames is the largest potential development site in the borough, Convoys Wharf, a 16.6 hectare (40-acre) site, which most recently was News International’s paper importing plant for printing Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Murdoch’s operation closed in 2000, and, since 2002, developers have been trying to gain approval for a massive luxury housing development on the site, featuring 3,500 homes — 3,000 of which will be sold “off-plan” to foreign investors — and including three towers rising to 40 storeys in height. Moreover, just 15 percent of the homes will be what is laughingly described these days as “affordable” (at 80 percent of market rents, these rents are actually unaffordable for most people), and just 4 percent will be for social rent (i.e. genuinely affordable) — that’s just 140 properties out of the total of 3,500. Read the rest of this entry »
Just hours before President Obama delivers a major speech on national security at the National Defense University, in which he will discuss the drone program and will also lay out his plans for Guantánamo, an international petition calling for the prison’s closure, launched by Avaaz, has secured over 400,000 signatures in just one day.
The petition calls on President Obama “to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it is to close down the prison, and to use the authority granted to you by the US Congress to immediately transfer the 86 men who have been cleared,” which is exactly the message that is required, so please, if you haven’t already signed it, do so now, and then circulate it to everyone you know.
For the first time since a prison-wide hunger strike began over three months ago, President Obama spoke about Guantánamo at a news conference three weeks ago, promising to tackle Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to prevent the release of prisoners and the closure of the prison, but refusing to acknowledge his own role in preventing the release of any of the 56 Yemeni prisoners, out of 86 prisoners cleared for release by his own inter-agency task force, and failing to mention that a waiver exists in the legislation relating to Guantánamo (the National Defense Authorization Act) that allows him to bypass Congress if he regards it as being “in the national security interests of the United States.” Read the rest of this entry »
Since the Tories came to power two years and seven months ago, with the assistance of the Liberal Democrats, they have reshaped the political landscape in the UK in the most horrific manner, launching a savage age of austerity aimed at the young, the working poor, the unemployed, the ill, the old and the disabled, in defiance of the Christian values they supposedly hold.
In response, a group of concerned citizens have launched an e-petition urging the government to change course, which already has over 9,000 signatures since its launch just three weeks ago, and needs 100,000 signatures by December 12, 2013 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. The “War on Welfare” petition, which has a website here, and is being promoted as the #wowpetition, calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”
Driven by a Thatcherite and neo-conservative obsession with destroying the state (with a few exceptions, including their own salaries and expenses), the Tories have been taking advantage of the economic crisis created by bankers and politicians (themselves included) in the global crash of 2008 not to rein in the bankers, but to endorse the enthusiasm for austerity amongst so-called economists — those who have not learned that austerity measures in a recession lead only to economic collapse. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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