Tessa wants to keep your £20

The Olympic Precept was put in place by Tessa Jowell when she was in charge of the Olympics as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the Labour government. It has been costing London council tax payers about £20 a year since 2006 and is due to come to an end next year.

Famously Ken Livingstone likened the £20 a year levy to being the equivalent of a Walnut Whip or 38p every week. This was typical of Livingstone’s careless, jocular approach to taking your money.

In his last budget the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, promised to give the money back to Londoners in the shape of a cut in the GLA Precept (which is added to council tax bills and collected by your local council on behalf of the GLA). The budget document says:

Olympic precept in budget

Labour’s leading candidate to be the London Mayor, our Tessa, has been promising to put £61 million into Sure Start. She lays claim to the original programme but is less keen to lay claim to the Olympic Precept we have been paying for ten years in London. Now she says she doesn’t want to let this cash go. Although she fails to spell it out clearly what she is proposing is that the £61 million will be paid for by adding £20 a year on your council tax, £20 that Boris has promised to stop taking from you. Tessa wants to keep your £20.

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One open letter deserves another

Today the reasonable wing of the Ealing Labour party has come out in favour of Liz Kendall for leader of the Labour party. All well and good. Today council leader Julian Bell issued the “open letter” below:

Now at least the Ealing lefties will know who to knife at the next selection meeting.

Wasting no opportunity to get one of his favourite political lines in Bell says:

As Councillors from Ealing we know how hard the Tory government has hit our Borough. Ealing Council funding has been cut by £183m between 2010 and 2018 – that is over 50% of our budget…

This is a total misuse of words. Any normal understanding of the word budget is that it is the total amount you have to spend and what you spend it on. In reality Ealing Council spends in the order of £800 million a year but they are shy of saying this because it makes cuts that the council has had to endure sound too small. Is it really credible that Ealing Council is going to be half the size it was in 2010? No. I last looked at this last summer and the council’s expenditure since 2010 had essentially been flat in cash terms.

The council may well have lost something like half of its central government funding, which is extremely painful, but its council tax revenue has been going up in spite of the freeze, due to new building among other factors, and it has ramped up prices for council services considerably (£10 million of the “savings” in the last council 2010-2014 were price rises, so no cuts at all, just price rises replacing government grant).

Rather than write an open letter to Bell who will either not respond or who will fail to give me an honest answer I have written To the Chief Executive of the council, Martin Smith.

Letter to Martin Smith 17th August 2015

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The Ealing jobs miracle – youth unemployment only a quarter of what it was

Unemployment in the London Borough of Ealing, as measured by the claimant count, peaked under Labour in September 2009. Since then unemployment overall in Ealing has halved and youth unemployment is down almost 3/4. If you want to see where the data comes from all you have to do is go to the ONS’s nomis database.

NOMIS All June 2015

In May 2010 the claimant count (those people on JSA) was 8,810. In June, the last month for which data is available, the claimant count was 5,005. That is a fall of 43% since May 2010. The claimant count peaked at 9,580 in September 2009 under Labour. It has fallen by 48%, pretty much half, since.

NOMIS Youth June 2015

The picture with youth unemployment is even better. In May 2010 the youth claimant count was 1,780. In June the youth claimant count was 685. That is a massive fall of almost two thirds, 62%, since 2010. The youth claimant count peaked at 2,450 in September 2009 under Labour, a fall of 72%, almost 3/4, since.

I look forward to some rejoicing from our local MPs on this topic but I suspect I will be disappointed.

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Ealing Labour still too complacent on school performance

I have criticised the council and the local Labour group for their complacency with respect to school standards before.

At the last council meeting on Tuesday 9th June the councillors discussed the Corporate Plan, click for papers. Acton councillor Dan Crawford enthusiastically tweeted in approbation of the Labour education spokesman Binda Rai. Either he garbled what she was saying or Rai doesn’t understand her brief. 91% is the current year target for outstanding/good primaries.

Ealing Conservative Press Release 17-6-2015

In a press release today the local Tories point out that as good as the performance may look to the casual observer it still potentially leaves a staggering 9,500 children in schools that are not good enough. We need to get angry about any school that is not great.

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London Labour MPs not going for Burnham

According to the latest list of Labour MPs endorsing possible leaders of the Labour party published by the New Statesman no London Labour MP has yet endorsed Andy Burnham. Indeed the Daily Mail points out that “Labour leadership favourite Andy Burnham has failed to secure support of a single MP south of Stoke”.

In London 16 out of 45 Labour MPs have come out for a candidate. 2 for rank outsider Mary Creagh, 6 for moderniser Liz Kendall and 8 for Brownite safe pair of hands Yvette Cooper.

West London MPs seems to be going for Cooper in a big way with Ruth Cadbury, Virendra Sharma, Stephen Pound and Andy Slaughter all coming out for her. No sign of the preferences of Ealing newbie Rupa Huq. Will she be the first London MP to back Burnham and his union approved campaign?

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The NHS is going to the dogs, again – or maybe not

Local Labour types were keen to jump on the dumb reporting of the latest numbers coming out of the NHS on cancelled elective operations. Cancelled operations are always unwelcome but the NHS cancels a tiny fraction of its operations.

The headline in the Guardian was “Hospitals cancelling largest number of operations for 10 years”. Even the Telegraph had “Surge in cancelled NHS operations”.

I wondered what the long term picture was. The NHS keep stats going back to 1996/7. The Q4 figures (January to March) are always worst because it is the worst bit of winter and the time in the financial year when all the money is running out.

Q4 cancelled elective operations

This chart give the Q4 numbers for the last 19 years. Yes, cancellations are the worst for 10 years at around 20K. But, they were around 20K in 8 out of 13 Labour years. The worst year in this series was 2000/01 when it almost hit 25,000.

The average Q4 figure in 13 years under Labour was just under 19,000. The average figure for the five Coalition years was fractionally more than 18,000. We are doing more operations under a harsher financial climate but actually cancelling fewer operations.

Call me cynical but what really stunned me about this chart was how there is peak followed by a fall every election year (ringed in yellow). Surely the NHS bureaucracy doesn’t contrive a mini NHS crisis every winter before an election does it?

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What happened in Ealing Central and Acton last week?

We all know that Rupa Huq was elected as the MP for Ealing Central and Acton (EC&A) last week, and that Angie Bray lost. But how did people vote and how did their vote change from 2010 when this new constituency was first contested?

EC&A vote shares in 2010

EC&A vote shares in 2010

In 2010 EC&A was a three way marginal with the Conservatives getting 17,944 votes (38.0% of the vote), Labour 14,228 (30.1%) and the LibDems a very respectable “I agree with Nick” 13,041 (27.6%). UKIP 765 (1.6%) and the Greens 737 (1.6%) remained only minor players.

EC&A vote share in 2015

EC&A vote share in 2015

In 2015 EC&A has reverted to being a two-way marginal with three minor parties.

The turnout increased by a healthy 4% percentage points this year going from 67.52% to 71.5%. The total number of (valid) voters increased by 3,694 (8%) from 47,418 to 50,935 (driven by the rise in turnout, there being 1,000 more registered voters and fewer spoilt ballot papers).

The Conservatives added 3,784 extra voters increasing their vote share from 38.0% to 42.7%. This is a great result. The Conservatives got almost another 5% points of vote share. Their voters increased by more than the overall increase in voters. They upped the number of people voting for them by 21%.

Of course Labour did even better. They got 7,774 extra votes increasing their vote share by 13% from 30.1% to 43.2%. 55% more people voted for Labour.

Vote changes between 2010 and 2015

Vote changes between 2010 and 2015

I think what is clear from these numbers is that both the local Conservatives and Labour party worked very hard for people’s votes this year. The LibDems lost almost 10,000 votes and were harshly punished for their time in the Coalition government. Labour gained almost 8,000 votes as many disaffected LibDems joined them spurred on I think by Labour’s mendacious NHS campaign. The Conservatives picked up almost 4,000 extra voters and disappointingly, for me at least, came within a whisker of keeping Angie Bray’s seat.

Both UKIP and the Greens doubled their votes picking up over 1,000 new votes each. Both lost their deposits. The LibDems did at least keep their deposit but were only about 500 votes away from losing it.

It seems to me that the Conservative vote held up very well in this constituency. The Labour vote increased but one third of their voters are borrowed. With Rupa Huq’s tiny majority of 274 I think she will be spending every spare hour in her constituency or she will be toast in 2020.

My prediction is that the Ealing Labour party will take every opportunity to subvert the council and its resources to promote Rupa Huq over the next five years. Expect to see her elbowing her way to the front of every municipal photo opportunity.

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Labour’s empty NHS promises: Both Miliband and Burnham come to Ealing and offer a review

After five years of blaming their own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge policy, and it local roll out (AKA Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF)), on the Conservatives we are now starting to hear Labour’s meagre promises on the local NHS system.

First off Ed Miliband came to Ealing on 24th April to address a rally.

When asked about Ealing Hospital he said:

We will obviously review decisions that are being made when we get into Government because I think you have to ask questions about downgrading an A&E at a time when there is an A&E crisis.

Wow! A review. Pathetic. No promise of any substantial change to SaHF. Just a review. Great. We had one of those when the Independent Review Panel looked at it – and they waved it through.

Miliband’s message was underlined only this last Saturday when Shadow Secretary of State of Health, Andy Burnham, came to Ealing.

According to Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter Burnham said:

I am minded not to proceed with those changes (to west London A&Es). Will demand full clinical review.

So after five years of heaping ordure on the heads of the Conservatives for continuing with the Labour party policy as laid out on page 4:3 of their 2010 manifesto Labour’s big offer to Ealing is a review.

Ealing Central and Acton Labour candidate is even more confused in her leaflets.

Huq NHS pledge

She talks about “keep open our remaining hospitals”. Of course no hospitals have closed and none will. Hammersmith lost its A&E but will focus on being a world class cardiac hospital and will take cardiac emergencies. Central Middlesex will focus on elective surgery. The NHS has already promised that Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es will remain as they are for three years after Tory Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s intervention following representations from Angie Bray.

So Huq’s promise is to “fight” for what the NHS is currently proposing to deliver. Her number 1 pledge is to change nothing.

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After five years of screaming blue murder over Labour’s own Nicholson Challenge Burnham offers us a “clinical review”

You might think that after five years of complaining about local NHS changes the local Labour types would expect some real meat from Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham when he came to Ealing on the eve of a general election and talked about changes to our local health system.

Labour NHS event 2nd May

On Saturday night (yes, this really is how Labour types spend their Saturday nights) Andy Burnham addressed a Labour NHS rally in Acton. You can see a photo here tweeted by Labour MP Andy Slaughter showing a nurse in uniform (not very appropriate), comedienne Jo Brand, “Dr” Rupa Huq, Andy Burnham and GP, BMA official and Labour zealot Clare “fear of annihilation” Gerada.

According to Slaughter Burnham said:

I am minded not to proceed with those changes (to west London A&Es). Will demand full clinical review.

Whoah! Strong language!

I am minded …

He doesn’t say: “I will roll back closures of Central Middlesex and Hammersmith A&Es.”
He doesn’t say: “I will keep the current A&Es as they are.”
He doesn’t say: “I will keep Ealing maternity services open.”

No, he says: “I am minded not to proceed with those changes.” But he would not, in law, be able to make any changes without proper process and evidence.

His call for a “full clinical review” is his real offer and is just silly. The Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF) programme was produced by clinicians and reviewed by a body (with clinical skills) called the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which reviewed it and passed it. The SaHF programme was never very attractive to Ealing residents and the only actor in this drama who has ever given us any respite is Conservative Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt who had representations from our MP Angie Bray and demanded that Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es stayed put.

Now after five years of Labour screaming blue murder Burnham promises us a review. Now we know from Burnham’s own mouth to his own people what his offer is. A review.

The most likely outcome from Burnham’s “full clinical review” is that it will find that SaHF is sound and let it roll on.

Labour has spent five years belly aching about the consequences of Burnham’s own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge and Burnham now promises a review. Talk about weak.

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Labour sloganeering on corporate tax avoidance – the Coalition has acted already

The Ealing Labour party seems to be pleased with its candidate’s stance on corporate tax avoidance. This rings a little hollow after 13 years of inactivity by three Blair/Brown governments. In the last budget Chancellor George Osborne introduced a well thought out Diverted Profits Tax, or as the papers dubbed it a “Google tax”. Maybe that is why Rupa Huq didn’t mention Google in her short list of avoiders.

Even the Guardian had to admit:

Few, however, deny his diverted profits tax (DPT) amounts to a pioneering and innovative effort to tackle big multinationals with aggressive corporate structures. The DPT, announced in December, will levy a 25% tax on profits that have been artificially moved outside the UK.

The Diverted Profits Tax should ensure that Vivienne Westwood has less cash to bung at the Greens at the next election.

Too often the Labour party poses and sloganises. This is just one of many areas where the Coalition has acted after Labour’s 13 lazy years in charge.

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