David Pugh: Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) Campaign.

26 July at 11:34

The Taskforce report has been released. Here is our response.

————————————————-

KILF has warmly welcomed the recommendations from the Transport Infrastructure Task Force (TITF) in respect of the local train service.

The campaign group met with the Taskforce last autumn and set out a detailed case in support of Island Line remaining in the wider franchise – as opposed to it being run separately as a micro-franchise and / or a community-led partnership. The Taskforce report recommends that the local authority should “work closely with First MTR, DfT Rail and Network Rail” to address a number of issues / required improvements.

Speaking in response to the report’s publication, KILF campaigner David Pugh said: “By recommending that the Isle of Wight Council fully engages with First MTR (as the new operator) to bring about the modernisation of Island Line, the Taskforce has effectively endorsed the need for service to remain in the wider franchise. This is very welcome.

“It is particularly welcome in light of the Taskforce’s Chairman – Christopher Garnett – having stated in his earlier report on Island Line that ‘there does not appear to be any clear logical arguments for Island Line being part of a wider South Western Franchise’. This assertion caused much concern at the time, leading the IW Council to formally disagree with his conclusion in this regard.

“It is therefore a major step forward that Mr Garnett has not sought to replicate this view in the Taskforce’s work – nor propose, as before, an unworkable and impractical alternative of a tram – and has instead made a recommendation of working with the new operator of the wider franchise. This is a victory for KILF and all those who have campaigned since 2015 against the plans of the previous MP and his transport adviser to remove Island Line from the security of the wider franchise.”

Fellow campaigner, Cllr Chris Quirk (Shanklin South), added: “As a member of the Isle of Wight Council, I look forward to working in support of these recommendations over the coming weeks and months. I endorse the Taskforce’s view that more modern rolling stock is needed, along with a half-hourly service and investment in the future sustainability of the line.

“The focus of the Council, its partners and the Island’s new MP must now be to persuade the Department for Transport to support First MTR’s proposals to deliver these improvements, and ensure that funding is made available – through adjustments to the franchise agreement – to take these forward in a timely manner.

“The KILF campaign does not stop here. Our efforts will now focus on securing the long-term future of Island Line through these improvements, and in doing so, making the line more sustainable.

“Our campaign has achieved a lot over the past couple of years – including getting the Government to back down on their plans to turn Island Line into a ‘separate, self-sustaining business’. We must now finish the job off – and secure a fit-for-purpose Isle of Wight rail service.”

With one of First MTR’s proposals for the route being to introduce an earlier train from Shanklin, the local member Cllr Michael Beston (Shanklin Central) added: “Our town will significantly benefit from First MTR’s plans for the service. I have already met with the new franchisee and I look forward to working with them to see these improvements delivered.”

David Pugh

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Employment tribunal fees unlawful, Supreme Court rules

Protest over tribunal fees

Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful, and the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

The government introduced fees of up to £1,200 in 2013 to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases, but that led to a 79% reduction over three years.

Trade union Unison argued the fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The Ministry of Justice said the government would take immediate steps to stop charging and refund payments.

The Supreme Court found fees ruled the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”

He added: “These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.

“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees.”

The government had already made a voluntary commitment to reimburse all fees if it was found they acted unlawfully. Fees have raised about £32m since being introduced.

Fees ranged between £390 and £1,200. Discrimination cases cost more for claimants because of the complexity and time hearings took.

The Supreme Court found this was indirectly discriminatory because a higher proportion of women would bring discrimination cases.

It also said that some people would not bring cases to employment tribunals because paying the fees would render any financial reward pointless.

The court’s summary added claimants in low or middle income household could not afford the fees “without sacrificing ordinary and reasonable expenditure for substantial periods of time”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “massive win” for workers.

“Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly,” she said.

The decision was welcomed by employment lawyer Karen Jackson, who said: “I don’t know an employment lawyer who didn’t think it was wrong to have fees.

“We all felt that morally it was the wrong thing to do as a barrier to justice.”

BBC

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

British Monopoly Interests behind Electric Cars:

Car production is among the leading manufacturing industries in Britain. This is why it features highly in the growth targets in the Conservatives proposals put forward both in its manifesto and Queen’s speech, Given that this is the case, it is sponsored by Monopoly suppliers and finance capital. It features only in the interests of these capital centred groups and bears no relation to working class interests. It gives lie to their claims of innovation and investment for jobs, it is a fraud and procures only Private Monopoly control over an important sector of the economy. It offers no guarantees over local employment and in reality can serve to do the opposite.

Under the heading, “A Modern Industrial Strategy” in the Conservative election manifesto it stated,

“We will spend more on research and development, to turn brilliant discoveries into practical products and transform the world’s industries – such as the batteries that will power a new generation of clean, efficient, electric vehicles.

“We will build on the success of world-beating sectors such as car and aero manufacturing,,,,”

With Capital centred economics in mind it also said that its strategy would include a,

“National Productivity Investment Fund”,

“If our modern industrial strategy is to succeed, it must address the UK’s slow productivity growth and it must be funded properly from the start. So we have launched a new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund. The government will target this spending at areas that are critical for productivity: housing, research and development, economic infrastructure and skills”.

* (1)

Further, in the Queen’s Speech,

“My government will work to attract investment in infrastructure to support economic growth. Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites”.

Three of the most important target areas of car production are; Nissan Washington, Tata Jaguar in the Midlands and BMW Oxford as they are all key areas. Others would include Ford and Toyota.

All are interested in volume car production in Britain and have either developed in the race for all electric or hybrid vehicles. Nissan have already produced its volume “Leaf” whereas the others lag behind.

Significantly the most delicate situation is with the German BMW plant in Oxford. BMW has been prevaricating over where its production should take place for a new all electric model. It is operating in the context of the Brexit negotiations and “productivity” agreements with the local workforce.

Before the General Election, BMW workers had to fight in defence of their final-salary pension scheme, through an overwhelming vote for strike action. Workers were balloted across four plants: Cowley in Oxford, Goodwood near Chichester, Hams Hall near Birmingham and Swindon. Eight 24-hour strikes, along with a work-to-rule and an overtime ban have were announced, starting on, April 19, involving up to 3,500 workers.

“BMW Group wanted to, “improve the cost-competitiveness of the UK as a manufacturing base.”

Car workers proclaimed their right by their actions to their claims, in the form of wages when active, and in the form of pensions when retired, by virtue of being the producers of this added-value during their working lives.

This is not the first time in recent years that BMW has been attacking the claims and conditions of workers in the name of “competitiveness”. In April 2012, a series of “productivity” drives to increase the company’s rate of return by getting more out of the workers for less led to a dispute at the Cowley Mini plant.

*(3)

Why is it in the interest of capital and not working class interests at BMW? Why does it offer no guarantees over local employment and in reality do the opposite?

In the first place the imperialist interests of the monopoly groups, wherever their origin are only interested in maximising profits and their claim on any new added value. This means that upping sticks and exporting capital abroad is inherent in their motives if it suits. The Government proposal for investing in battery technology or the cars themselves, is not necessarily guaranteed. A single market and free movement of capital is where monopoly groups can move suppliers and the end product at will, this has been the experience of the European Union for car producers in the past. This was the experience of Ford’s “world car” in the 80’s. The second issue of local employment is obviously related. Dominance and British chauvinistic interests serve its narrow national perspective by becoming a force for British Monopoly interest in setting priorities for production. In the worldwide context of the switch from fossil fuel, oil in particular, to other energy production Britain wants its place recognised and monopoly positions maintained in some form. It relies on developing the science and technology and offering incentives in particular for suppliers. It wants the Government claim on the product to veer away from social programmes but towards dominant technologies to establish superiority in markets.

It cannot serve the workers interests if it narrowly subjects the economy to sectional interests of capital. It undermines the rest of the economy and the rights of all. It concentrates capital into fewer hands leaving it wide open to export of the final product abroad anyway and this could be anywhere in the world as it opens up trade elsewhere. It leads to a one sided and isolated area of production.

The opposite is the appropriate solution, which is to develop a broad manufacturing base that serves and protects the rights of all. Where besides the independent working class politics is this mentioned in any shape or form by the Westminster cartel of political parties? The solution is not to be confined to the individual and narrow interests of a few super rich investors. It should be declared that it is our economy and not confined to those who are privileged in the circles and lobbies of the Government represented, at present, by Teresa May. It should be declared that it is not their economy, it is ours and we should be the decision makers as they have no mandate to carry out their manifesto and Queen’s speech.

Whose Economy? – Our Economy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oxford and the Mini:

Electric Mini to be built in Oxford

BBC

2nd July, 2017

The electric vehicle will be based on the 3-door hatchback model

A fully electric version of the Mini will be built at the Cowley plant in Oxford, BMW has said.

The carmaker said the model would go into production in 2019, with Oxford the main “production location” for the Mini three-door model.

However, the electric motor will be built in Germany before being shipped to Cowley for assembly.

BMW said it had “neither sought nor received” any reassurances from the UK on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Last year, the government faced questions about the “support and assurances” given to Nissan before the company announced that new versions of its Qashqai and X-Trail would be made in the UK.

And there have been reports that Toyota agreed to invest in the UK after receiving a letter reassuring the Japanese carmaker over post-Brexit arrangements.

‘Vote of confidence’

About 360,000 Minis are made each year, with more than 60% of them built at Oxford. But BMW has built up an alternative manufacturing base in the Netherlands amid concerns about Britain’s suitability as an export hub after Brexit.

BMW has warned about the damage of Brexit uncertainty, and in May chief executive Harald Krueger said the company had to remain “flexible” about production facilities.

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark hailed BMW’s announcement as a “vote of confidence” in government plans to make Britain “the go-to place in the world for the next generation of vehicles”. On Monday, he set out plans to invest in development of battery technology in the UK.

Mr Clark met BMW’s head of sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, at the company’s headquarters in Munich in January and March this year. The two also held meetings at Westminster in March and June.

David Bailey, professor of industry at Aston University, said the true test of the global car industry’s desire to invest in the UK would come next year: “I don’t think it [BMW’s decision] tells us much about Brexit and the form of trade barriers we may face in the future.

“The big decisions will be about future models [which would have redesigned bodies], both at Mini and at companies like Vauxhall when they announce their new models in the next couple of years.”

Grey line

BMW says the economic case for building the electric mini in Oxford is compelling, and it’s easy to see why.

This is not a brand new car, redesigned from the ground up. It’s a Mini, a 3-door hatchback, which will in many ways be identical to the cars already being built at the Cowley plant.

The electric bit – the drivetrain, which includes the motor, gearbox and battery pack – will be assembled in Germany, and fixed to the rest of the car in the factory.

So it makes sense to build this model at the same factory as the majority of existing Mini production. There is no need for a new factory or production line, meaning the size of the investment will be relatively small by auto-industry standards – in “the tens of millions”, BMW says.

There is a potential spanner in the works – the new car is due to go into production in 2019, months after the UK leaves the EU.

With drivetrains being imported into the UK and many completed cars exported back to Europe, there’s a risk costs could rise sharply if tariffs are introduced on cross-channel trade.

But the company insists it can only make decisions based on the current economic realities. There has been no “special deal” done with the British government, it says – and nor has it asked for one.

Grey line

The German carmaker said the Mini announcement was part of a plan for electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25% of its sales by 2025.

The electric Mini will be based on the company’s 3-door hatchback model. However, BMW has yet to release pictures of a prototype vehicle.

BMW employs about 18,000 staff in the UK, including the Mini plant at Cowley, the Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and at other sites in Birmingham and Swindon.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said the announcement was a “big vote of confidence” in BMW’s UK workforce. He told the BBC that there had been “patient discussions behind the scenes” to secure the electric Mini.

Although there was no news about extra jobs, Mr Burke said the new Mini would “certainly underpin existing employment”.

Grey line

The Cowley plant and Mini production

  • Cowley accounts for roughly two-thirds of global mini production
  • The UK is still the biggest market for Minis – accounting for 20% of worldwide sales
  • 4,500 people currently work at the Cowley plant
  • Production of the electric car may result in the creation of a few specialised jobs, but no significant impact
  • It is based on the existing three-door mini hatchback and will use the same production line – so investment is relatively small
Grey line

Electric development

BMW currently makes electric motors and batteries for all of its electric cars at two factories in Germany, at Dingolfing and Landshut.

Electric car development has been boosted by a series of announcements in recent months. The first phase of a £246m investment by the UK government into battery technology was launched on Monday.

Earlier this month, Volvo became the first traditional car maker to commit to including an electric motor in all of its new models from 2019.

US firm Tesla’s first mass-market electric car, the Model 3, is expected to be unveiled on Friday at a handover party for 30 customers, before production is ramped up.

And the first vehicle manufacturing facility to be built in Britain for more than a decade opened in Ansty, Coventry, in March to produce a new electric London black taxi.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Merseyrail strike over driver-only trains has ‘rock solid’ support

The row is over plans for driver-only operation of new trains. Similar disputes have broken out across the rail industry.

(Peter Byrne/PA)

A strike by workers on Merseyrail in a dispute over driver-only trains was said to be “solidly supported”.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union walked out for 24 hours, disrupting services.

Merseyrail is running trains for golf fans going to the last day of The Open in Southport but no services were running across the rest of its network.

View image on Twitter

 

The row is over plans for driver-only operation of new trains. Similar disputes have broken out across the rail industry.

The RMT and the drivers union Aslef met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling last week to try to break the deadlocked disputes and more talks are planned.

View image on Twitter

 RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The strike action on Merseyrail in defence of rail safety and access is rock solid again this morning as RMT sends out the clearest possible message that the fight to retain guards on trains goes on.

“RMT members are standing up for the safety of passengers and that is what the strike action today is all about.

“Within the past 24 hours we have had reports of a guard extinguishing a fire on a train. Any hacking away at the role of the guard in the interests of private profit would have catastrophic consequences and Merseyrail and their supporters need to face up to that fact as a matter of urgency.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One to Watch: Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign:

Campaign members marching in the Durham Miners Gala.

Members of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign have been taking part in the consultation meetings organised by the South Tyneside CCG. We have been saying that not only will the closure of these services impact on the prompt and safe treatment of those in South Tyneside, they will also impact heavily on the people of Sunderland as the remaining acute children’s A&E, consultant-led maternity, special care baby unit, and acute stroke will all be at Sunderland.

The Sunderland Royal has also been put in financial crisis by the government cuts and can hardly cope with the population it serves now from Durham to Seaham. Of course this is only the start of the process as all other acute services are being reviewed.

The Consultation Meeting on Wednesday 12th July at the Customs House

The meeting was broken up into tables with many CCG employees involved in giving their opinions, and it was not possible to hear what people had to say on other tables other than the Medical Director and the CCG Chief Operating Officer who hand-picked the questions to answer.

The Elephant in the room – dismissed by the speakers – was that this is driven by the largest ever cuts to our NHS hospitals, which has left both hospitals in a government created “deficit”. This year alone the government “cost improvement programme” will be £18 million for South Tyneside Foundation Trust and £13 million for City Hospitals Sunderland – some £35 million cut from both organisations! How will any health service or options be sustainable with these cuts?

In spite of this they kept telling us that the new options would mean safer and higher quality services than at present. Concerns that it was not safe or good for mothers to loose our special care baby unit (there were no options to keep it!) were brushed over. The suggestion that as South Tyneside and Sunderland are forming an alliance, they can satisfy the need for further clinical collaboration across both hospitals without moving children’s A&E, maternity and stroke services was also dismissed. A question as to why the few health and clinical leaders who came up with these options were not available to be questioned, has not yet been answered. A concern that most of the clinicians and all of the nursing teams that provide our health services in South Tyneside were not involved in these clinical reviews was also not answered. How can this be a safe process on deciding the future of our health services in South Tyneside?

Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign supports the call that South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck gave for an independent investigation into the flawed review process in which clinicians have not been involved as claimed and that the process should be stopped until they have.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spending on the NHS in England:

Total health spending in England is nearly £124 billion in 2017/18 and is expected to rise to over £125 billion by 2020, taking inflation into account.

Around £110 billion will be spent on the day to day running of the NHS. The rest is spent by the Department of Health on things like public health initiatives, education, training, and infrastructure (including IT and building new hospitals).

The NHS is facing severe financial pressures, with trusts across the country spending more than they’re bringing in. The NHS is also being asked to find £22 billion in savings by 2020, in order to keep up with rising demand and an ageing population.

Health experts from the Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund say current spending plans aren’t enough to maintain standards of care, meet rising patient demand and deliver new services such as the so-called “seven-day NHS”.

They also cite concerns that there isn’t enough money going into social care, which we’ve looked at elsewhere.

The NHS faces a £30 billion funding gap by 2020

In 2013, NHS England said it faced a funding gap of £30 billion by the end of the decade, even if government spending kept up in line with inflation. So it needed that much more to deliver care to a growing and ageing population, assuming it made no savings itself.

A year later the NHS laid out plans for how it might handle this gap. One ambitious option was that the NHS itself would find £22 billion in savings, leaving the other £8 billion to be filled by the government.

The Conservatives said in their 2015 election manifesto they would provide that £8 billion in government, and expect the other £22 billion in savings from the NHS. The Nuffield Trust, writing in our election report, said this still left unanswered questions on funding:

“£8bn is the bare minimum to maintain existing standards of care for a growing and ageing population …

“improving productivity on this scale [£22 billion] would be unprecedented”

The new Conservative government followed through on the commitment and started claiming it was giving £10 billion, giving the NHS what it asked for, and more.

The government’s “£10 billion” spending claim can’t be taken at face value

The government has previously claimed that it’s putting an extra £10 billion into the NHS by 2020/21, more than NHS executives have asked for.

This isn’t as generous as it sounds, and the chief executive of NHS England has directly contradicted the claim that it’s getting more than it requested. The Health Select Committee has also criticised the government for its repeated use of this figure, as have the Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund.

First of all, the pot of money has been redefined.

The government’s claim is just about the NHS England budget, rather than total health spending in England which includes things like public health, education and training. Funding outside the budget of NHS England is set to fall by over £3 billion from 2015/16 to 2020/21.

Secondly, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has said the service isn’t getting more than it asked for. He told the Public Accounts Committee of MPs recently:

“It’s right that by 2020 NHS England will be getting an extra £10 billion over the course of six years. I don’t think that’s the same as saying we’re getting more than we asked for over five years because it was a five year forward view [that the NHS set out] not a six year forward view.

“And over and above that we’ve obviously had a spending review negotiation in the meantime and that has set the NHS budget for the next three years.

“It’s a matter of fact … that like probably every part of the public service, we got less that we asked for in that process. And so I think it would be stretching it to say that the NHS has got more than it asked for.”

He also said last year that the money the government has committed is at the lowest end of a range of options the NHS set out.

For it to be enough, the service also needs to see “continuing access to social care” and “enhanced effort on prevention and public health”. Public health spending is expected to fall and spending on social care is set to fall short of what experts think is needed.

In 2015 the NHS itself highlighted these two areas as needing improvement.

That said, the government is ‘front loading’ the spending increases over this period—meaning that more money will be made available in the early years, and comparatively smaller increases in the later years.

At present, funding in 2018/19 isn’t expected to grow at all, taking inflation into account. Rises—or lack of—like these are “inadequate” and “will not be enough to maintain standards of care, meet rising demand from patients and deliver the transformation of services outlined in the NHS five year forward view” according tothe Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund.

NHS England budget increasing, public health budget falling

The amount of money the government spends on health in England is roughly equivalent to the Department of Health’s budget, which is the same £124 billion figure we quoted above.

Within that pot of money, the government spent about £110 billion on NHS England, which oversees the vast majority of spending, with the rest going to things like public health, education and training.

The NHS England budget is expected to rise by about £9 billion from 2015/16 to 2020/21, taking inflation into account. Meanwhile spending on the other areas is set to fall by £3.1 billion.

That means, overall, health spending in England is set to rise by £5.9 billion between 2015/16 and 2020/21.

NHS providers are in deficit

About two-thirds of NHS trusts—which provide secondary care to patients who’ve been referred there by a GP—are in the red.

Collectively they finished 2015/16 with a deficit of about £2.5 billion. They’d have had a bigger shortfall without measures (£) taken by NHS England and the Department of Health to shore up the finances for that year.

By contrast, central government and NHS England came in under budget, meaning that the ‘net deficit’ of NHS bodies was £1.85 billion overall in 2015/16.

The size of the deficit has been growing—in 2014/15 the overall deficit was £574 million.

Local deficits end up costing the government money. The Department of Health and NHS England put in £2.4 billion in extra financial support for trusts last year, to support their deficits.

https://fullfact.org/health/spending-english-nhs/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment