Friday, 28 November 2008

50 Patients Occupy PCT Board Meeting

PCT Chair abandons Boardroom, reconvenes meeting elsewhere, then tries but fails to suppress the patients' presentation. Patients condemn 'unwanted, unacceptable and unlawful' privatisation of the GP surgery at The Laurels Healthy Living Centre.

Haringey PCT Board ignore the presentation and instead push ahead with their controversial and damaging mass privatisation strategy threatening any new or changing health services and facilities.

On Wednesday 26th November at 3pm 50 patients, mainly from the South Tottenham area and mainly users of The Laurels Healthy Living Centre, lobbied the Haringey Primary Care Trust Board meeting at St Ann's Hospital, South Tottenham. The lobby was called by the Laurels Action Group, a new group launched at the beginning of the month. As well as patients present there were members of local residents associations, older people's organisations and health campaign groups. The lobby was about the growing controversy over the threat of privatisation of The Laurels 'PMS' GP practice. The practice is based in the Laurels Healthy Living Centre, South Tottenham, which is also earmarked by Haringey's health managers for one of their proposed Polyclinics, which could then also face privatisation.

The patients were shocked when the PCT Chair, Richard Sumray refused the customary presentation opportunity to address the Board, saying that the meeting's Agenda was 'too long'. Those present therefore had to occupy the Boardroom in order to make their voices heard. Dave Morris, a patient at the practice under threat, distributed written copies of the presentation to all Board members and proceeded to go through the points. He was repeatedly told by the Chair to 'shut up' but stated that he had an obligation to inform the Board of the serious concerns about the tendering process, the lack of consultation with Laurels users, and the 'improper and unlawful' plan to develop a Polyclinic in a public building built in 2003 with strict legal restrictions on its usage.

A similar presentation had been successfully made by the LAG to the Council's Overview & Scrutiny Cttee on 13th November and as a result the PCT had been forced to admit to Councillors on the Committee that the consultation 'had been botched'. The PCT had reluctantly conceded it must re-run the consultation, and letters were sent out to patients this week for some meetings in December. However, as Mr Morris demonstrated to the Board, the letters were 'worse than useless' as they failed to even mention let alone consult over the key issue of the sale of the 'PMS' GP practice there! The Council's Overview & Scrutiny watchdog committee will reconvene next month on December 11th to 'review the situation'.

Kathryn Dean, a member of Haringey Green Party (in the picture above, first from the left) said after the meeting, “The PCT are trying to railroad through this proposal so that they can begin the process of privatising huge swathes of our local health services. More evidence of the failure of marketisation in all its forms hits our TV screens daily, so vital public services like health must not be left to market forces”.

Photo and bulk of the story courtesy of The Laurels Action Group
Contact - Simon Hester (patient) Dave Morris (patient)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Shaftesbury Hall Demolition Planning Appeal

After Haringey council refused planning permission for the demolition of Shaftesbury Hall (pictured above) earlier this year, the owners, the charity The Samaritans, have lodged an appeal against the decision. The Appeal hearing will take place at 10 am on 2nd December at Haringey Civic Centre, Wood Green.

The building is what is known as a ‘tin tabernacle’. These chapels sprang up from the 1870’s onwards all across the country, where housing estates were built, to cater for the religious needs of the people of all denominations. There are still over a thousand of these chapels remaining. See here for more information on these constructions

Shaftesbury Hall must have been built in the 1880’s as the surrounding houses date from that time. It is part of the heritage of the Bounds Green area.

The Samaritans who own the building now, want to demolish it and build a new office and several flats above. I attended the open day in the hall before the original (refused) planning application, where we were shown a model of the proposed new building, and could talk to the architect. Every one of the local residents in attendance objected to the design of the new construction, one saying that it would not look out of place on an industrial estate. It would look completely out of place alongside a row of houses built in the 1880’s.

Haringey council refused planning permission on the grounds of the building not fitting in with the surrounding architecture and that 24 hour opening of the office would be incompatible within a residential area.

Personally, I do not object to 24 hour opening, as if anything it would make the area seem a little safer at night, but the design of the new building would spoil the look of the road. I had always thought the tin tabernacle looked pretty ugly, but it is certainly better than what is proposed to replace it. I have also since learnt about the history of these mini churches, and think there is a heritage value to it.

The Samaritans do much good work, but I think it would be a mistake to demolish this building. It would be good if the hall could be put to some partial community use, but either way, I hope this appeal fails.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Green Party ask local people to send cards to people at risk

Haringey Green Party will be offering local people the chance to send greetings cards to people across the world, as part of Amnesty International’s annual ‘Greetings Card’ campaign.

Cards, sent to individuals at risk and political prisoners, are sent from well-wishers from around the globe. This can help guarantee the safety of these vulnerable people, as well as providing much needed moral support.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP, who was the Justice and Human Right MEP of the year 2005, will be in attendance.

We are sending out the message that these people are not forgotten. Many of them are being punished for standing up for justice and human rights in their own countries. The greetings cards they receive, which often amount to thousands, let the powers that be know that we are aware of what is going on, and these people cannot simply ‘disappear’.

Cards will go to several groups and individuals, and card signers can choose who they want to send their cards to. One recipient will be Aster Fissehatsion, a former politician and critic of the Eritrean government. She has been held incommunicado without charge or trial since September 2001.

Cards will be signed at Hornsey Vale Community Centre, Stroud Green on Sunday 14th December from 1pm until 5pm. Card signers will be asked to contribute the price of postage, and any donations of non-religious Christmas cards would be welcome, although some will be provided by the Green Party.

Please join us for what promises to be a fun and fruitful afternoon.

For more information, contact Sarah Mitchell from Haringey Green Party on 07950 118 998.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Trade Unions Against Climate Change

Discussions amongst Trade Unions, General Secretaries and Deputies, in the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group (CCCTU), have worked to develop a set of demands that they hope to attract mass union backing and bring NGO's on board.

This is a really important development from within the trade unions, who have traditionally been wary of supporting action on climate change, because of the perceived job losses that may be a result. The group intends setting out some interim demands. The Green Party Trade Union group, have been at the forefront of working with the TUC on this iniative.

The demands may look like this :-5 million solar roofs in 5 years-5 million houses to be fully insulated in 5 years-10 fold increase in wind power in 5 years-Massive investment in rail and public transport-Statutory union environment reps-Protection of jobs and earnings for those whose jobs are threatened during the transitionThere may be an agreed statement ready prior to the Climate March , SAT 6TH DEC.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tottenham Food Coop

Sustainable food at good prices

· Organic food
· Locally produced fruit and veg
· Near wholesale prices
· Fair trade tea and olive oil
· Run by volunteers

Broadwater Farm Community Centre
Adams Road N17
Bus W4 to Broadwater Farm estate, or
W3, 123,243 to Lordship Lane

Next market days:-
Sat. Nov. 22nd, 2008 ,
Saturday Dec. 20th
(Both 12 noon to 3pm )
Friday Dec. 12, 1pm to 5pm

You can share, swap or sell garden or allotment produce too

More info; 07791 904375 or 8444 4500

Monday, 17 November 2008

Baby P and Kneejerk Reactions - A Letter to the Press

We must be wary in the tragic case of Baby P of making hasty headline friendly responses. Over 60 Haringey headteachers have pleaded for Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey's director of children's social services not to resign. Her resignation would be possibly the one event in the whole saga which would allow most people some small satisfaction.

So, are we to ignore this overwhelming support from highly qualified people who are in a better position than us to judge her? What would be the purpose of her resignation? Surely in hasty actions we are prejudging the results of any investigation? It seems to me there is a huge demand for heads to roll in national scandals of this nature. However it is very far from clear whose heads should roll in this matter. This is a very complex issue on which we are receiving contradictory stories. I heard that Haringey child protection officers have a caseload of 25 clients each against a recommended load of 12 cases but that the council denies that they are overloaded. We need to know the truth about many issues such as this before we can give valid opinions as to who or what we can hold responsible.

I fear too many policies have been driven by political point-scoring and media headlines rather than hard evidence. This matter needs to be taken more seriously than that. The impatience of the media and public for instant solutions must be resisted. Analysis of the findings of the investigation and the opinions of qualified professionals must be given their proper weight. This process must not be rushed.

How much are any failings in this case unique to Haringey and how much are they national failings?

In 21 years there have been more than 400 initiatives, strategies and acts of parliament affecting children and young people in the UK. But have governments allowed proper time to implement this "avalanche" of policies or are children and social workers failing to benefit from services that are subjected to such frequent changes in policy, funding and structure that are allowed little time to bed down.

Social workers are spending 60 to 80 per cent of their time in front of computer screens, typing up reports to meet targets. A focus on performance targets can detract from the 'real work'. 'Workers report being more worried about missed deadlines than missed visits.

What of staff morale? Imagine how stressful this work is. In London 15 per cent of social work posts are vacant. Improving the salary levels and conditions of employment of professional social workers, as a distinct occupational grouping, must be central to any major project to overcome problems of staff turnover and burnout.
This work is complex and difficult and we must recognize that risk cannot be eliminated. Sadly some people will continue to kill and seriously harm their children. Not every tragedy can be prevented but we must continue to strive to do so - History suggests that this kind of message doesn't tend to get much of a hearing at times like these, but we will see.

Haringey council has invested council tax payers’ money in gagging a former social worker who was whistle blowing. I would like to know why I am paying for this and what benefit the community is getting from this investment. Could this be on the advice of the same lawyer who advised social workers that the evidence Baby P was being abused was not strong enough to warrant removing the child from his mother.

Pete McAskie (pictured above)
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate
Hornsey & Wood Green

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Abuse and Death of Baby P

Haringey is in the national news after a second infant in eight years was abused and died at the hands of their carers. Victoria Climbe was murdered by her great aunt and the woman’s partner in the borough in 2000. The case of Baby P is perhaps even more shocking, given that he was known to Haringey’s Children’s Services, the police and health workers. The child was visited sixty times in the eight months leading up to his death, which resulted from extensive injuries including eight broken ribs and a broken back. The mother and two of her associates were convicted of causing his death.

I don’t want to make a party political issue out of this tragedy as that is not the point. There will be a full investigation into the handling of this case, but it does seem clear that there were serious failings in protecting this child from abuse and ultimately death.

The principle that social workers are guided by in these cases is that if at all possible children should be left with their parents, and for good reason. All the evidence shows that children who are taken into care, do worse at things like educational achievement, and of course it is not unknown for abuse to occur in children’s homes themselves. It is always a tough call for a social worker to remove children from the family home.

That said, it is hard to imagine given the extent of the injuries suffered by Baby P, that not one of the various professionals involved in the case spotted the danger. Interestingly, neighbouring Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, said on the BBC Politics Show, that she thought social workers were ‘box ticking’ and avoiding using their professional judgement in cases like this. There does seem to be a culture of statistics and targets within all levels of the public services these days, national curriculums, school league tables, health service waiting lists etc, and this is surely the influence of central government. Perhaps if public service professionals spent more time out there in the thick of it, and less time filling in forms, we might have more effective services.

Of course the primary blame in this horrific case is with the perpetrators of the crime, but in some ways we are all culpable. People are uneasy about reporting their suspicions to the authorities, because they don’t want to interfere in other people’s lives, and maybe we have lost sight of our community obligations, and indeed our communities in general. The area of Haringey in which this took place has not been revealed, but I would bet it was in one of the more deprived areas of the borough, which is itself an indictment on the society that we live in.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Action group to fight GP privatisation

Fears a private company could run a Haringey health centre are gathering pace among its patients. Last month Haringey Primary Care Trust announced its intentions to put one of the GP surgeries at the Laurels Health Centre in Tottenham out to bidders.
Under EU law this service has to be tendered on the open market and private companies as well as local GPs can apply to run the service.

The Laurels, in St Ann’s Road, opened in 2004 and is billed as the borough’s first polyclinic, or neighbourhood health centre.

But users of the centre met this week to start up an action group protesting at plans.
Patient at the Laurels, Simon Hester, said: "We know what privatisation means - to put profit first. The point of this meeting is to see if we can stop it."
Dave Morris, from the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition, spoke at the meeting. He said: "The chickens have come home to roost at our very own health centre which is threatened with privatisation.

"The Laurels was set up for the people of Tottenham from public funds for public people and not to be a cash cow for private companies. We feel we should be driving what's happening there. "It is very important we speak out as patients, as health workers and as GPs."

Candy Udwin, who has campaigned against similar privatisation plans in Camden, said: "If they can nationalise banks what are they doing privatising our health service? It makes no sense whatsoever.

“If you don’t stop it now it’s going to spread through Haringey. We have to say we are not going to have our NHS destroyed by a market system which is showing us everyday it does not work.”

Pete McAskie (who you can just make out holding the banner to the right in the above photo), Green Party candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, said, “The Green Party is the only mainstream party to oppose privatisation of our public services. This is only the thin edge of the wedge, and we can expect more of our health services to contracted out to the privateers, we need to put a stop to this now. I fully support this campaign.”

Haringey PCT director of primary care and performance, James Slater, said: “The PCT is seeking a primary care provider to manage one of the two practices based within the Laurels Healthy Living Centre.

“We have advertised openly and received a number of applications from a range of providers including several local GPs.

"We held meetings as an informal, friendly opportunity to discuss the ongoing plans for Haringey and specifically the neighbourhood.”

Photo and bulk of this story courtesy of The Haringey Independent

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Review of 20mph limits on London's roads gets underway

A new investigation will look at how effective 20mph zones have been in making London's roads - the scene of more than 28,000 casualties last year - safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

London boroughs and Transport for London (TfL) have the power to set speed limits of 20mph on residential streets, and between them have introduced almost 400 such zones in the capital.

Statistics show that 222 people died on London's roads last year. Of those, 109 were pedestrians and 15 were cyclists.

Are 20mph zones making a difference? Should more zones be introduced or are there more effective methods that could be deployed to reduce the number of casualties and fatalities on the streets of the capital? Are borough or even London-wide default 20mph limits on allresidential streets a viable option?

A special investigation by the London Assembly Transport Committee will set out to answer these questions and come up with recommendations to the Mayor and TfL about making London's roads safer.

Jenny Jones AM, (pictured above left, with Anne Gray centre and Pete McAskie right, Haringey Green Party general election candidates) who is leading the investigation on behalf of the Transport Committee, said:

"First we need to find out exactly how well the 20 mile per hour zones that are already in place in almost every London borough are actually working - then look at how best to take things forward.

"The statistics are shocking and it's obvious more needs to be done to improve road safety for Londoners."

The investigation will draw on existing data about public support for 20mph limits and call for written evidence from relevant stakeholders. It will also include a witness session that will be open to the public, and a site visit to Portsmouth where 20mph limits are being introduced on all residential streets. The findings from the investigation are expected to be published early next year.

Monday, 3 November 2008

No Left Turn at Bounds Green Station

I have lost count of the number of times that I have been crossing Brownlow Rd by the tube station, with the traffic lights indicating it is safe to cross, and a vehicle comes zooming around the corner. There is no left turn for vehicles at this junction, with a road sign clearly forbidding it. Sometimes the driver will stop as pedestrians are milling across the road and look a bit sheepish, others, kind of drive through the gap in the pedestrians dangerously. The photo above must have been taken at 6am on a Sunday, as normally there is a lot of traffic at this corner.

It’s not as though this is an unknown problem to our political representatives in Bounds Green on Haringey council. We have two Lib Dems and one Labour councillor in Bounds Green. The Labour one sent a leaflet around locally a year or so back, saying that he would ensure that a bigger ‘no left turn’ sign was displayed further back on Bounds Green Rd, but this hasn’t happened.

When I was ‘telling’ at the Alexandra ward by-election recently, I recognised the Lib Dem teller as one of the Bounds Green councillors, so took the issue up with him. He also suggested bigger road signs further back, but didn’t seem particularly concerned. I told him that yes more signs would be better, but that it was just bad driving. Incredibly, he said that drivers had a lot to look out for, so needed assistance.

Well, driving in urban areas is all about looking out for traffic signs etc, and I think these drivers know that should not turn left at this junction, but just do it anyway. I’m not a big fan of TV cameras everywhere, but in this instance I am in favour of them at this junction. One day, someone will be seriously injured or even killed at this corner.