Above: Nolan at the 2012 Tory Conference
The Birmingham academy chain praised by David Cameron, Michael Gove and the present Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, is in serious financial crisis, leaving five schools in a state of uncertainty and 2,400 pupils and their parents, not knowing what the future holds.
Liam Nolan, the “Superhead” of Perry beaches Academy Trust, who has been on sick leave since Easter, when the Education Funding Agency (EFA) reported on serious financial mismanagement, has now resigned.
Mr Nolan was one of three executive headteachers at the Trust, and was also the trust’s Accounting Officer and Chief Executive. He received a salary of £120,000 directly from the Trust.
But the EFA, which oversees education spending for the Government, launched an investigation after it received claims from a whistleblower that “an additional second salary” was paid to Mr Nolan.
It has published a report saying that it discovered the trust had made payments of £1.297 million over two years to a business called Nexus Schools Ltd, which in return provides a range of services to the trust – including the services of its chief executive (CEO), Mr Nolan.
The report said £160,000 had been paid specifically for the work of the chief executive over two years (ie in addition to his £120,000 salary as Executive Head).
It said: “The trust pays Nexus for providing the services of a CEO for Perry Beeches multi-academy trust. Nexus then sub contracts this role to Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is the Accounting Officer (ie Liam Nolan).“The Accounting Officer is also paid for his concurrent role as Executive Headteacher separately through payroll at £120,000 per annum in 2014/15.
“The academy paid Nexus £72,000, including VAT in 2013/14 and £88,800 plus VAT in 2014/15 for the CEO role.”
The payments were not transparent, the report said.
It said: “The payments made to the Accounting Officer, through Nexus and then Liam Nolan Ltd, for CEO services were not disclosed in the 2013/14 financial statements.”
And it also warned that there was no written contract with Nexus.
It said: “The trust spent £1.297m with Nexus over 2 years, without a written contract or a formal procurement exercise to demonstrate value for money.”
Mr Nolan’s niece and nephew were both employed by the Trust in the 12 months up to August 31 2015.
Debts at the trust are estimated to be in excess of £1.8 million, and rising each month, making it difficult to attract new private sponsors.
The Trust was also accused of claiming up to £2.8 million for children on free school meals, “where no evidence of eligibility exists” and has been ordered to repay £118,291.
David Cameron praised the Trust when he visited Perry Beeches III in 2013.
He said at the time: “Here in Birmingham it is particularly exciting because we have Perry Beaches. The original school was the most improved school ever, which went from 20 per cent to 80 per cent A-star to C grades in six or seven years, so we have got a brilliant team here which is embracing this.”
Liam Nolan has presented his resignation from the post of CEO/executive headteacher at the Perry Beeches academy trust. He has made this decision to allow the necessary changes required to move the trust forward.
The decision by Mr Nolan and the governors to stand down leaves the management of the trust’s five schools in the hands of the Department for Education, while a search begins for new sponsors.
In 2013, Cameron described Mr Nolan and Perry Beeches as “a brilliant team” running “one of the most successful comprehensive schools ever in Britain”.
As well as being a prominent supporter of the Tories’ academies and Free Schools programme, Nolan was also careful to keep on good terms with local Labour MPs:
Last month Birmingham website The Chamberlain Files reported that three Birmingham Labour MPs each received £5,000 from the trust towards the cost of running their offices. The MPs – Gisela Stuart (Edgbaston), Jack Dromey (Erdington) and Shabanah Mahmood (Ladywood) agreed to repay the money.
Perry Beeches Academy Trust runs Perry Beeches Academy and four other schools, named Perry Beeches II, III, IV and V. Plans for two new free schools had been given approval by the DfE but will not now go ahead.
Perry Beeches Academy Trust joins Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, Durand Academy Trust and Barnfield Federation as trusts highly praised by the Tories, but which have been criticised for their financial arrangements.
Mr Nolan has said “I’m not a businessman, I’m a Headmaster”.
The liar, cheat and friend of criminals Johnson takes the Tories to new low over London mayoral election
Above: Johnson’s lies on the EU exposed by fellow Tory Andrew Tyrie
The liar, cheat, hypocrite and malevolent clown Boris Johnson has done something many observers would have thought impossible: taken the Tory campaign against Labour’s Sadiq Kahn in London down to new depths of filth, thinly-disguised racism and mendacity.
The Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith has put out a leaflet calling Khan “radical and divisive”, obviously with the implication that Khan is linked to radical Islamism and perhaps even to terrorism. In another leaflet, directly mailed to people Goldsmith’s team considered likely to be of Indian or Sri Lankan backgrounds (based on their names), Goldsmith has suggested that Khan would tax “family jewellery”.
In fact, Khan is a socially liberal Muslim who has been outspoken in his support for gay rights (including gay marriage), womens’ rights and opposition to anti-Semitism. He has even criticised the present Labour leadership for (in his view) not tackling anti-Semitism with sufficient vigour.
And yet Johnson, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph has the audacity to try to brand Khan an anti-Semite by association: there are some anti-Semites in the Labour Party and Khan is a member of the Labour Party – ipso facto Khan is an anti-Semite, or at least tainted with it. Johnson does, in fact, begrudgingly acknowledge that Khan has spoken out against anti-Semitism in the Party (or, as Johnson puts it, has “belatedly admitted that Labour is afflicted with anti-Semitism”) before going on to accuse Khan of “sharing platforms with some of the most backward and sectarian forces in Islam” … without mentioning the fact that Khan has often used those platforms to criticise such people to their faces.
Oh yes, Johnson mentions that one of the Islamists Khan shared a platform with, Sulaiman Ghani, has “denounced gays.” Johnson, it seems, is a great defender of gay rights. These days. According to himself.
Tory ex-MP Matthew Parris (who has been openly gay for many years) recently (March 26) wrote a scathing attack on Johnson, in The Times (unfortunately, Murdoch’s pay-wall prevents me from linking to it beyond the opening sentences, here). Parris begins his piece thus:
Parody is now extinct. Boris Johnson has killed the distinction between reality and satire. Remember the Tory who as a wannabe MP called Labour’s repeal of Section 28 “appalling”, who joked about “tank-topped bum-boys”, who sneakily rowed back from homophobia by asking “what’s not to like?” about gays who leave the field of available women clear for straight men? He is now urging gay men to vote Leave because, he says, some Eastern European countries have legislation that represses them
“It was us” he burbles on a new Out & Proud video, “the British people, that created [an] environment of happiness and contentment for LGBT people. It may well have been us. It ruddy well wasn’t him. But now, even into gay saunas creeps the smell of his damp tweed.
Parris’ entire piece is well worth reading and sometime in the future I may well risk the wrath of Murdoch’s lawyers by republishing the whole thing. But for now, I’ll content myself with republishing the transcript (again, brought to us courtesy of Parris in The Times) of Johnson giving his criminal friend Darius Guppy the details of a journalist Guppy wanted beaten up. Johnson was concerned about how badly the journalist would be injured, because the assault might be linked to himself:
Johnson: “I really want to know …”
Guppy: “I guarantee you he will not be seriously hurt.”
Johnson: “How badly will he…”
Guppy [interrupting]: “He will not have a broken limb or broken arm, he will not be put into intensive care or anything like that. He’ll probably get a couple of black eyes and a cracked rib or something.”
Johnson: “Cracked rib? If I get trouble, if I get…I got this bloody number for you. OK Darrie. I said I’d do it. I’ll do it. Don’t worry.”
And this creature, Boris Johnson, has the nerve to write that Sadiq Khan is unfit to be Mayor of London because he, Khan, is – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever from Johnson – “pandering to the extremists”! Johnson is not (as even some on the left seem to think) an amusing buffoon: he’s a filthy, racist hypocrite and scumbag.
A squirming Cameron finally admits to having profited from his late father’s offshore investment fund
By Martin Thomas (edited by JD: the full article appears in the current issue of Solidarity)
Each week the capitalist economic system pumps new wealth, created by the labour of workers across the whole economy, into the pockets of owners and shareholders and their associates, advisers, bankers, lawyers, and so on.
No-one denies that. Those who defend capitalism as the best system available reply only that it is a manageable problem.
The greed for riches (so they say) motivates the capitalist class to innovate and improve efficiency. And the rich pay taxes. And they put their wealth into new investments which create new jobs. The Panama Papers show that in fact the rich hide their money in offshore tax havens and often pay little tax. They invest productively only when they feel fairly sure of large private gains, and much of their loot is spent on luxury and on swindling.
The papers, revealed on 3 April, are a stash of documents from just one law firm, Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, which specialises in helping the rich by setting up for them obscure companies in which to hide their wealth, based in low-tax areas.
Many of these companies are in the British Virgin Islands, a tiny group of Caribbean islands which is a British Overseas Territory, but outside British tax laws. The islands are home to just 28,000 inhabitants, but to 950,000 companies.
As lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says: “Britain is at the heart… of international tax avoidance by allowing these little remnants of empire to have tax secrecy laws and enable offshore trusts and offshore companies to operate without transparency”.
Not all “shadow banking” (banking-type operations by non-banks) is offshored, but a lot is.
Still booming in fact, according to a recent Financial Times report, doubled in numbers in London since the 2008 crash, are family offices, firms of lawyers and financiers employed by wealthy families to manage their loot and save it from taxes.
The working class, which produces that wealth, should keep it in common ownership and under democratic control.
As the socialist Jean Jaures said in the French parliament when a great financial scandal of the 19th century, also called Panama, broke: “It isn’t enough to brand and denounce the scandals… It would be a sad contradiction not to take up the struggle against that power that holds the railroads, the banks, and all the large enterprises…It’s the beginning of the trial of the dying social order, and we are here to substitute for it a more just social order”.
The 19th century scandal has another lesson. To go beyond indignation to propose socialist solutions, taking the loot back into common ownership may also be necessary to stop the scandal being exploited by right-wing demagogues who are in fact the looters’ friends.
Frederick Engels wrote about the 19th century Panama: “This business brings the moment considerably nearer when our people will become the only possible leaders of the state in France. Only, things ought not to move too quickly; our people in France are not ripe for power by a long way…In the meantime, that ass Boulanger [a proto-fascist anti-semitic demagogue who had come close to seizing power in 1889] had not shot himself [which he did, literally, in 1891, first having fled to exile], he would now be master of the situation… If only some general or other does not swing himself to the top during the interval of clarification and start war, that is the one danger”.
As the UK’s steel industry faces extinction, the Tories prevaricate over what – if any- state aid they are willing to offer in order to save the Tata operations at Port Talbot, Rotherham, Corby and Shotton (North Wales). At least 40,000 jobs are at stake.
Business minister Anna Soubry initially stated that the government was willing to consider “everything possible” – including nationalisation – in order to save the Port Talbot plant. But now her boss, business secretary Sajid Javid has ruled out nationalisation, arguing “if you look around Europe and elsewhere, I think nationalisation is rarely the answer.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Tata Steel have suggested that EU rules restricting state aid were to blame for its decision to sell the UK steel business – a claim that has been seized upon by campaigners for Brexit, including the supposedly “left wing” Morning Star, always willing to let the Tories off the hook by claiming (entirely falsely) that the British government “is banned by EU competition laws” from intervening to save the industry.
While it’s true that EU rules place some restrictions on using state aid to prop up industries, European governments with the political will have either turned a blind eye to the regulations or found ways round them. For instance, while the EU blocks support for “manufacturers in difficulties”, it allows national governments to nurture the “long term competitiveness and efficiency” of industry, and also to provide state funding to lessen the “social impact” of closures.
Even outright nationalisation is not barred by the EU: Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:12008E345
All across the EU states have majority shares or own and run their own transport and energy sectors. This is confirmed in this 2013 Estep report, commissioned by the EU: http://www.esparama.lt/es_parama_pletra/failai/ESFproduktai/2_UM_valstybes-valdomos-imones_2013-03.pdf
In particular the report states: ‘SOEs are entitled for public services provision, which can be broadly observed in utility sectors such as transport, telecommunications or energy.’
While nationalisation may be restricted it is not banned or illegal. This is a widely-believed myth, promoted, in particular, by the anti-EU “left”.
In Italy the government took control of the Ilva steelworks last year to save 16,000 jobs. Then the firm was handed £74 million for “environmental improvements” – ie direct state aid.
Germany also provides aid to its regional governments on the understanding that steel produced in the country is used on any German building or engineering projects. Germany also operates the part-publicly-funded Gesellschaft, a research organisation that provides applied science for companies that would otherwise find the cost prohibitive.
In 2012 French president Hollande threatened to nationalise Arcelor Mittal steel’s operations in the Lorraine plateau in order to save the blast furnaces of Florange and their 2,500 jobs. He didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about any EU state-aid rules. Ironically, Hollande’s threat was denounced by Boris Johnson – now a leading light of the Brexit campaign.
In a written answer to Labour Euro-MP Jude Kirton-Darling at the time of the Redcar steelworks closure last year, the European Commission confirmed that the UK Government could have given state aid to support the steelworks. Here are some of the ways that other EU governments have intervened to support their domestic steel industries, and other energy intensive industries. There are also examples of regional governments taking initiatives in Germany and Spain.
In early 2015, the Italian Government temporarily renationalised the Ilva Steel works in Taranto, Southern Italy. The Italian government cited the unabated toxic emissions and very poor environmental standards, which had led to unusually high rates of cancer in the area around the plant. It is estimated that it will cost €1.8bn to make Ilva compliant with the Industrial Emissions Directive’s standards. This decision is currently subject to a complaint from EUROFER (European steel industry association) under state aid rules.
Investment in strategic R&D facilities
The French government are providing state-aid to the ArcelorMittal plant at Florange, in France to support their ongoing R&D work, this follows on from a long running industrial dispute over the closing of two blast furnaces. This public support comes to a total of €20-50 million over 4 years, with a further 33 million been raised in public-private investment.
Support for energy efficiency/environmental technologies
In 2010, the European Commission accepted German state aid of €19.1 million for an energy-saving steel production project run by Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH, a subsidiary of the Salzgitter AG group. The aid will allow Salzgitter to produce steel through an innovative production process, Direct Strip Casting (DSC), which consumes less energy than alternative processes. The aid is in line with EU guidelines on State aid for environmental objectives (see IP/08/80) because on balance, the positive effects for the environment largely outweigh potential distortions of competition.
In 2010, before the May elections (which saw a change in Government), the UK Labour government was willing to provide Sheffield steel producer Forgemasters with an £80m loan to develop new technologies as part of a supply chain for nuclear reactors. While ultimately the new government withdrew this offer, the reasoning for a change of heart was ideological and not related to European State-Aid rules.
Taking a public stake in a steel company
Following the sale of 20.5% of shares in ‘NLMK Belgium Sogepa Holdings SA’ for 91.1 million euros ($123 million), the Belgian public authorities have a shareholding in a new company producing steel which owns steel plants in Belgium, France and Italy. NBH employs about 1,000 people in Belgium, while the European division employs 2,530 people in total. The engagement of the Belgian public authorities has helped strengthen the commitment of the Russian group, and transformed the company carrying the steel business in public private joint venture with the financial support of the Walloon region.
Compensation for energy costs
A range of German Government industry policy interventions provide German industry as a whole, including its energy intensive industries, with a range of long established reliefs from energy and climate change-related duties, levies and taxes:
Over the period 2010-2012 Germany’s support for its EIIs were worth 26bn euros, or some 8bn euros (£6.4bn) a year (table 2).
Support covers thousands of firms. Unlike the UK package, support is not confined to specific sectors.
At company level, in Germany compensation is available for 90% (or in the case of larger and energy intense consumers, 100%) of electricity taxes.
In Sweden, the PFE programme aims to encourage, through incentives (reductions in the amount of energy taxes), energy-intensive industries to improve their energy efficiency. This is a long-term agreement involving the Swedish government, the energy-intensive industries and trade unions. The duration of this program is 5 years. 117 industrial companies are involved in this project (i.e. 250 plants). The Swedish Energy Agency monitors and controls the programme. The Programme Board, established in 2005, brings together representatives from government, business, trade unions and employers as well as research centers. Both with an advisory and regulatory purpose, the Board meets four times a year. After only two years of existence, more than 900 measures were implemented or underway. These measures cost the companies € 110 million but benefited from a rapid return on investment (two years on average). They have saved about 1 TWh per year of electricity, i.e. from 500 kT to 1 million tons of CO2, and a total of € 55 million. In 2010, it doubled its objectives.
Using the powers of the official receiver to support employment & attracting buyers for troubled plants
In November 2014, the Italian government agreed to sell Italy’s second-largest steelmaker Lucchini’s Piombino complex to family-owned Algerian conglomerate Cevital. Lucchini was previously owned by Russia’s Severstal but was declared insolvent in 2012 and placed into special administration. The company received two offers for its core assets in Piombino, one from Cevital and the other from India’s JSW Steel. The government administrator said the Cevital offer was more attractive as it foresaw full employment at Piombino. The Piombino complex employs about 2,000 people and can produce up to 2.5 million tonnes of steel a year.
I’m becoming somewhat worried that some lefties seem to be quietly sympathetic towards IDS. This letter, sent out by him to fellow Tory MP’s one whole day after the budget, should put paid to any illusions that he is some kind of ‘caring Conservative’ or ‘man of principle’:
Illustration: Steve Bell
Iain Duncan Smith signed this ‘Dear Colleague’ letter – the term for correspondence sent to all Tory MPs – on Thursday. It was 24 hours after George Osborne’s Budget, and the day when the Chancellor was going on the airwaves to defend his measures.
IDS makes no mention of his opposition to the disability cuts, which he would later cite as the reason for his resignation, bar an ambiguous line pledging to ‘take this response forward’.
On a second page, reproduced below, IDS explains changes to the Personal Independence Payment, with the paragraphs we have highlighted showing his defence of the shake-up.
One of his arguments is that the benefit, intended to help people who struggle to use the toilet or get dressed, was being used for the unnecessary purchase of ‘items like beds and chairs that people have already’.
Why we are changing the Personal Independence Payment
- Our welfare reforms have helped more disabled people back into work so that they have the security of a job.
- And as we reform welfare, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and targeting the extra support we are providing for disabled people on those who need it most.
- We introduced the Personal Independence Payment to help meet the extra costs that someone with a disability faces.
- We introduced the Personal Independence Payment to help meet theextra costs that someone with a disability faces.
- Recent legal judgements have broadened the scope of what is considered an ‘aid and appliance’ to include items like beds and chairs that people have in their homes already.
- The number of people who qualify for PIP solely due to aids and appliances –which in many cases are provided by the NHS or local authorities – has tripled in 18 months.
- Yet in 96% of these cases reviewed by health professionals, they found that the likely on-going extra costs of daily living due to their disability was low or even zero.
- And in his independent review Paul Gray recommended that ‘the Department should review how aids and appliances are taken into account in PIP assessments against original policy intent’.
- That’s why last year we brought forward a consultation to explore how best to take account of aids and appliances and help disabled people meet the extra costs of their disability.
- We have carefully considered the responses and are continuing to talk to disability groups and colleagues about the best way to do this before bringing forward legislation.
- No one currently on PIP will see any change until their next review.
- We are also providing support for disabled people through the mobility component of PIP, Employment and Support Allowance, local welfare provision, support through the NHS, adult social care, Access to Work and the Disabled Facilities Grant.
- Facts on disability and Personal Independence Payment spending
- Personal Independence Payment spending will rise in every year of this Parliament in real terms.
- This year we are spending around£50 billion on support for sick and disabled people, more than the entire £34 billion Defence budget this year.
- We are spending more in real terms supporting disabled people in every year ofthis Parliament than the £42.6 billion Labourwas spending in 2010.
By Phil Burton-Cartledge (at All That Is Solid)
When you’re the head of a department that has meted out cruel and inhumane treatment to disabled people, when you’ve sat in the Commons and nodded through cut after sanction regime after tightened eligibility criteria, at what point do you say enough and call time over your complicity in these proceedings? Does one draw a veil over the old ministerial career by claiming principle and love for the charges you’ve spent six years abusing, or stick the boot in to cause maximum political damage?
Iain Duncan Smith, the so-called quiet man who’s done catastrophic harm to the position of disabled people in this country, has elected to do both. Uncharacteristically, an attempt to fund tax cuts for the well off by taking monies from payments to disabled people has gone down like a cup of cold sick. Which is interesting, considering their previous attacks have gone by with nary a murmur from outside the ranks of disability campaigners, the left, and the labour movement.
Okay, so let’s look at IDS’s “good reason” for resigning – the statement he’s put out himself.
I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.
Blimey, IDS is lining up with John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn! Almost.
He goes on …
Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working-age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money-saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.
To understand where IDS is coming from, one has to step inside his head. It’s scary, so come walk with me. Having previously corresponded with his ministerial office on dozens of occasions, I got the sense that IDS was acting out of ideological zeal. All of his letters would come back extolling the virtues of work, and ironic considering that IDS’s prescription for others is something he’s never really availed himself of. No matter. Work was the route out of poverty. Work was the route to self-respect. Work was the route to good health and mental well being – views typical of someone for whom low-paid drudgery is but a rumour. And IDS knew this better than the medical establishment and disabled people themselves. If only they could be liberated from their can’t-do mindset, hundreds of thousands drawing down disability support could become fully productive citizens. It is a sick joke when you think about the fates of some unfortunate ESA recipients, but IDS absolutely, genuinely believed he was designing a social security system that would “save lives”.
IDS has sat uneasily (to a degree) in Dave’s cabinet. He is an ideologue who takes his twisted principles seriously. Dave and Osborne are a touch more mercurial. They are wedded to broken Tory economics, but are quite willing to ditch principle for expediency. In Wednesday’s budget, Osborne was interested in shoring up a Middle England constituency ahead of the EU referendum as well as making a play for succeeding Dave. As he was prepared to give nice middle class people like me another tax cut and have disabled people pay for it, this clearly was too much for IDS. Just so Osborne was prepared – again – to throw IDS’s life work under a bus, so the Quiet Man has finally returned the favour.
What about the real reason? A little bit has to do with Europe, innit? Exit is another of IDS’s cracked priorities, and again must be frustrated that a number of ambitious Tories – not least the Mekon-like Sajid Javid and other heir-presumptive Theresa May – have dumped principles for position. By strengthening Osborne’s association with attacks on disabled people, he’s calculated that the chancellor will not pass the work capability assessment for Tory leader and the way be open to someone who’s either a bit more ideological, or will allow him space for his continued misadventures in social security. If only there was an unprincipled, opportunist celebrity chancer in the running for the leadership who fits the bill.
To be sure, IDS’s resignation is the biggest blow yet to Dave’s leadership and the his hopes of keeping the Number 10 sofa warm for Osborne. Long may this internal warfare continue.
By Sarah Pine at LabourList
A Conservative disability campaigner has quit his role in disgust for the Tories’ cuts to disability benefits following George Osborne’s Budget.
The former NHS worker left a message for the party on the Conservative Disability Group site, saying “the website is closed due to disability cuts and the resignation because of these of webmaster Graeme Ellis”.
Ellis has said the cuts were “destroying lives” in an interview with the Mirror.
“I’m appalled by what’s happened and wanted to make a very public statement. I’ve been a Conservative voter since I could vote. But as a lifelong Conservative I could no longer agree with what the government’s doing.”
The Conservative Budget cut £4.4billion from Personal Independence Payments, money used to help with costs of having a long-term disability. This follows the cuts to Employment and Support allowance, which removes £30 a week from sick or disabled people.
These cuts were combined with tax breaks for the rich, with a decrease in Capital Gains Tax, a reduction in the number of people who pay the higher rate of income tax and top-ups for those with spare cash to save.
A spokesperson for the Conservatives dismissed the news, saying “The Conservative Disability Group has not deactivated its website. The owner of the domain, who is no longer a member of the Group, has deactivated it without any instruction to do so.”
Ellis’ decision was quickly highlighted to Labour MPs. MP Cat Smith wrote on Twitter: “too many disability cuts for Conservative Disability Group webmaster Graeme Ellis who has quit in style”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced three further 48-hour strikes of junior doctors. The BMA also announced that it is to seek a judicial review into the government’s plans to impose new contracts.
The dates planned for industrial action are 9 March, 6 April and 26 April. All are scheduled to begin at 8am. Emergency cover will be maintained.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s controversial push to impose new terms and conditions on all 45,000 junior doctors has exacerbated the bitter and long-running dispute.
We publish, below, a detailed critique, by science writer Les Hearn, of Jeremy Hunt’s “evidence” of excess deaths at weekends, used to justify imposing the new contract. This article first appeared in Solidarity:
Lies, damned lies, and Jeremy Hunt’s statistics
The government’s argument in their attack on junior doctors’ pay and conditions has been that they had a manifesto commitment to introduce seven-day access to all aspects of health care and that this was necessary to reduce excess deaths among weekend hospital admissions.
The government’s approach seems to amount to forcing junior doctors to work more at weekends for less pay. But, unless they also force them to work longer hours, this must reduce the number of doctors on weekdays. If the original problem of excess deaths was due to a lack of junior doctors at weekends, the result would be to equalise death rates by lowering death rates following weekend admissions and raising those following weekday admissions. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was very keen to talk about the evidence of excess deaths to justify his actions and, of course, evidence is very important. He claimed “We now have seven independent studies showing mortality is higher for patients admitted at weekends.” We will look at this evidence.
The DH says there is significant evidence of a “weekend effect” where patients admitted over the weekend have higher rates of mortality.1 The DH lists eight pieces of what they call research in support. 1. The major study cited by DH is from the British Medical Journal (Freemantle et al., 2015):2 one of its co-authors is Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director of NHS England. It found that death rates were higher for patients admitted on Fridays (2% higher), Saturdays (10% higher), Sundays (15% higher) and Mondays (5%) than on other days. Since the overall death rate within 30 days for all admissions is 1.8%, this means that the 15%-higher Sunday rate is 2.1% or 3 in 1000 “extra” deaths. We need to understand why and this is where it is important to look at how ill patients are on the day of admission. Risk The study informs us that, while 29% of weekday admissions are emergencies, on Saturdays the figure is 50% and on Sunday 65%. Using another criterion, mortality risk from all factors except day of admission, while 20% of weekday admissions were in the highest category, 25% on Saturdays and 29% on Sundays were in this highest risk of dying group. On these bases, we would expect an increased death rate for weekend admissions of anywhere between 25% and 125%. The observed “excess” of 15% on Sundays should be a cause for congratulation.
This paper is an update of the previous study by Freemantle et al. (2012)3 (see 5 below), also including Keogh. The findings were broadly similar except that the death rate on Saturdays and Sundays were very significantly lower than the average for weekdays. In the update this curious fact, which certainly needs discussion and explanation, is barely mentioned. To summarise, death rates for admissions on Saturdays and Sundays are increased by 10 to 15% but death rates for those already in hospital are reduced by 5 to 8%. Thus, the main source of support for the government’s Seven Day NHS plans does not provide any evidence for it. The weekend death rates for all patients are in fact far lower than one would predict from the seriousness of their illness. Read the rest of this entry »
Above: Farage, Hoey (in red) and various other reactionaries, xenophobes and racists united at the launch of ‘Grassroots Out’
The abject confusion and incoherence of the Morning Star on the subject of the EU, continues apace.
Yesterday’s Morning Star carried an uncritical interview with anti-EU Labour MP (“one of the most prominent campaigners for an exit left” according to the Star) in which she justified her willingness to work with Ukip and “hard-right” Tories like Peter Bone as follows: “The reality is that if you really want to get out, every group has a slightly different perspective, and we can only win this referendum if we can all come together.”
Read the full article here.
In today’s Star, one Matt Widowson complains that “some among this group [the left that opposes Brexit] consider all advocates of exit as anti-progressive; almost Ukipish! We’re not. The left case for exit is progressive and compelling. Unlike the reactionary right it is not based on xenophobic and racist fear-mongering and relies instead on a realistic assessment of the present situation: the capitalist nature of the European Union and the need for national self-determination.”
Read the full article here.
So which is it, comrades? Is your friend Kate Hoey right to advocate an alliance with Ukip and the Tory “hard-right” on the basis that “every group has a slightly different perspective”?
Or is Matt Widowson right when he argues that the “progressive case” for exit has nothing to do with Ukip, xenophobia and racism – and that it’s an “insult” to suggest that it does?
Make your minds up, comrades!