Save our Surgeries

You cannot have failed to notice the SOS banners adorning all of our local GP surgeries.


How on earth, when we spend so much on our health services, which in Tower Hamlets are facing greater and greater demands, can we be facing surgery closures?

It is a scandal.

I have found out from those who know about these things how fiendishly complicated GP funding is.  But the long and the short of it is cuts.  Real cuts.  And deep cuts.  Our GP surgeries really are under threat, some are very likely to close unless we all rally round and fight for them.

Several surgeries have been saved for now by concerted campaigns by managers, doctors and patients standing together.  But the threat is real and immediate.

Please find out if your local GP surgery is under imminent threat, and if so take whatever action they are asking for to help.

There is so much waste in the so called ‘internal market’ of the health service that to be cutting back GP services is utter madness.  This is where everyone agrees the future lies, not in expensive hospitals.  We all prefer to be treated by good quality, easily accessible local services.  That these just happen to the cheapest form of treatment is a happy coincidence.  To be threatening them with closure is to threaten the whole service.

The Green Party stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave Doctors and staff who have been fighting these disastrous cuts, and we will continue to do so.

Royal London Hospital costs £1.1b? That’ll be £7.1b please.

The public finance initiative (PFI) was a way of funding capital public projects by paying private companies to pay for projects, and then paying the companies back.  The plan was that this would not show up as public debt (if that is so, then the book keepers must be very dim not to notice it).  The obvious drawback is that it is cripplingly expensive.  These private companies did not embark on this for the fun of it, they did it because it would make them lots of money.  And by jove it does.

The last Labour government was addicted to them.

The Royal London Hospital was built using such a scheme.  It was built by a consortium led by Skanska.  By chance, Skanska is one of the PFI funding companies.  So Skanska made handsome profits building the hospital, and will continue to enjoy a steady income, inflation protected.

The contract which was signed will last for 40 years (yes, 40 years).  At the end of the scheme, which involves not only the money but some payments for maintenance and services, it is calculated that that the total payments will be £7.1b.  The table below shows how much of a swindle the total PFI budget in the health service has been.

The senior management of Barts and the London NHS Trust have all just resigned: the CEO, the Head of Finance, the Head of Nursing and the Chief Non Executive Officer.

Barts and the London has undergone a massive management reorganisation up to 2012.  Really massive.  It now encompasses Barts, the Royal London, the London Chest, Mile End Hospital, Newham University Hospital and Whipps Cross.  Goodness only knows how much public money has been spent in these management reorganisations.

If anyone ever thought this was a good idea, I guess they don’t now.  All the people who carried out this reorganisation, at vast public expense, seem to be leaving.

And what are the results?  The trust has the biggest deficit of any Trust in the land.  £94m and counting.

The statistics for the Trust are poor and getting worse in terms of waiting times and outcomes.  Staff are demoralised due to a panic down banding, where all staff had their pay bands reduced.  Thats the way to encourage loyalty!

While waiting lists lengthen, there are two empty floors in the gleaming Royal London towers, with no money to staff them.

The Barts Board have been spending £500,000 per month on management consultants: £7m in 14 months.

The yearly charge on the PFI scheme is at least £54million.

The solutions to these absurdly wasteful policies are obvious.  We fund our health service from central taxation.  That gives you great benefits in terms of planning and control.  The so called ‘internal market’ of the NHS, far from driving up efficiency, has led to profligate waste.  We have a multiplicity of commissioning and contracting bodies, who themselves seem to be endlessly reforming themselves.  In 1974 management costs in the NHS were 5%.  This was probably too low.  But it is now 15% of a vastly bigger budget (even allowing for inflation).  Cut this bill to 10% and this would provide £5b a year freed up for front line services where they are needed.

This can wait no longer.

Only the Green Party and the National Health Action Party stand for a publicly funded AND publicly provided health service.



I am delighted to say that today we reached our fundraising target for our General Election campaign.  A huge thank you to everyone who has donated.  Your donations mean we have the money for our deposits for the two seats in Tower Hamlets: Bethnal Green and Bow and Poplar and Limehouse, plus extra for our campaigning activities.

But it has deeper significance.  Many people say that a major national political party cannot exist without big donor funds, from business, unions or the very rich.

But the Green Party, once again, confounds expectations.  All over the country, ordinary people, coming together and giving modest amounts,  are changing the way politics is done in this country.

We don’t design our policies around rich donors and money men (they are usually men).  Our policies and priorities are what you get when you have a truly democratic party where members are in charge.

This method of fundraising, which has been a triumph in Tower Hamlets, and which recently raised £75,000 for the national party to ensure that we can stand in EVERY seat in the country, shows that we don’t need big business, we don’t need the super rich.  We can keep ourselves free to plan our own way.


Hot off the press, new Green Party policies which will feature in our manifesto (out in March) are coming thick and fast, and as you would expect housing is right at the top of our agenda.

We say the next government must build 500,000 homes for social rent.

There are lots of ways of measuring ‘social rent’ and by massaging the figures Boris (and others) has classed houses that you would need to earn £80,000 per year as ‘affordable’.

The Green Party takes this issue seriously though. By social rent we mean homes that you can afford if earning £13,000 per year, half the average wage.

We have done the maths, and the issue here is not can we afford these homes, it is quite simply that we cannot afford not to build these homes. They would be built by Councils, Housing Associations and Cooperatives.

All house building has an environmental impact, but the Green Party has analysed the land use returns from all Councils in the UK and the land exists to build these homes, in fairly high density (by which we mean 4 or 5 storey buildings). These homes would be built to high environmental standards making them cheap to run.

We will not build on the Green belt, and we will give higher priority to biodiversity when selecting sites than is currently the case.

We can and must do this. If a government cannot house its people in decent homes, what is it for?

But there is more.

We would impose a land value tax.

And we will move to transform the rental sector to make it into a market which provides homes for those who need them and not just profit for property owners.

We will do this by introducing a new mandatory form of tenancy, which will provide for automatic renewal after 5 years unless the property owner wants to sell or move into the property themselves (tenants can leave on giving 2 months notice), increases in rent only in line with inflation, and we would establish a commission to develop proposals for rent control. This policy is broadly speaking how the rental market operates successfully in Germany.

These are comprehensive, carefully worked out policies to dramatically rebalance the housing market. The current market in housing is emphatically failing and this cannot be allowed to continue. The current policies of simply allowing property for investment purposes has led to an unsustainable market which is failing to meet the basic needs of huge sections of our society.

Here in Tower Hamlets we are falling victim to these developments. See a grotesque example at Bishopsgate Goodsyard (see my objections here where an unwanted development threatens a whole neighbourhood here in Shoreditch. This area desperately needs redevelopment, but one that provides homes for people to build lives in.

The old parties do not want to discuss this issue. Only the Green Party has a vision which will provide decent homes for everyone.



Housing is one of the great issues in this general election campaign. None of the old parties have any solutions to the desperate plight many find themselves in because they cannot obtain decent housing.

The Green Party policies are radical, because nothing less will tackle what is one of the great emergencies of our age.

There are a number of fundamental problems. Yes there is a great shortage of housing. But also the housing which is being built is the wrong kind.

The attitude of the old parties can be summed up by Sir Robin Wales, the Labour Mayor of Newham. When the heroic Focus E15 campaigners (follow them here met him, he said, ‘You can’t afford to live in Newham. What do you want me to do about it?’ and shrugged his shoulders.

Ensuring people have housing is one of the basic jobs of government. No wonder voters are so fed up when politicians are so lacking in ambition that they wont even acknowledge their problems. Boris of course just supports whatever gigantic proposal for luxury flats his friends the big property companies propose (see here his support for the ruinous proposal for Bishopsgate Goodsyard

I have already sent in my written objection to this to Hackney and Tower Hamlets Council which you can read here


The planning officers to send your objection to are:

Nasser Farooq
Quoting application numbers: PA/14/02011 and PA/14/02096

Russell Smith
Quoting application numbers: 2014/2425 and 2014/2427

So we need more and we need the right sort.

The Green Party’s policies are

  1. Build more social housing, directly funded by government, local and central and increase the maintenance funding
  2. Increase the funding to Housing Associations
  3. Support Housing Action Trusts and Co-Operatives
  4. Rent capping on private rents (which incidentally will reduce the Housing Benefit cost)
  5. Stop tax breaks for foreign investors. Money spent investing in property should be from taxed income like everyone else.
  6. Introduce a land value tax
  7. Invest in our existing housing stock to upgrade its energy efficiency

The money for all this exists if the political will to act exists. We would introduce the Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, we would cancel Trident, and the Land Value Tax will raise many millions.

Successive governments and the market have failed to provide decent houses for all. In the 21st century this is a disgrace. We need action, and we need it now.

That’s why I was out this weekend leafleting to support the March for Homes on 31 January


There will be a big Green Party presence. It would be great if you came too.

International Migrants Day

I can keep this post simple.

To everyone who has travelled from anywhere to establish your life here in Tower Hamlets, you are very welcome.

To everyone who has travelled from Tower Hamlets to anywhere in the world, I hope that you have found what you were seeking and that you have been welcomed into your new life.

Migration is NOT a crime.

“On International Migrants Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to shape diverse and open societies that provide opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants.”

Ban Ki-moon
Message for International Migrants Day,
18 December 2014

Save the NHS

The NHS is becoming a terrible political football already in this election campaign. We have already heard a lot of hooey about it from the old parties, and I fear there will be more to come. £1.5 billion here, £2 billion there.

What’s crucial is the fundamental principles which each party apply.

I am delighted that the Green Party believes that the NHS should remain a publicly funded service.

Where we are unique is that our policy is that the service should not only be publicly funded but also publicly provided forever.

As a country we spend very average amounts of money on our health service, compared to other similar economies. We are slightly different in that we spend almost all of it via state funding. But overall we do not spend vast amounts.

In our view, we need to increase this amount substantially and keep increasing it as demand continues to grow, as we know it will.

We believe that if necessary we should increase taxes to pay for this. To start we need to ensure that we collect all the tax we are due from business and from the super rich. The Green Party supports the imposition of the Robin Hood tax on share transactions, the mansion tax and the scrapping of Trident. We believe that the money is there to adequately fund the health service. What is missing is the political will.

If we are putting so much public money into such a service then there is no doubt that it should go to providing the services we need and not to fund profits for private companies. In particular we need to address the scandal of the vast debt the NHS has built up, mainly under Labour, under the ruinously expensive Pubic Finance Initiative.

In 1983 the NHS spent 5% of its budget on management. That figure now stands at 15%. Reduce that figure to 10% and many of the financial issues reduce or disappear. So much of these management costs are directly related to the management of the internal market and the privatisation of the service. Get rid of these aspects and the amount of money which could flow into the real health service would increase vastly.

The NHS is one of the great achievements of our country. It has been built up over generations by the hard work and taxes of all of us.   It has been sold off piece by piece by Labour and Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This has profited nobody except the corporations who are buying up swathes of our service.

We believe that Green Party policies are what those who pay for, work for and use the service are demanding.

We believe that Green Party policies are what those who pay for, work for and use the service are demanding.

Owen Jones


We all love Owen Jones, right?

Here’s an example of why.

‘Tax avoidance is robbery, regardless of what any silver-tongued outrider of the corporate world tells you. Companies depend on the labour of their wealth-creating workers: a workforce expensively trained up by a state education system, kept healthy by state healthcare, and whose low pay is subsidised by the state.

The private sector depends on a bailed-out financial system, state-funded infrastructure, state support for research and development, and a law and order system to protect them and their property.

Companies that depend on state largesse and yet refuse to contribute are, well, scroungers. They deprive the state of revenue as politicians justify the biggest cuts for generations on the basis that there isn’t enough money. They gain a competitive disadvantage over mainly smaller businesses who cannot afford armies of accountants to exploit loopholes. They ensure the rest of us pay more taxes. As I say: robbery.’

Wow.  Thats telling it like it is.

But like all love affairs, it can give joy and pain in sometimes equal measure.  Here he is getting things wrong.

‘Frustrated [Green] party members often berate me for backing policies on social justice, tax justice, public ownership and workers’ rights that they loudly champion, all the while trying to lobby a Labour leadership that hardly seems receptive.

The reasons for this division on the left are straightforward: many of those who resist the Greens’ flirtations have a commitment to the labour movement, to working people collectively organising for change, and an understanding that – as things stand – a general election represents a choice between a Labour-led and Conservative-led government.’

Why is this so wrong?

1.  To suggest that only Labour supporters have a commitment to the Labour movement suggests Owen doesn’t understand either how broad the labour movement is, or the Green Party commitment to supporting it.

2.  It is absurd again to suggest that only Labour support working people working collectively for change.  How many Labour Party MPs will be on the picket lines with our NHS staff tomorrow?  I tell you now, there will be plenty Greens.

3.  This is the biggy.

After the Rochester bye election, William Hague was saying precisely the same thing.  ‘Come the general election, the electorate will have to decide who is going to be Prime Minister, David Cameron or Ed Miliband.’  It is this arrogant reduction of the arguments in politics which have left voters infuriated.  The old parties have been found out.  It is a choice increasing numbers are saying they will not make.  It makes no difference, they believe, to their lives.

We think that too.  If you want real change it is not honest to say a vote for Labour will achieve it, and voters know that now.  The right wing of Labour are delighted to have Owen Jones, and others, making out that Labour is a proper place for radical votes.  It wasn’t under Blair and Brown, and it certainly isn’t under Miliband.

Its no good Owen Jones and William Hague beating the same drum.  Voters are moving to a different rhythm.  Owen should get with the beat.