Lead story

Tories dash to sell off NHS

by Daphne Liddle

THE GOVERNMENT last week accelerated its undeclared plans to sell off the NHS before the general election in May by signing two massive privatisation agreements — both described as the biggest ever NHS privatisation sell-offs so far.

The deals were rushed through without any announcements or public consultations and some of the companies involved already have dubious records of poor patient care standards.

It will be difficult for an incoming Government in May to reverse them, especially since at least one would fall under the aegis of the hated Transatlantic Trade and Industry Partnership.

The first of these major privatisations is a £780 million deal agreed by the NHS Supply Chain and involving 11 private companies — which have strong links to the Tory party — to tackle an NHS backlog in eye, heart, joint and other operations along with scans, X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

Many of these procedures will be done in mobile units in hospital car parks similar to those used for breast screening programmes.

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Aylesbury occupiers seize 12-storey block

MORE than 150 campaigners for better housing met in Burgess Park by the Old Kent Road in south London last Saturday to defy local council plans to tear down the huge, now emptied Aylesbury estate and replace it with luxury flats way beyond what the people who once lived there can afford.

Their action followed a protest march at the end of January demanding more affordable housing for local people, a cap on rents and an end to the privatisation of council-owned land.

After that demonstration a large group of protesters went to the Aylesbury estate, now boarded up but not too securely, and occupied a block of flats.

Police came to remove them that day but seeing them securely settled decided they did not have the resources to remove the squatters then and there and left them.

The council brought in private security guards to secure the whole of what is left of the estate — although there are still some tenants living there.

On 17th February the squatters were evicted from the original squat and there were six arrests. But others went on to squat new territory.

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Budget triumphalism is fooling few

GEORGE Osborne has delivered his sixth and hopefully his last budget and it has been horribly predictable, with tax cuts for the rich — even raising the personal allowance to £10,600 has a bigger impact on the tax bills of the very wealthy than the poor. But no cuts in VAT that really would help the poor.

There will be cuts in stamp duty for those buying and selling houses and help for the wealthy few young people who can even contemplate trying to buy their own home. This will make house prices rise even faster, stoking the billowing housing bubble which has to burst sometime and will be a time-bomb under the next government in Westminster. In the meantime the speculators and landlords will continue to feast at the trough at the expense of people who need somewhere affordable to live.

The enclosure acts are running again with a promise of a “Domesday Book” of “surplus public land” that can be privatised.

As the Tories have just signed two huge privatisation deals affecting the NHS Osborne has declared that next year he expects the NHS to make £12 billion in “efficiency savings”. Will this be more real cuts in health workers’ pay? Cuts in ancillary jobs? Rationing healthcare? The NHS is creaking now. These cuts are going to hurt. Will a Labour government reverse them? We must fight to make sure it does.

Read the full editorial here >> [ Budget triumphalism is fooling few ]