Labour Councils Have the Power to Oppose NHS Cuts, But Will They?

The Tories are cutting our NHS to ribbons, and the greater public and their trade unions are fighting back, with Unite the Union (which represents over 1.4 million people) officially backing a national demonstration to help defend our NHS — to be held in London on March 4, 2017.

Robert Ball, from the Leicester Campaign Against NHS Privatisation — a group which is also backing the national demonstration — published an informative letter in today’s Leicester Mercury (November 9) which drew attention to the “chronic underfunding of the NHS.”

He explained how the Tories so-called “Sustainability Transformation Plans,” which have “been developed in conditions of near secrecy with no proper council oversight,” will see “drastic cuts” of about £500 million from our county’s health services. The need for a national demonstration in defence of the NHS has never been more urgent.

mercury-letter

Although Labour Councils pretend they can’t oppose Tory cuts to public services, this is not the case. And in this instance, as Mr Ball explains, Councils can stop STP’s being implemented by “invoking their powers through Health Oversight & Scrutiny Committees to hold NHS managers to account,” thereby allowing them to “block controversial changes pending a decision by the Secretary of State.”

Labour Councils therefore have a brilliant opportunity to refuse to collaborate in plans for cuts, closures and “efficiency savings” that will put health care at risk.

Unfortunately, Leicester’s Labour Council are reluctant to oppose the nightmarish STP contracts which, according to NHS England’s dictates, must be signed by December 23. In fact, Deputy City Mayor, Rory Palmer, only contacted the local STP head just yesterday to “demand” that the full plan be released to the public by November 22 – a late and very limited “demand” to which STP head, Toby Sanders, immediately agreed.

Palmer also included in his letter to Mr Sanders that he expected “a developed plan for securing effective and meaningful public discussion, scrutiny and challenge.” Yet, as Mr Palmer must surely realise — the impending deadline for signing the STP contracts ensures that such a consultation is already a non-starter. So one has to wonder why our Labour Council has not already released the draft STP plan they have to the public so they can start building a popular campaign to oppose its implementation.

But it seems in lieu of helping build a campaign to resist the Tories latest attack on the NHS, city Labour councillors feel it is enough to write letters to the local newspaper to let the public know that he Tories are nasty. In today’s Mercury (October 9) city Labour councillor Bill Shelton reminds readers: “Don’t forget that when the post-war Labour Government set [the NHS] up, the Tories voted against it.” True.

Shelton, however, makes no arguments for how NHS cuts might be opposed. Instead, reading much like an article in the tabloid press, he used his letter to describe how the NHS was unable to help his mother-in-law in her time of abscess-related need. A tragic story no doubt, but one that many readers of his letter will say has as much to do with the zealous efforts of New Labour to speed-up the privatisation of the NHS, as it has with the hated Tories.

But things are looking up for Labour now they have a socialist leader in the form of Jeremy Corbyn who has always been vehemently opposed to New Labour’s Tory ambitions. Thus we should seize this opportunity to press Leicester’s newly appointed Shadow Health Minister, Jon Ashworth, to give his full support to a publicly owned NHS by pledging his support of the NHS Resinstatement Bill.

It might also be a good use of our time to demand that our Labour Council immediately commit to opposing the Tories by backing a public campaign of resistance to the Tories hurtful STPs. Certainly the only thing that looks likely to save the NHS from the Tories is a massive upwelling of dissent, combined with a Labour Party committed to socialist not Blairite principles.

STP Leicestershire hospitals

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