The County Tories intend to make a Cabinet decision this week (8th February) on the future of The Grange in Kidderminster. Their recommendation is to close it.
The Grange serves older people as a rehabilitation facility and is residential, including for dementia sufferers. For many, it is an essential and important lifeline in the delivery of care services.
Not content with going after closing down Ludlow Road, which is a respite service for children with disabilities, the heartless Tories have now turned their guns on to our older people’s services.
Is nothing safe from their ruthless pursuit of crippling and closing our vital services?
The people of Wyre Forest, we hope, would support us in calling for an end to the austerity the Tories love so much. Enough is enough. Certainly, when it comes to Ludlow Road, the people have spoken with over 8,000 of you voicing opposition to the closure of Ludlow Road.
What’s more incredible about the Tory closure of The Grange, however, is the blatantly misleading information the Tories are putting out about it.
If you look at the leaflet they are currently distributing to Wyre Forest households, it gives the distinct impression they care about saving The Grange. What’s more, it tries to put distance between what’s happening to The Grange and the Tory involvement in that process by deflecting the attention of voters on to the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) making out they are responsible for it. Oddly, this is the exact opposite of the story they are trying to peddle about Ludlow Road, which is NHS owned and Council funded. On that issue they say, and despite Labour’s calls, that there can’t be any joined up thinking between the County Council, NHS or the CCG. It’s bizarre, unless that is you understand why they are doing this and what’s going on here.
For instance, one might wonder just how much Labour’s campaign to “Save Ludlow Road” and our work with parents and the public has stung them? A lot it would seem to generate this kind of response by pretending to care about your views and involve you in saving something THEY intend to close.
Let’s be clear here, the County Council own The Grange. The Tories run the council. So, they own this issue and are the ones recommending its closure. They cannot hide from that fact. The Tory campaign to save The Grange, such as it is, is a feeble attempt to court voter favour by hoodwinking you, and looks like being something of a pathetic effort anyway, a damp squib if you like because its primary purpose is to mislead you and hope you don’t notice. They are taking Wyre Forest voters for mugs.
The misleading leaflet has come from the highest echelons of the local Tory Party. Just look at the names on the leaflet. It has the Councillor whose patch it is on, Tracey Onslow, she who has been a Cabinet member and flitted about like a Tory intern working for both Mark Garnier MP and now John Campion Police & Crime Commissioner. Her involvement is inseparable from this decision. The other names on this leaflet include Marcus Hart’s (Local Tory Leader and County Council Cabinet member who will be helping make this decision) father, John Hart; plus Nathan Desmond, another senior local Tory; and even your Tory MP, Mark Garnier. They all have their grubby paws all over this. It would be great if the Tories were in open rebellion with each other like their national Party is as a reason for this bizarre leaflet, but no, this is a much more sinister effort to mislead you and steal your vote. Don’t fall for it.
Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Media Officer said “this Tory leaflet is a flagrant misrepresentation of the Tory position on The Grange being a deliberate and wilful attempt to sell a mistruth to the people in our community. What’s more, they are doing it to try and suppress older people’s inevitable worries over the further loss of local services that distinctly serve them. People need to realise just how far the Tories will sink to hide their actual policy intentions on health and care issues. That they are doing this ahead of local elections is totally shameful. By believing this leaflet, people may vote Tory thinking that by doing so, services like The Grange will be safe, and that Tories actually care about such services. Unfortunately, the good people of Wyre Forest will quickly discover the truth, and probably when it’s too late. It is a merciless exploitation of the electorate’s good will. This leaflet shows you can’t trust the Tories on anything. Only Labour is committed to ending austerity and investing in our health and care system to ensure we have the type of health and care services for the many not the few.”
** NEWSFLASH: Update 08/02/2018**
Stephen Brown reports the latest on this issue: “So, of the 2 Tory options on The Grange - close it or change of use - Tory Cabinet opted to keep it open and change its use to show how caring they are and how they too can run a successful “Save The Grange” campaign against and for their own recommendations. Duplicitous politics at its best.
We in Labour strongly believe this was a Tory PR stunt and they’ll be back to attack The Grange in the future as they place Dementia Care on the open market making it ripe for outsourcing or privatisation. After all, they’ve done such a great job on Children’s Services, they sold the old people’s homes off years ago as well as decimated Council Home Care Services. Don’t trust them. Wyre Forest should be very cautious about this apparent ‘good news’. Labour is watching the council and our local Tory Councillors very closely.”
Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour, commenting on Garnier’s weekly column:
"Seriously Mark, you’re blaming the demise of the carpet industry on the EU and cheap Belgian carpets? Cheap shot especially when carpet imports have remained more or less, recession aside, within an inflationary margin of similar value since 2004 only peaking back to 2004 levels since 2014. And what about child labour in carpet factories in Asia exporting here? What has the Govt done to combat that and challenge child exploitation to stop it for moral reasons, let alone what it’s doing to jobs here?
Cheap carpets maybe but not just from the EU. That free trade you champion, it’s caused cheap imports from all manner of countries outside of the EU (Asia, Turkey, China, India, Middle East) that have also hit us. The carpet industry has been in decline since the 70’s and accelerated under Tories in the 80’s as they decimated traditional manufacturing. Tastes have also changed towards hard flooring for instance, and since 2010 the current Govt of which you are part, have caused people’s wages to stagnate and wider economy to falter exacerbated by Brexit. People can’t buy what they can’t afford can they? But do carry on indulging in whataboutery and finger pointing to distract from the real issues as you conversely argue for such ‘trade’ on coffee.
And the coffee, yes, we should be doing what we can to support coffee growing economies through fair trade and other such initiatives. However, if it wasn’t processed here for instance, and it does provide UK jobs, what do you think would happen to those UK jobs in that sector? You seem to be preaching for free trade at the expense of UK jobs? I note you’ve been touring South America,(which actually does have processing plants - try Brazil) funny plugging coincidence that eh?
I think those in Wyre Forest who voted for you would sooner you champion jobs and trade for Wyre Forest, after all, it’s they who pay your wages as an MP.
And if you think ‘free trade’ really exists and our exit from the EU is suddenly going to mean other countries are going to open their doors to us, and risk damage to their own economy (eg USA) only to serve a Tory Brexit illusion, think on.
What we need is a proper industrial, financial, infrastructure, and jobs first strategy. And all we get is Tory chaos and egos vying for top Tory jobs. And from you.......misinformation about carpet industry, and ramblings about the coffee trade. Keep up the good work."
Mark Garnier fails again to discuss the pressing issues happening in Wyre Forest in his Shuttle opinion page
Personally, and for some time, I've questioned why Mark Garnier regularly fails in his Shuttle opinion page to discuss more of the pressing issues happening in Wyre Forest. It seems most of the time he prefers to talk about things going on elsewhere, or his Ministerial travels. Local people, I would think, might prefer our MP pays a bit more attention to what's going on in his own backyard with issues caused by him and his Party's Governmental failings and austerity; things like the Worcs NHS crisis, the social care crisis spilling over into the NHS, workers falling pay levels, insecure work, income inequality, inflation, and foodbanks.
To raise such policy matters and constructively criticise, as Labour does, is legitimate. Personal abuse is not acceptable, and no one in Wyre Forest Labour, so far as I know, has engaged in abuse. So, whilst Mark is correct to say the election in Wyre Forest was free from abuse, many might wonder why he's now talking about such abuse issues happening elsewhere? Especially, when in the same article, he's targeting Labour supporters as the source of abuse and not criticising some of the frankly disgusting articles appearing in the national right wing press about Corbyn and other Labour politicians during the election.
Let's not forget, that murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, who he mentions, had a killer who in part was emboldened by the same national right wing media and its frenzied coverage against foreigners, especially during the referendum debate, but he says absolutely nothing about that frenzied coverage.
Further, it's also relevant to ask Mark why he's peddling outright lies about Labour's General Election Manifesto saying we promised to write off student debt when we said no such thing. In my view, telling lies merely for political opportunistic reasons, which is what he regularly does in his own Shuttle column, is a form of abuse. It's abusing his position as an MP and the trust the electorate put in their MP to tell the truth.
I might also ask why, if he is so keen to stamp out personal abuse, he's retweeting stuff from a person (Guido Fawkes) who has been personally abusive towards Diane Abbott and other Labour MP's. My advice to Mark is that people who live in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones, and that he should be more careful about the company he keeps, even if it is on twitter.
It would be helpful to our local political discourse if he apologised for his remarks, otherwise, he's guilty of being part of the same abuse problem he claims to object to. The problem then might be for him, if others then choose to revisit abuse on him in consequence of his remarks, his objections might sound rather hollow.
Let's not forget, historically, he expressed a view of some of the Wyre Forest electorate as being 'dog-end voters'. Is that not a form of abuse too? He really ought to be more careful what he says. I think Wyre Forest really deserves much better from its MP who claims on his twitter account he's 'working for all Wyre Forest on every issue' because sometimes it appears he prefers to work for only some of his electorate, the wealthiest, or only those who agree with him.
Labour: We never pledged to write off tuition fee debts
Tory MP: we have no need to attract ‘dog-end voters in the outlying regions’
What are the headlines for employment and the economy?
The Tories would have us believe all is well.
The truth is somewhat different in Wyre Forest as we have a False Unemployment rate, staggering self employment levels, low job density rate, low stagnating wages, insecure employment, loss of welfare, rising living costs, rising debt in consequence - all contributory factors to a potential for another economic crash.
How Brexit plays out in this is anyone's guess because loss of the single market will have a detrimental impact too creating the "perfect storm" of events. And Brexit Minister David Davis today alarmingly admitted (15/3/17) that the Govt has made no assessment of the impact of leaving the Single Market - you couldn't make up this level of incompetence and complacency. The point is action needs to be taken, but the Tories don't seem to have any long term plan that Labour can see in order to address it apart from people being force fed more of the same economic pills....let's hope we're wrong and we're not in a position in 2020 of saying "We told you so".
Of course, people can choose to believe stats or not. Research shows people tend to more readily believe actual true personal stories rather than stats, we all probably have stories to relay about local people we know having to work two or more jobs to make ends meet in a constant stream of changing up and down weekly work patterns amended at will by the employer. Or struggling to find work at all......
You won't find either the truth about the stats or these personal stories in the media. Why?!
THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AND TORY CON - STORY:
Our MP is constantly making a song and dance about how well the economy is doing and none so pointedly as when he's referring to the reducing unemployment count in Wyre Forest which according to the official figures stands at 755.
However, the truth and the stats behind the figures reveal an altogether different story. What you'll find is jobless figures based on a not altogether straightforward picture, a seemingly shrinking market of available workers (irrespective of migrant workers), bogus self-employment, skills shortage, a huge number of economically inactive people (including those in the count who might want work but can't start on 'x' date being discounted from unemployment figures), and insecure work with rising living costs for people who debt fuel consumer spending making the state of the economy look better than it actually is.
Without prompt action and investment in infrastructure, education, training, housing, and more importantly a better protected workforce with decent secure jobs it will lead to another crash.
The people of Wyre Forest did not vote Brexit to be presented with an insecure, low wage, low corporate tax, bargain basement economy forged in austerity as the Tories seem to be advocating. The Tories last year attacked trade unions, and in terms of stemming this type of insecure work, your chances of being on a zero hour contract in a unionised workplace are dramatically reduced, halved in fact.
AND SO ON TO THE STATS (based on TUC, ONS, County Council & Bank of England data):
According to the TUC report, 28% of all new jobs in the West Midlands are insecure meaning low paid zero hour contracts, temporary or seasonal work. In Wyre Forest, it means of the official reduction in the claimant count of 1,745 since 2010, that 488 of those 'new' jobs are in insecure low paid zero hour type jobs. Or to put it another way, a total of 3,456 of employees in Wyre Forest out of a total employee count of 36,000 are in vulnerable work. Many probably have to do more than one job because 35% of this work is now part-time. Indeed, some 13,000 people in Wyre Forest work in retail, hotels, food and social care, which are industries notorious for part-time, poor pay, poor conditions, and insecure contracts. It may well be the real number of insecure workers is higher than the stats would have us believe.
Of the bulk of the official unemployed, the majority, some 570, are people in the prime of their working life, aged 24 to 64. Wyre Forest's employment density has always lagged behind the national average by some 15 to 20%, and it is no different today at 0.63 (calculation is jobs filled divided by working age population and U.K. Wide is around 0.83). It peaked in Wyre Forest under the last Labour Government at 0.68 when those employed stood at 42,000 versus today's figure of 36,000. So, contrary to Tory claims, the picture is not rosy and the jobs market is not at an all time high, certainly not in Wyre Forest at any rate and less people are employed here than ever.
To clarify further, the economically active numbers since 2010 (when Tories were elected) have dropped from 51,000 to 47,000 (this figure is different to the 'employed' figure as an overall number for people in work because it includes the self employed). That's a loss of 4,000 workers from the jobs market which is not necessarily explained away by either the 2,000 or so that have retired from the jobs market, or the the number of 'new' jobs created. If you therefore compare it to the job density figure it suggests there are in fact many more people unemployed than the official figures reveal and in a reducing working age population. The age stats also suggest a loss to the area of working age people under 40, so we may be losing younger people to better opportunities elsewhere. The total population in Wyre Forest has however risen, mainly in the 40-49 and over 60's groups. That could be older people moving here to retire or upsize their accommodation from more expensive areas and already in decent jobs or in stable financial positions. Either way, we have an ageing population and reducing number of people working and tending to their needs and to pay taxes to keep our services going.
So something odd is going on in Wyre Forest and your MP doesn't want you to know what it is because he realises, if he actually understands it, that the economy is based on a house of cards which the Tories have a vested interest in keeping going to keep your labour costs cheap to make the figures look good.
And what of the growth in self-employment in Wyre Forest as we are all entrepreneurs now aren't we? Not quite, despite a staggering increase of 3,300 in the self employed up to 7,000 from 3,700 in 2010, many find themselves in bogus self-employment as part of Britain's Über style gig economy. This is yet another way of massaging the employment figures. If all was well in the garden and people were earning loads of money and paying tax on it, the Tories would not have had to put up self-employed N.I. last week to raise tax revenues to reduce the deficit. A decision which caused them so much grief, they've now reversed it. Proof that austerity is failing and which has seen the national debt hit nearly £2trillion, and for what? We've nothing of substance to show for it.
The corporation tax reduction for the big elites has not worked its way through that's for sure and in Wyre Forest where 89% of business are small, it never will either. Britain hands £93billion worth of subsidies, yes £93billion, to some of these elite companies to pay low wages and offer insecure employment, many of which pay no tax anyway, that's them costing UK taxpayers £3500 per household on average. How much of a dent in the UK deficit would that make one wonders, mitigating any need for austerity. Don't forget these same companies also had that £30billion tax giveaway too with corporation tax reductions. That's the wealthy giving to the wealthy and everyone of us is paying for it.
It confirms we have a low wage, low skill economy and in Wyre Forest 29% of people have no qualifications. These are not highly paid, highly skilled self-employed tradesmen we are talking about here. The average income for people in Wyre Forest is £40 a week less than everywhere else in the West Midlands. That's £2,000 a year less than our neighbours in Birmingham. You could say the Wyre Forest worker is being plundered of income to the tune of £5,500 per year in families with one person working. A bigger sum still if two or more in a household are working.
Across the region, some 22% of people are economically inactive, long term sick - modern life and work is not a healthy balance it seems. No wonder allied to austerity the NHS is creaking at the seems. In Wyre Forest, an eye watering 13,000 fall into this category. Of those, 5,700 are desperate for work, but can't get it and find themselves on some sort of benefit not recorded in the unemployment stats. That's because they may be disabled for instance, yet Mark Garnier and his Party have targeted them for cuts, but again he doesn't seem to understand their angst when they visit his surgery as their benefits (PIP ex DLA) are slashed, he calls it a "statistical anomaly". Well, a banker would wouldn't he, figures seem to elude them, maybe the Banking crash was also a statistical anomaly? In real terms, if you add this group looking for work to the calculated model of jobless (a statisticians equation claimed to be more precise on unemployment figures) it adds up to some 7,600 people.
Bingo, 7,600 there you have it, the real Wyre Forest jobless figure which would explain why wages are still stagnating in a supply and demand job market with over supply in the system. It's 'Why' employers can get away with insecure employment, hire and fire, and why consumer spending is propped up by growing debt in unsecured lending rising at 10% per year because people can't make ends meet so borrow their way out of it. A house of cards on the edge of collapse which an interest rate rise would blow over. It's also why the Bank of England won't raise interest rates in preference to turning the credit tap off, and why they have used QE to put money in the economy. Money that would have been better used on infrastructure, education, housing, and jobs, rather than giving investors a shares bonus and potentially creating yet more borrowing. And adding to the national debt of course......£60billion more since the Brexit referendum in fact to keep a wobbling economy afloat, but yet the Brexit vote has had no effect on the economy we are told.
If only we invested in education, training, and proper secure regulated work, whilst offering affordable housing to give our local people a future; then we'd find as our skills and creative talents are harnessed, we'd all be better off in Wyre Forest and our wages and the economy would prosper. Sadly, none of this is on offer from the Tories, and it will take a change of Government to achieve that in order to invest in our future, and our infrastructure, rather than the politics of division and austerity failure as the Tories race their bus into a hard Brexit in a final attempt to crash the economy and likely cut us off from the single market in consequence.
One final thing, when it comes to borrowing and putting the nation in debt, the Tories have it by a country mile over Labour whether with or without a financial crisis in play, by a third more in fact. (data: House of Commons Library/Bank of England research by Prof Richard Murphy University of London).
Wyre Forest Labour Party
I was disappointed to find that 12th January's Shuttle failed to mention the crisis in our NHS or the tragedies closer to home at Worcester Royal, despite these issues being important to most of us.
No critical journalism in sight, no views from patients, no alternative perspective on how this crisis may be sorted.
What the Shuttle did allow in an act of political imbalance, was Mark Garnier, in his usual column, to try and convince us that the problems with our A&E in Worcester are all down to poor management. Well he would say that wouldn't he, because it lets him and his Tory MP colleagues off the hook. Collectively, they have starved the NHS of funds, privatised parts of it, and denied councils enough social care money, so adding to the huge demands on our NHS. It's a wonder our excellent doctors and nurses can cope at all against this background of Government disrespect, despite his cuddly words for them.
This is a crisis designed at Tory HQ and made in Downing Street. It's not good enough that he's finally woken up to it, but only half heartedly it seems when he says this is a matter for the 'local MP' in Worcester. It seems it's only a local issue when it suits though, given he said nothing about the closure of Harvington Ward at Kidderminster recently.
Maybe he's not realised that the whole county relies on A&E at Worcester Royal, so he needs to get on his bike and do more to look after the Health interests of his constituents. Otherwise, he'll be in for a shock come the next election.
Wyre Forest Labour Party
As porkies go, this is a whopper. That 'extra' £10billion Mark Garnier proclaims is heading the NHS's way has even seen the Tory Chair of the Parliamentary Committee claim the £10billion figure is 'misleading'. Those of us who use and value the NHS know something is deeply amiss with it and can probably agree it needs more money. The truth is it won't be getting it any time soon from the Tory Government.
Locally, we have seen the NHS have to save £2.6million in mental health care by closing Harvington Ward at Kidderminster Hospital. Surely it could stay open if the Tories are pumping more money into it? The answer is no, because there is no 'new' money and the Tory Health & Social Care Act also made CCG's responsible for commissioning, thus opening the door to more privatisation on the illusion of 'saving money' - or for the cynics out there, handing contracts to large private companies like Virgin who recently got a £700 million contract in the South West. So now, your money, is helping large corporations make vast profits from treating patients - money that could be better spent on our NHS services.
That £10billion figure, once you account for inflation, NHS deficits which are at an all time high thanks to cuts, the fact that some of it is robbing Peter to pay Paul by taking it from 'preventative care' NHS budgets by cutting them, suddenly gets whittled down to around £4.5billion. Then, thanks to the massive cuts to Social Care to the tune of £4.6billion since 2010 with a projected shortfall still of £4billon come 2020, it actually produces a negative figure, and probably then some, because more of us are attending A&E because preventative and social services have disappeared. Worse still, when you get to A&E, the NHS can't attract enough Doctors and Nurses because resources are stretched so thin, meaning Trusts go further into deficit spending a fortune on agency staff just to keep services running. You've probably read that Worcestershire Acute Trust is in a financial and care crisis? They have a cuts programme ongoing and the Government are about to implement another such programme, called 'sustainability and transformation' which is a clever way of saying more 'cuts'. Of course, they'll dress it up as something meaningful, consult you, then ignore you like always happens.
If you think that's it, it isn't, the Government have said councils can raise council tax by 2% to spend on social care in order to try and offset the council social care cuts in things like older people services and homecare. So, you'll pay more for less, be blaming the council and not the Government responsible, and no doubt Mark and his colleagues will go on singing like canaries about how rosy things all are.
Smoke and mirrors sums it up nicely.
Wyre Forest Labour Party
In the press of late, our Tory MP, Mark Garnier, has been highlighting the significance of 2 things:
- The impending West Midland Combined Authority and the economic opportunities it brings us in Wyre Forest.
- The Government's claim that it is pumping £10 billion extra into the NHS.
Post Brexit, and because investment is crucial, let's examine these 2 claims because he's been very keen on raising them with constituents in order to show the Tories are listening and learning post-Brexit. Not least, because in place like Wyre Forest, the largest leave votes in the EU referendum were in constituencies like ours, where his Party's austerity measures have hit our public services, the poorest, most vulnerable, and the lowest paid, the hardest - something that has nothing to do with the EU but which seems conveniently ignored by politicians on the right despite all the rhetoric around in June during the referendum.