Archive for January, 2015

Health options

images9Hypochondria rules, ok. It seems we’re becoming obsessed with health. Last week ITV Wales had a health week. Not to be outdone health has taken over the BBC airwaves this week.

You can be certain if there’s a bandwagon, politicians will be crawling on board. Not a week goes by without a press release been issued by the parties on some aspect of health.

If it’s not Plaid saying they’ll employ a 1000 medics, the Tories banking on about a cancer drugs fund and also a public enquiry and the Liberal Democrats wanting a commission on health.

The government meanwhile are having to defend themselves on missed targets. If it’s not ambulance response times it’s waiting hours at accident and emergency units or some other target seemingly missed.

To top it all, politicians  have the cheek to protest that the NHS shouldn’t become a political football.

Oh! what hypocrisy. Of course it’s a political football, because politicians know that there are votes in turning the public’s frustration to party advantage. They’re all into the blame culture.

Poverty and an increasingly elderly population does’nt lend itself to good health outcomes. Spending on the NHS is often not the best or most effective way of dealing with ‘health.’ Often health outcomes can be improved by expenditure elsewhere.

Insulate Welsh homes and you not only tackle climate emissions but it also reduces the number of respiratory illnesses.

There is plenty of research evidence that shows that reducing loneliness amongst the elderly reduces their need for hospitals.

Expenditure on leisure centres and a proper funded public health education programme to ensure the nation exercises. This can do more that throwing good money after bad on medical treatments.

Of course, money needs to be spent on the NHS, but it should be spent wisely. Simply throwing money at the problem without lateral thinking will not sort out the service.

Most object to paying more taxes, but a first class health service doesn’t come cheaply.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister is right when he says that the NHS is being put under too much pressure dealing with self-inflicted conditions.

Welsh people ought to wise-up that unless they cut out fags, booze and junk food disaster awaits.  Should the NHS to waste resources on them? Well, that a question that politicians won’t engage with this side of  the general election me thinks.



Weekly news

18 to 23 January


‘An increase to 100 Members would bring the Assembly close to the ideal position where every Member would be able to concentrate properly on their committee, executive or office holder role.’ That’s  the view of the Assembly Commission. Clearly size does matter in this instance. But it’s a decision for Parliament and not Assembly, can you see them the other end of the M4 agreeing if it eventually leads to pressure for less of them. Turkeys and their voting behaviour come to mind.

Oh dear the broadcasters have called Mr Cameron’s bluff. They now propose to include the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP in the TV election debates. Over to you now, Mr Cameron.

Proposals to introduce a law to ban smacking children in Wales have been dropped. Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews said it was the “wrong vehicle” to introduce such a law. This view was not shared by his Labour colleague Christine Chapman who happens to be chair of the assembly’s communities, equality and local government committee  and her committee tried to including the ban as part of a new law to tackle domestic violence. She said she was disappointed the government “cannot yet do the right thing”. The governments view was carried  with the help of Tory votes. Who’s the nasty party now then? 

Wales’ unemployment rate dropped to 7% according to the Office for National Statistics(ONS). The number of people out of work was 103,000 in the three months to November 2014. Close analysis shows 11,000 people have come from economic inactivity and joined the unemployment figures.

Wales are set to follow Scotland and scrap the Right-to-buy.  The policy first introduced by Mrs Thatcher was undoubtedly popular amongst many. After all who wouldn’t be happy in acquiring a house way below its market rate.   More than 130,000 much needed houses in Wales were bought under right-to-buy, for council tenants, and right-to-acquire, for housing association tenants, since 1980. Many of these houses were eventually sold on to private landlords. It’s a policy that has been in decline as the maximum discount in Wales was cut from £24,000 to £16,000. This caused annual sales to drop to a few hundred. The Housing Minister, Lesley Griffiths said that she wanted to protect social housing  “to those that really need it.” Meanwhile the English government are still wedded to the system having recently increased the maximum discount to £75,000 causing a rise in sales. A strange policy when the waiting lists for social housing are longer than ever.


According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies coalition changes to taxes and benefits have cost the average UK household £1,127 a year. Low-income working-age households have been hit hardest, losing the most as a percentage of their income. Middle-income working-age households without children have gained the most.

htpqtdvj-1411554652-1The UK government has published plans, based on the Smith Commission, for new Scottish Parliament powers. But surprise, surprise the SNP ministers said they had been significantly watered down.  Prime Minister David Cameron said Westminster ministers had kept their promise to strengthen Holyrood. But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said UK ministers would get a veto on Scottish powers in key areas. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all pledged to ensure the new Scotland Bill becomes law, whoever wins the election. Mr Cameron said proposed legislation delivered on the “vow” made by the pro-Union parties ahead of the referendum.  But Ms Sturgeon said, under the proposals, the UK government would hold a veto over key devolved powers, including the ability to “abolish the bedroom tax”, and called for an urgent rethink of what was on offer.

The Polls


YouGov/Sun         Con 33% Lab 34% LibDem 6% UKIP 14% Green 8%

TNS            Con 31%(+3) Lab 31%(-4) LibDem 8%(+2)  UKIP 16%(-2) Green 7%(+2)

Scottish poll

Ipsos MORI Con 12%(+2) Lab 24%(+1) LibDem 4%(-2) SNP 52%(nc) Green 4% (-2)


YouGov/Sun         Con 32% Lab 30% LibDem 8% UKIP 15% Green 10%


Populus         Con 35% Lab 36% LibDem 8% UKIP 13% Green 4%

Ashcroft         Con 29%(-5) Lab 28%(nc) LibDem 9%(+1) UKIP 15% (-1) Green 11% (+3)

Scottish poll

Survation/Daily Record Con 14%(-2) Lab 26%(+2) LibDem 7%(+2) SNP 46%(-2) Green 3% (+2) UKIP 4% (nc)


YouGov/Sunday Times         Con 31% Lab 32% LibDem 7% UKIP 18% Green 7%

Opinium/Observer         Con 28%(-2) Lab 33%(nc) LibDem 7%(-1) UKIP 20%(+3) Green 6%(+2)

ComRes/IoS & Mirror         Con 33%(nc) Lab 34%(nc) LibDem 7%(-1) UKIP 18%(nc) Green 3%(+1)

Scottish poll

Panelbase/Sunday Times Con 14%(-1) Lab 31%(+3) LibDem 3%(nc) SNP 41%(-4) UKIP 7% (nc)


Noses still in the trough


With depressing consistency Oxfam let us again know how unequal the world is.

Last year 85 people had as much wealth as half the world, this year it’s a mere 80. This inequality is unacceptable. Just 1 per cent of the world’s population will own half of all the world’s wealth. Oxfam has done us all a favour in showing just how wide the gap now is between the rich and the rest of us.

But it’s not just on the world stage that the gap between rich and poor is widening its happening here at home. The Equality Trust’s wealth found the 100 richest saw their wealth increase by £40.1 billion last year, the equivalent of £109.95 million a day, or £1,272 a second.

They put in context by saying  that this increase in wealth of £40.1 billion could:

Pay the energy bill for all 26.4 million UK households for over a year (13 months.) Cost = £40.1 billion OR

Provide 2.76 million Living Wage jobs, or 1.83 million jobs paid at an average salary. The former providing jobs for every unemployed person. Cost = £40.06 or 40.09 billion

Elevate all 1.386 million National Minimum Wage jobs to Living Wage jobs. Cost = £3.52 billion OR

Pay the grocery bill for all of the UK’s users of food banks for 14 years. Cost = £37.76 billion OR

Pay a year’s rent for nearly half of all renting households, or 4.05 million people.  Cost = £40.04 billion OR

Provide eighteen times the value of annual loans provided by the payday lending industry. Cost = £39.6 billion.

In a separate study the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that at least 8.1 million parents and children are living on incomes below what is needed to cover a minimum household budget, up by more than a third from 5.9 million in 2008/09.

Most people when asked find such figures as completely unacceptable. To be precise 8 out of every 10 agree that the gap between rich and poor is too wide and needs narrowing.

The great British public have the sense to realize that it is not only morally wrong but it also practically wrong. It leads to many social problems such as higher rates of violent crime, lower life expectancy, poorer mental and physical health and worse educational outcomes.

OK you might argue that such issues are for the bleeding heart. To sort it what is needed is not tackling redistribution but simply just grow the economy so that everyone gets better off. Benefits trickling down to all those below was the old mantra. But did it work?

Not so says the OECD.  They have shown that the UK’s high level of inequality may have reduced the UK’s growth between 1990-2010 by 8.6%.

One would hardly call the International Monetary Fund as soft hearted but they said that redistribution has an important role to play in reducing inequality and increasing growth.

We know what needs to be done – a progressive tax regime. But have our politicians the guts to do what is right. Tax the rich properly. Clearly their track record doesn’t give us much hope that this is going to happen anytime soon. Not much sign of Ed Miliband having much of a radical edge  with a clear programme of wealth redistribution.

It looks as if the poor will again remain with us.