Tuesday, 27 January 2015

We cannot have an effective NHS on the cheap

Catching up on the news yesterday (Jan 26) on the BBC website I saw a reference to a comment made in the Sun something like "more money won't solve the NHS problems". So I thought I'd do a few sums.

In the recent past the UK has spent about 9.5% of its GDP on health. This compares with about 11.5% of countries such as Germany and France (and nearly 18% for the US!). So we spend about 2% of GDP less than France/Germany.

The GDP of the UK is about 1.5 trillion pounds, but lets work in billions; ie 1500 billion pounds (BP).

And 2% of 1500 BP is 2x1500/100 which equals 30 billion pounds! Rather puts the Labour Party's promised 2.5 BPs and the Tory's even smaller sum rather in the shade doesn't it?

So: sure; money isn't everything but that extra 30 billion ought to solve a few problems, shouldn't it?

So the most fundamental problem with the NHS is that the political class has failed to persuade the electorate that we can't have a world class health system without paying for it!

Personally, I think that this country needs a progressively graduated hypothecated health tax on income, collected by the Inland Revenue, with the level set annually by an independent body responsible to Parliament. Otherwise, this lack of funding will eventually bring down the NHS and we will have to adopt a more expensive organisational model.

Roger Oliver

Monday, 8 December 2014

Gatwick Airport, a Big no to Expansion

This post was written by Nick Anderson and has been posted on his behalf.
Gatwick Airport, Noise and other Pollution
Moi? I recently joined the Green Party. I am not particularly political but thanks to Gatwick’s behaviour I now want to help to help fix the UK so that our children can live healthily and in a sustainable environment. For the record I am an ex-environmental scientist who now works in the IT industry.

Main Parties Uncommitted? Currently, the only party to make a firm commitment against Gatwick expansion and plane noise are the Green Party. The so called main parties have turned their backs on us and supported the investors who are sucking the life blood out of the South East; a fine example of how democracy works.

Fake Economy Ignores Pollution, we pay twice. The air industry is based on a false economy of paying little or no taxes. So taxpayers unknowingly pay for the £500m profit Gatwick are sending to their foreign investors, little left for the UK. We also have to suffer the racket the planes make, both now and in years to come. If you think you are safe up North, think again, this is only the beginning of the profit pumps.

Consultation, a bad joke filling the skies with pollution? There has been little or no consultation, and certainly none with South Eastern voters. It’s no joke, if Gatwick is allowed to expand (they want to, see below) they will fill the skies with planes as they have done for most of 2014 but three times as bad. Gatwick planes have frequently flown very low over my village until 02:50am (totally against regulations). We are 20 miles from Gatwick.

Concentrated Flight Paths, a Trial? If they were trials then why are Gatwick still flying low over our heads in December? Liars? Incompetent?

Pollution? Surely not Gatwick? No one is even considering this and Gatwick are keeping this out of the equation! Try not to think about the air pollution (NOx, SOx, PAH, Particulates and un-combusted fuel) raining down on your head whilst the profits wing their way overseas. This combination a good delivery method for inserting toxic components right onto the surface of our lungs, where they can easily be absorbed. No one can tell us if the pollution is damaging us and our children, no one is checking. The authorities are turning their backs.

Gatwick Noise line? It’s another Joke! The laughable ‘Noise’ line fail to respond to more than a couple of complaints from any individual and their ‘responses’ do not refer to noise at all. I also understand they took a 67 year old lady (Ann Jones) to court for making multiple complaints, see Ann Jones Article - Crawley News. Charming eh?

No Joke, they are not interested in us. So far there has been little or no consultation, and certainly none with the Kent and Sussex consumers/voters who have paid for it in more than one way. It’s no joke, if these people are allowed to expand they will fill the skies with planes as they have done for most of 2014; but three times as bad; you won’t be able to sleep or think. Gatwick have been flying low over my area until 02:50am, totally against regulations, charming! Today is Friday 5th December and they are flying low over our village all day from 8am to now (9pm), one after the other. I do not understand why East Sussex CC are not opposing Gatwick plans for expansion (see below). Kent CC have recently come out and sided with their voters. Gatwick have stated that they will only fly over “fields”. Liars!

Anti-Gatwick Support. I note that the recent GACC Meeting was attended by around a thousand people. Some support when you consider that each citizen (i.e. voter) attending may represent between 10-50 others who could not make it or have not been reached out to. The additional number of people affected has been estimated at 30,000. I believe the figure is higher, but no one is collecting such data, another scandal. Also consider the springing up and increased membership of many pressure groups such as GACC, CAGNE, Airport Watch, ESSCAN etc. and the local groups all over the South East. I also note that Paul Carter recently pulled Kent CC’s support for Gatwick expansion as have several other councils.

Start Here, if you have not already. Here’s where you can start if you are affected by plane noise or worried about the pollution:
  • Get People to join the Greens. Enough said! Look at the Green Party’s policy on this tawdry industry.
  • Pressure Groups. Support and get information from one or more of the anti-Gatwick groups such as GACC, CAGNE, Airport Watch, ESSCAN (Crowborough) and also one of the many in local area groups (Hever, Sevenoaks etc.).
  • Complain! Every time you get a noisy plane over your head report it via one of the methods you will find on the GACC or CAGNE web sites, make sure you let the CAA and the DFT know as well (full instructions on the CAGNE Take Action Page.). You can also download an Android Compatible App to automate complaints from your Android phone (e.g. Galaxy). Check the site to see if any other versions are available. Above all make your voice heard.
  • Don’t have Internet? If your neighbour or friend does not have internet access tell them how to do this in writing or by phone.
  • Council not onside? Complain to your local council (e.g. Councillor Francis Whetstone at East Sussex CC who still support Gatwick) if they continue not to defy Gatwick. Also go to your Parish Council meetings and make your voice heard. Get elected if needs be!
Do Something! Do something now unless you want you and your children to live in a hell-hole run from overseas!

Sir Howard Davies Consultation. Gatwick want to expand and are after a second runway, totally unfeasible . To make your voice heard do the Airports Commission consultation at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/increasing-the-uks-long-term-aviation-capacity and then scroll down to Ways to Respond (online, email or post). Just remember those flights are paid for by you. Also remember, do not be a NIMBY, support non-expansion, whenever you can.

I am saying NO to any expansion and NO to second runways; it’s based on false accounting, unknown pollution levels and looks like a whitewash.

Finally, I intend to devote the rest of my life to making sure that I did my best to leave our children with a decent environment. Right now I need to work, like all of us, but I fully intend to spend as much time as I can helping the Green Party with other issues once we have solved the Gatwick problem. If you want to help you will need to use your vote wisely and give a and to stop the current “snout in trough” politics that is ruining our planet.

Get involved.
Nick Anderson

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Autumn Statement and A Green Infrastructure

What I find astonishing about the "Autumn" Statement on Wednesday and the commentary on it is the (almost?) complete lack of consideration of the problem of climate change, in this year of record temperatures. Isn't this the most serious problem that this country and the world faces?

Where is the extra support for new green technologies? Where are the plans for fleets of white vans working their way down our streets providing free insulation and draft proofing (backup by the legislation demanding minimum standards when properties are sold from 2020 onwards? ). Currently money is cheap to borrow and labour plentiful.

What a contrast with the attitudes shown in last week's letter to the Guardian (20/11/14) by Caroline Lucas and others with their plan for a "green infrastructure initiative for jobs", using a form of quantitative easing to make £50bn available a year.

This is why I am a member of The Green Party.

Roger Oliver (4/12/14)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Go Low Carbon AND do it for the money!

Go Low Carbon AND do it for the money!
précised by Jenny Huggett from an article in New Scientist by Fred Pierce.

A few weeks ago the Better Growth, Better Climate: the New Climate Economy Report was put before world leaders at the UN Climate Summit 2014 in New York. The new message is that fighting climate change does not, or need not, have a price tag, and that nations should cut emissions out of self-interest. The publication comes from the Global Climate Commission on the Economy and Climate, an independent body chaired by Felipe Calderon (former President of Mexico) and Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics).

The report states that if the world spends wisely on reducing emissions the climate problem could be largely solved and that economic growth would be greater than in a high-carbon economy. If all energy subsidies were removed the setting of emissions targets would be unnecessary, as market forces would create a low carbon economy! Maybe not news to Greens, or people actually working in renewables, but this is paradigm-shifting stuff for most politicians. The report goes on to say that delay is dangerous, for every coal fired power station built, the cost of shifting to a low carbon economy will be greater. In summary the reports recommendations are:

City structure - Cities need to become compact instead of sprawling, and with mass public transport and cleaner power. Though how this could be achieved in practice with existing cities is not covered.

Degraded farm land restoration – Restoring just 12% of degraded land could feed 200 million people. Most degraded land is in the third world where most of the undernourished live, rather a lot of the rest is in the USA (that last bit is my view!).

Energy generation – Half of all new energy generating capacity is now renewable and the price of solar power has fall by 90% in less than a decade. The report concludes that solar now can outcompete coal, and that the switch is a “no brainer”. Ill health caused by fossil fuel generated smog cuts GNP by 4%.

Critics say that the switch to a low carbon economy requires large infrastructure investment not accounted for in the way the report compares fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. But the authors point out that such costs will be “swamped” by better health and economic efficiency benefits.

And this report is not a lone voice, a report from the Cambridge Econometrics, forecast that with a cut of 60% carbon emissions in the UK by 2030, the GDP would be 1.1% higher than today.

If markets had perfect foresight the low carbon switch would just happen, but so long as the market is skewed by fossil fuel subsidies (which the International Energy Agency says are worth more than five times those for renewables), it is not going to happen. Only governments can change this.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste: National Screening Exercise - 1 Day Meeting

Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste:

National Screening Exercise
                                                    Disposal of
                                                    Radioactive WasteMost of the radioactive waste produced as a result of nuclear power generation in the UK since the 1950s is currently stored at the surface. A recent White Paper on implementing Geological Disposalconfirms government’s policy objective of disposing of higher level wastes in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), minimising the need for management by future generations by isolating waste within a suitable rock formation, at a sufficient depth that harmful quantities of radiation do not reach the surface. The White Paper recognises that a GDF must be sited in an area in which the local community has volunteered to host the facility, and which is geologically suitable. The Geological Society issued a statement on the White Paper.

The process outlined in the White Paper identifies geological evaluation as a priority from the outset. The developer, Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM), will undertake a national Geological Screening Exercise over the next two years, and effective communication of the results of this exercise and of supporting geological information will be vital in informing the deliberations of potential host communities. An independent review panel will be established by the Geological Society to review the robustness and suitability of the screening guidance and its subsequent application.

The screening exercise will be discussed at a one-day technical meeting at Burlington House on 30 September. The meeting is aimed at geoscientists and other professional specialists involved in the process, but is open to all. It will be followed by other events giving the public and interested stakeholders the opportunity to express their views. Attendance is free but advance registration is required.

Jenny Huggett (2/9/2014)

Monday, 28 July 2014

International comparison of various national health systems (including the NHS)

It seems at times that it is taken for granted that our NHS performs poorly and is in urgent need of reform. The tactics of the NHS's enemies are pretty transparent: find some lapse (exaggerate this if necessary – regrettably not always needed!), and give it wide publicity. Often the intention is to imply such lapses are typical of the NHS and indicate the need for radical reform. And under the current government (and often, sadly, the last Labour government) the assumption is that movement to an American-style privatised system is required.

The remarkable thing is how infrequently detailed comparisons between the NHS and the proposed alternatives are cited. The cynic in me suspects that that's because comparisons fail to show the performance of the NHS in a poor light.

As it happens a recent survey by the The Commonwealth Fund, an American private foundation, ranks the UK's NHS FIRST in the 11 nations surveyed! And the US comes last!

The NHS comes first for efficiency (perhaps not surprisingly to some of us) and first for “patient-centered care”. So much for the argument that our dirigist, top down, statist, monopolistic, clunky, socialistic system can't deliver!

The one factor in which the UK does poorly (“healthy lives”) reflects the ability of the society in general to support and promote public health. On this factor the US does even worse. Readers may recall that Wilkinson and Pickett's The Spirit Level showed that high income inequality is related to unhealthy populations, and, of course, the US and the UK have much higher income inequality than other developed nations.

So the next time someone makes an argument that assumes the NHS is rubbish, you can quote this study. 

The URL for the complete report is http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror.

Roger Oliver (26/7/2014)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

fracking - news from abroad

From the Petroleum Exploration Society of GB’s magazine, and article on exploration in Lithuania:

Chevron has pulled out of the recently awarded Silute-Taurage shale gas block following proposed changes in the law that would have increased taxes and imposed additional protection provisions. While the central government is eager to reduce its dependency on Russia for natural gas imports, anti-cracking sentiment took the form of both local protests and political proposals for a moratorium on the practice (sic), ultimately creating too much risk and uncertainty for the US company.

This shows that the protests ARE worthwhile.

And the government of Jordan has told Shell that “if a single goat dies" as a result of their planned oil shale extraction in their country they will be kicked out. (I have that from someone very close to the source).