The public purse is being abused
NHS budgets are being valued over patient welfare
Since the recession kicked in, I’ve witnessed its impact first hand. There are the patients who come in to A&E desperate and suicidal having lost their job, and facing financial ruin and uncertain futures. They’ve told me about having their houses repossessed; about their families splitting up as temporary accommodation is found; about bailiffs knocking on the door.
But I’ve also seen the effects on a personal level, with friends unceremoniously made redundant from jobs they’d worked hard to get. Several of them – intelligent, well-qualified and personable – have been unable to find work for over a year. They spend their days sending off application forms – never to have them acknowledged.
It’s important that those of us in the public sector remember those who do not and behave with according humility. Yet there is a new breed of public servant with a pay package more akin to that of a city fat cat but who does not have any of the risk or share-holder accountability associated with the private sector. I’m ashamed to say, this includes many in the NHS. An Incomes Data Services report into pay in 380 trusts published last week found that senior NHS managers typically earned nearly £150,000 a year. While the country was struggling through a recession in 2008-2009, managers in the NHS received an average pay rise of 7 per cent. This came on top of a 6.4 per cent rise the previous year. In contrast, nurses received less than 3 per cent.
The chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, is paid £270,000 while at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, the chief executive received £237,500. These are phenomenal wages. The Department of Health has attempted to deflect blame by arguing that trusts are independent organisations that set their own levels of senior pay. But this money comes from our taxes and therefore, ultimately, the Government is responsible for what it is spent on.
As stockbrokers, estate agents and retailers will tell you, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Yet this cannot be applied to the pubic sector. While taxpayers pay for NHS managers, we have no say in how much they are paid or in what we think they are worth.
I accept that senior managers merit a decent salary and that the best candidates need to be attracted to these positions. But some pay deals are extraordinary and out of line with the salaries of even the highest-paid clinical staff. The same need to attract and retain the best people applies to front-line staff, too – those with decades of training who must make life-and-death decisions about others – and yet for them there is no prospect of such exorbitant salaries.
Chief executives are responsible for multi-million pound budgets but nurses, for example, are responsible for the lives of patients. So are we saying that we value budgets over patient welfare? I think this is emblematic of the shift in emphasis in health-care that in recent years, whereby hospitals are increasingly seen as revenue-generating business rather than places that serve the health needs of the local community. So business acumen is valued over clinical skill.
While there is a threat to front- line services because of the economic downturn, I fail to see how such a lack of restraint in salaries can be justified. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to be working in an organisation where people at the top are abusing the public purse in this way.
Some fiery comments from Judith Curry
Prof. Curry is a moderate Warmist and is commenting below on Lord Oxburgh’s whitewash of “Climategate”
The primary frustration with these investigations is that they are dancing around the principal issue that people care about: the IPCC and its implications for policy. Focusing only on CRU activities (which was the charge of the Oxbourgh panel) is of interest mainly to UEA and possibly the politics of UK research funding (it will be interesting to see if the U.S. DOE sends any more $$ to CRU).
Given their selection of CRU research publications to investigate (see Bishop Hill), the Oxbourgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion. However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.
The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative. I don’t see much hope for improving the IPCC process under its current leadership.
The historical temperature record and the paleoclimate record over the last millennium are important in many many aspects of climate research and in the communication of climate change to the public; both of these data sets are at the heart of the CRU email controversy.
In my opinion, there needs to be a new independent effort to produce a global historical surface temperature dataset that is transparent and that includes expertise in statistics and computational science. Once “best” methods have been developed and assessed for assembling such a dataset including uncertainty estimates, a paleoclimate reconstruction should be attempted (regional, hemispheric, and possibly global) with the appropriate uncertainty estimates.
The public has lost confidence in the data sets produced by CRU, NASA, Penn State, etc. While such an independent effort may confirm the previous analysies, it is very likely that improvements will be made and more credible uncertainty estimates can be determined.
And the possibility remains that there are significant problems with these datasets; this simply needs to be sorted out. Unfortunately, the who and how of actually sorting all this out is not obvious. Some efforts are underway in the blogosphere to examine the historical land surface data (e.g. such as GHCN), but even the GHCN data base has numerous inadequacies. Addressing the issues associated with the historical and paleo temperature records should be paramount.
Immigration – the subject no mainstream British politician wants to talk about
Outside Lincoln station a taxi driver improbably claiming his name is Richard Wobblegob says: “Honesty, that’s what we want. A bit of honesty.” He’s sick of politicians, the slippery, grasping lot of ’em. Wobblegob is clear about one thing, though: he won’t vote Labour any more. “They’re lying bastards. And I wouldn’t vote Conservative. Don’t trust them, they’re not for the working man. Think I might go for UKIP.”
After feckless MPs and economic shambles, Wobblegob’s concern is immigration — and UKIP’s stance on the subject is pretty clear. It doesn’t want any, at least not for five years. Nor do the English Democrats or the BNP, who also have candidates standing in Lincoln.
For the past two elections, immigration has been the issue that dare not speak its name. Anyone questioning the number of people coming to live in Britain was crudely accused by Labour of racism; the Tories, fearing rivers of electoral blood, ran scared.
Yet it is an issue the public wants debated. Today’s Sunday Times/YouGov poll shows that 53% of people believe there has not been enough discussion of immigration in the campaign so far. And 76% believe the number of immigrants coming to Britain is “far too high”.
In many ways Lincoln, which has mirrored the national result in elections since 1974, is an island within an island. Moated by fenland, it has a castle and cathedral on a hill, with attendant twee shops and ye olde Primark and Fat Face in a smart shopping centre. Further out lie tattered estates of Victorian terraces.
There isn’t an investment banker for miles. Instead, low-paid agricultural and processing work predominates, pulling in thousands of migrants from eastern Europe. Are they a boon or a problem? What do the locals think?
The first person I approach in the high street is a dark-haired young woman in sunglasses and black jeans, accessorised with an infant in an all-terrain buggy. Will you be voting in the election, I ask?
“Zorry. No spik Inglis. Rushan,” she says. She’s from Latvia. Nearby is Pete, supervisor of the local public conveniences. He’s worried about Gordon Brown spraying money all over the place, partly on migrants.
“I’m not opposed to people from abroad. If they come to work here, that’s all right,” he says. “It’s those that come across and sprout at taxpayers’ expense that are a problem. Why should they be allowed to do that?”
Others suspect the influx of eastern Europeans has depressed wages and snaffled jobs. The obvious person to ask is a young blonde woman hovering outside the Staffline employment agency. Are immigrants taking jobs from locals?
“I don’t know,” says Sandra, 19. “I’m from Lithuania.” Turns out she’s the receptionist in the employment agency. She works five days a week there, does two days waitressing and studies animation in her spare time. The British, largely unacquainted with pay rates in Vilnius, are not keen to compete.
At Richardson’s second-hand car lot, in the poorer end of town, a twentysomething called Simon is attending to a silver Vauxhall. He’s in little doubt about the impact of migrants: “It’s got to affect some people, some jobs. Supply and demand, innit.”
Is he going to vote? “Possibly. Possibly Tories. I’ve had enough of Labour.”
Then this Mr Ordinary Bloke, with no obvious tattoos or mental deficiencies, says without any prompting: “Or we could all vote BNP. I’d be happy to vote for them. Everyone’s so p***** off it makes the BNP worth voting for.”
Labour has itself to blame for the suppuration of such sentiments. Official figures show that it let immigration rip once it took power. In the early 1990s, long-term net immigration rarely rose above 50,000 a year but in 1998, after Labour’s first year in office, it leapt to 140,000 and hit 174,000 in 2001. It peaked at 245,000 a year before falling slightly. The latest figures show that 590,000 people arrived to live in Britain in 2008; net immigration only fell to 163,000 because 427,000 other people emigrated.
Since 1997 about 3m immigrants have arrived and the population is now 61m. The Office for National Statistics projects that the population will go on rising to 70m, with 70% of the increase caused by immigration.
Beneath the headline figures, the make-up of the country is rapidly changing. In 2008, for example, many more British citizens emigrated than returned to the UK, and many more EU, Commonwealth and other foreign nationals arrived than left. More than 500,000 arrivals in 2008 were non- British citizens.
The impacts are hotly disputed. For years Labour claimed migrants brought economic benefits. More people plus more work generally means the overall economy grows. But is anyone better off after taking into account the increase in population?
According to a recent study by Oxford Economics, GDP per capita did rise during Labour’s first two terms, but it fell in the third. GDP per capita is now lower in real terms than in 2005. Even The Economist, a fan of cheap and mobile labour, concluded last week that “there is little sign that wealth per person increased much” as a result of immigration.
The rise in the number of foreign-born people has almost matched the rise in the number of jobs, according to some calculations, leading to claims that 98% of new jobs have gone to migrants. Although this is disputed, the Trades Union Congress concedes that 50% of jobs created since 1997 have probably gone to non-UK nationals.
Services have also come under pressure in areas with large numbers of new arrivals. Council leaders in Slough, Peterborough and Boston have complained that local budgets and amenities are under “enormous strain” because official figures do not reflect their real populations.
Doctors, hospitals and schools all face challenges. In more than 300 primary schools, 70% of pupils have English as a second language, according to Migrationwatch UK, a group that campaigns for greater control of immigration.
In January two independent councillors from Peterborough wrote to Gordon Brown expressing their concerns over the pressure on schools in their area. They received no reply.
The election candidates in Lincoln gathered on Wednesday evening for a public debate at a hotel on the outskirts of town. After skirmishes over local measures, the meeting burst into life with a question on immigration. What should be done about it?
The UKIP candidate, Nick Smith, at least had the merit of honesty; at one point he likened himself to a “prat”. Nevertheless, he won applause from a minority for wanting to freeze immigration.
The English Democrats candidate, Ernest Charles, had a rum-barrel chest and Pugwash beard and, even before he announced it, you knew he had spent 36 years in the Royal Navy. When ill-informed on a topic (not uncommon) his policy was straightforward: repel immigrants. He’d scuttle the country rather than let it fall into enemy hands. More applause from the minority.
The Liberal Democrat, Reginald Shore, was a likeable man with good intentions and a policy spun from 100% pure new wool. He was very definitely for and against immigration, under certain circumstances, up to a point.
With the BNP absent, that left Gillian Merron, the sitting Labour MP, and her rival Karl McCartney of the Conservatives. Merron, an MP since 1997 and a minister since 2006, has been part of the government that presided over record immigration. All she could do was bluster about Labour’s belated attempts at control being “firm but fair”, as Brown himself did in Thursday’s television debate.
By contrast, McCartney was able to sound clear on this issue. “The Conservative party has said there will be a limit on immigrants,” he said. Not a ban, a limit. It seemed to get general approval.
In a seat the Tories should capture with a 4.8% swing, McCartney ought to be a winner, even though he has something of the 1980s night about him — a hint of estate agency, perhaps — that seems to make floating voters suspicious. Will the fringe parties detract from the Conservative vote, especially on immigration?
It’s not that simple, according to Colin Rallings of Portsmouth University. Yes, UKIP does tend to take votes from the Tories, but at the same time the BNP often takes votes from disaffected working-class Labour supporters. Both main parties are likely to be squeezed by fringe groups, with neither gaining a clear advantage.
Since both the Conservatives and Labour, it seems, are happy to avoid campaigning on immigration, Wobblegob may have to wait for his honesty. Once again immigration may end up the big issue the main parties would prefer to ignore.
Europe on path to tyranny, Church of England warns
The Church of England has accused the European Union of neglecting its Christian heritage and warned that it is at risk of creating “secular tyranny”. In a hard-hitting report on the failures of officials in Brussels, the church says Europe has been left “more uncertain of its future and more mistrusted by its citizens than ever before”.
Commissioned by the church’s bishops, the document argues the European Parliament is suffering from a “democratic deficit” and expresses concern that the continent faces “a perfect storm”.
It is critical of the way that politicians have marginalised Christianity and calls on them to build a more united society by promoting values that are influenced by religious principles.
The comments come as church leaders have stepped up their battle to defend the freedom of worshippers, with a former Archbishop of Canterbury last week attacking “disturbing” and “dangerous” rulings made by judges in religious discrimination cases in Britain.
Lord Carey was intervening in a case being brought by a Christian relationship counsellor who wants a special panel of five senior judges to hear his appeal against being sacked for refusing to counsel homosexual couples.
The church report says the drive for inclusivity and equality has led to the playing down of key elements of the EU’s history. “As secular organisations, in the pluralist world of the 21st century, the institutions of the EU can tend to take for granted or avoid aspects of Europe’s Christian inheritance,” it says.
“If the EU is to draw inspiration from its cultural, religious and humanist inheritance with integrity, it needs to be more at ease with its Christian history and to articulate this within a Europe that is spiritually hungry for its values to be substantial and life-giving. Most European politicians are reluctant to give emphasis to the fundamental connections between the Christian faith and the values of the contemporary European Union.”
In 2004 fears were raised the EU was becoming more intolerant of Christians after Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian Catholic, was blocked from becoming European Commissioner because he followed the church’s teaching on homosexuality. The European Constitution – signed in the same year, although never ratified – excluded all mention of God.
The church document says “for the majority of citizens Europe is becoming less united and more distant”, pointing to the rapid inclusion of 200 million people as part of the union following the admittance of several eastern European countries.
The report marked the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, the the European Coal and Steel Community accord which evolved into the EU.
Naughty British Mayoress
New arrivals in Britain from some countries — particularly Muslim ones — tend to be heavily welfare-dependant but you must not mention that
“A town mayor apologised yesterday after posting a joke on the internet comparing illegal immigrants to sperm because ‘millions of them come in but only one works’. Sue Mills, 50, the Mayor of Torrington in Devon, posted the offensive joke on her Facebook page where it was seen by hundreds of people.
Several complaints were made about the offensive gag and Mrs Mills, who is also a district and town councillor, has now said sorry. She says she ‘deeply regretted’ making the joke…
One Torrington resident, who did not want to be named, said it was ‘derogatory’ and ‘reflected badly on the town’. He said: ‘I am just shocked that someone could write that given they are the mayor of the town.
‘Even if this is a joke she needs to be reminded with freedom of speech comes responsibility. It reflects badly on Torrington that the mayor, in a prominent position, is expressing those views.’