I know from the emails that I have received on this issue that many people, pharmacists and patients alike,are concerned by the Government's plans to cut pharmacy funding by £170 million. I also appreciate the concerns have been raised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Pharmacy Voice and the National Pharmacy Association about the impact of the Government's cuts on the quality, safety and access to care for patients. I share these concerns and am pleased that my colleagues in the Shadow Health Team have spoken out against these cuts and are calling for a more integrated approach to primary care funding.
Pharmacies play a crucial role in our community. They have a significant impact on patient care and provide an essential service in dispensing both medication and the essential information and advice that can prevent people from having to visit their GP for common health problems. The Government say that pharmacies should take on more responsibility, in order to relieve pressure from other services. However, at the same time the Government is cutting funding for pharmacies. It is concerning that a recent YouGov survey has found that more than one in four people who would normally seek advice from their community pharmacy would visit their GP instead if the pharmacy was closed, thereby piling additional pressure onto already overstretched GP services.
The Government's plans are therefore contradictory and introducing cuts on this scale to community pharmacy services will not improve primary care outcomes. I am concerned that pharmacies will find it harder to provide the safe, good-quality services we all want to see. Indeed, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned that the proposed cuts will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees, and locums.
I know that many pharmacists and patients are concerned by the Government's plans. This was demonstrated by a petition presented to 10 Downing Street on 24 May 2016 and signed by more than 1.7 million people in support of local pharmacies. A further petition to Parliament, which calls on the Government to stop its cuts to pharmacy funding, has been signed by over 63,000 people. If this petition receives 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
The Government has consulted with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and other stakeholders on its proposals, and the public phase of the consultation ended on 24 May 2016. I hope that the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as RPS, Pharmacy Voice and the National Pharmacy Association and also the large number of people who have signed petitions against the Government's proposals, before announcing its final decisions. The Government expects to publish its final decisions in July 2016 and I will follow this closely.
The NHS is under enormous pressure and I am very concerned that the only way the Government will achieve its planned £22 billion worth of efficiency savings in the NHS will be by cutting staff, cutting pay and closing essential services such as community pharmacies. I believe that a different, co-ordinated approach to planning and investment is needed across primary care to ensure that patients get the most out of the NHS and pharmacies.
I know from the emails that I have received on this issue that many people, pharmacists and patients alike,are concerned by the Government's plans to cut pharmacy funding by £170...
We’re on the eve of the EU referendum - and it will probably be the most important vote you will cast in a generation. Yet, truthfully, it’s been a dispiriting few weeks, marred by hysteria, myth-making and half-truths - such as the ‘Leave campaign’ doubling the amount the UK pays for EU membership and then painting the false figures on the side of its bus , to take just one example.
This referendum - like others before it, is also increasingly about something more and different than the specific question being asked. It is as much about how people feel about identity in a fast-changing world (including the impact of migration), who are the winners and losers in a globalised economy and the effects of austerity since the worldwide crash- as it is about membership of the EU. That makes the debate much more complex and more deeply emotional. Critically, June 23rd can’t be the end of a vital conversation.
Yet the risk is that a vote for exit from Europe on the 23rd WILL mark an end. The die will be cast and the consequences will have to be lived with. I don’t want us to take that risk.
Of course the EU is far from perfect- there’s much more we need to do to improve how it works. We as politicians haven’t done well enough in either explaining the value of negotiated agreements and compromises in our national interest, or setting out clear, measurable goals for improvement. Meanwhile, the continuing fall-out from the global financial crisis on the one hand, and the implosion of Syria and the wider refugee crisis on the other, have added to the challenge of promoting European co-operation as a force for good and order in a tough world.
Yet I believe that it is. I’ve been campaigning to vote remain, and I’ll carry on until polls close on the 23rd. And here’s why:
European co-operation emerged out of the ashes of the worst wars in human history. We should be proud of our recent history of peaceful compromise - and we can’t take it for granted. Watch this video by former Prime Minster Gordon Brown.
We pay into Europe, of course, but it’s a tiny proportion of our national wealth, and we get far more back in investment and trade. £26.5 billion is invested in Britain by EU countries every year. The EU is Britain’s biggest export market: almost half of all of Britain’s exports go to the EU. Exports to the EU are worth £227 billion a year to the British economy. Trade would continue if we vote to leave, but we would still have to follow EU rules when we do business there. Meanwhile, we would have given up our say in the making of those rules. Surely it is better for Britain to have a seat at the table and a say in making the rules?
Millions of British jobs are linked to EU membership. Independent research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows over three million British jobs are linked to our trade with Europe. If EU countries buy less of our goods and services, UK jobs are put at risk. Above all, it will be our young people whose future is most at risk. The young are most pro-European in their outlook - we, the generation who are their parents and grand-parents, must think about their interests.
British workers benefit from EU agreements on workers’ rights - fought for by Labour - including the right to holiday pay, paid maternity and paternity leave, anti-discrimination laws, equal pay and protection for agency workers. Leaving would allow this or a future government to cut back on employment, social and environmental protections. This would be a race to the bottom and erode rights we now take for granted.
From organised crime to protecting the environment, the challenges we now face don’t respect national boundaries but require international co-operation. For example, Thousands of criminals, including terrorists, have been arrested under the European Arrest Warrant. Britain has also taken a lead in a range of environmental campaigns in Europe from climate change to air pollution. The EU enables European countries to form “one negotiating bloc” which amplifies British influence in climate discussions.
Being in the EU enhances Britain’s global influence and allows us to take our place at the top table. The ‘soft power’ of the EU has been a major factor in locking human rights and democracy into the politics of the continent. And at a time of continuing instability, from the Ukraine to the Middle East, we need more co-operation, not less.
Voting to remain is a positive choice- giving us the opportunity to benefit from our membership but also the scope to keep working to make things better. A ‘Leave’ vote is unlikely to be something we can change in my lifetime. So please- do use your vote, make your voice heard and let’s make the next steps we take as a country forward, not back.
How much do you really know about the EU? Just for fun, take the MORI quiz…
We’re on the eve of the EU referendum - and it will probably be the most important vote you will cast in a generation. Yet, truthfully, it’s been a...
The Labour Party recently used an Opposition Day to hold a debate on the Government’s Schools White Paper.
The White Paper set out plans to require all schools to become academies by 2022. It also proposes that schools should no longer be required to reserve places on their governing boards for elected parent governors. I believe that these plans are deeply flawed. The debate provided an opportunity to air the concerns of parents, communities, heads, teachers and others and called on the Government to put the proposals on hold. Such was the public disquiet with these proposals (which did not appear in the Conservative manifesto during last year’s general election) that the government has now been obliged to draw back on the intention to require universal Academisation by a specific date. However the intention in the long run to make all schools become Academies remains.
I am concerned that the Government’s plans for all schools to become academies constitute a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system. We need to build a school system that provides an excellent education for all children regardless of school type and there is no evidence that academisation in and of itself leads to school improvement. There are outstanding academies and excellent community schools, but also poor examples of both. Furthermore, the vast majority of schools affected by this policy will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated good and outstanding.
During the debate I was able to raise the particular point that, with schools facing a 7/8% cut in real terms funding over the next 4 years (and possibly more in London if planned changes to the distribution of funding go ahead) this is the worst possible time to be diverting time, energy and anything up to £1 billion on structural change.
The pressing problems facing schools today include teacher shortages and morale and major overhauls of curriculums, exams and assessment. We should not be diverting money and effort away from these issues, which are far more relevant to raising standards than whether schools operate under the auspices of an academy or not. In addition, I believe that the option to do away with parent governors from school governing bodies is a highly retrograde step which will reduce the genuine involvement of parents and communities in local schools.
So ‘thank you’ to all those who wrote to me about this very important issue and please be assured that my colleagues and I will continue to oppose the Government's plans and do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.
The Labour Party recently used an Opposition Day to hold a debate on the Government’s Schools White Paper. The White Paper set out plans to require all schools to become...
Dear Ms Buck
The Star, 38 St John’s Wood Terrace, London NW8 6LS
I am aware that the Property has recently re-opened with the same estate agents occupying the ground floor. An enforcement notice in respect of the use of the site has not been served because the unauthorised use ceased and it became a vacant public house, which is not a breach of planning control. A planning enforcement inspection has recently been carried out, which confirmed that it is no longer a vacant public house and is being used in breach of planning control – although this is disputed by the owner.
A Public Inquiry is due to be held at the City Council’s offices on 7 June in respect of the appeal the owner has lodged against the City Council’s refusal of their Certificate of Lawfulness application from last year. The Planning Inspector’s decision on this appeal will clarify whether an estate agent use of the Property is lawful or not. It is therefore likely that the formal service of an enforcement notice will be held in abeyance pending the formal determination of that appeal, which should be shortly after the Public Inquiry.
I trust this clarifies matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries.
Westminster City Council
Dear Ms Buck The Star, 38 St John’s Wood Terrace, London NW8 6LS I am aware that the Property has recently re-opened with the same estate agents occupying the ground...
I consider these latest proposals to be profoundly misguided on several levels. They will be an expensive (£1 billion plus) distraction from the continuing task of raising educational standards. They will reduce accountability still further, by making the Secretary of State in Whitehall effectively to be in charge of all of the country’s schools (in what has been described as the “biggest land grab since the dissolution of the monasteries”). And the stated intention to remove parent governors from the system displays a shocking attitude to parents and communities.
The initial academies programme, designed to boost schools in the poorest and most challenged neighbourhoods- was something I supported. Looking around at our local secondary schools, I believe that programme to have been a success, and to have contributed (along with other measures, including the ‘London Challenge’ and additional investment) to a genuine transformation in the quality of education.
There is , of course, always room for improvement, and I strongly supported measures discussed before the last election by my party to strengthen accountability and to ensure that problems that do arise (and problems arise in any system) can be picked up and dealt with effectively and as locally as possible. None of our thinking was based on either all schools becoming academies, nor forcing schools to change their status where they do not wish to convert. While there are some great academies, there are also some excellent community schools. Indeed, the vast majority of non-academy schools affected by these plans will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated as good or outstanding. There are also examples of both academy schools and local authority maintained schools that perform poorly- confirming the fact that neither changing the name nor the management structure of a school is necessarily sufficient to transform outcomes. I am concerned that the evidence suggesting that academy status leads to improved standards is mixed. A report by the House of Commons' Education Select Committee during the last Parliament (in January 2015), for example, found that current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall, or for disadvantaged children. Ofsted have also reported recently that the academies programme is not bringing about rapid improvement and, in some cases, has led to decline.
Meanwhile, our schools are currently facing a number of difficulties, including reduced budgets, a shortage of teachers and not enough good school places. London looks likely to face a substantial reduction in funding under the Government’s new schools funding formula. The Government's plans will not solve these serious problems and constitute a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system.
I believe the focus should be on improving standards across all types of schools and I am very concerned that the Government's plans will divert resources, time and effort away from this task.
Please be assured that my colleagues and I will oppose the Government's plans and do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.
Personal Independence Payment ( PIP) Cuts
In the face of the huge public outcry against the budget, the situation with regard to the Government's proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) has now changed. However, there are still many more deep cuts to come, including to other disability benefits.
I believe we must have a social security system which is efficient, fair and compassionate and I appreciate how concerned many people with disabilities and their families have been about the possibility of changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP. I also recognise how vital and valued this support is in helping meet the additional costs that having a disability can bring, such as purchasing equipment, services and support, and in enabling disabled people to live independently.
As you are aware, just two years after PIP was introduced, in December 2015 the Government launched a consultation regarding aids and appliances and the daily living component of PIP, which closed on the 29 January. On 11 March the Government announced it would be changing the PIP assessment criteria, reducing the number of points for the use of an aid or appliance against two out of the seven Daily Living activities assessed - dressing and managing toilet needs. This was confirmed at the Budget where it was set out that the Government would be cutting £1.2 billion in support, meaning that over 600,000 disabled people would lose almost £2000 a year. I was very concerned about a measure contained in the Budget which would further cut support for those most in need when the Budget also contained tax breaks for those who least need them.
It was therefore good that in the week following the Budget the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had to announce a vital U-turn, confirming that the Government would not be going ahead with the changes to PIP. I also welcome the Work and Pensions Secretary's statement that the Government have 'no further plans to make welfare savings'.
However, I am disappointed that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did not also use this opportunity to also reverse cuts to Employment and Support Allowance Work (ESA), contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Act, which will see the level of support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I voted against this Bill in its entirety and I believe that this is an unfair and unjust measure, which will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and consequently are in and out of work intermittently.
The Government's welfare reforms must help not hinder disabled people and I believe that the Government is reneging on its own manifesto commitment to protect social security for disabled people through its cuts to ESA.
I hope that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will now take the opportunity to stand up for a fair and progressive renewal of our welfare state that is there to support people when they need it most.
Investigatory Powers Bill
I appreciate that a number of organisations and campaigns, including the 'Don't Spy on Us' campaign, have continued to express concerns regarding proposed changes to surveillance and data retention laws.
I support in principle the aim of delivering an up-to-date and comprehensive legal framework to enable the Police and security services to have the powers they need in the digital age to prevent and investigate serious crime.
It is clear that huge changes in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and it is important that the relevant authorities have the appropriate up-to-date powers that they need to tackle terrorism, child sexual abuse, serious online crime, and to help locate missing people. The Snowden revelations also highlighted that a clearer legal basis, greater transparency and more tightly drawn definitions of all powers and capabilities are now needed.
Labour did not oppose the Investigatory Powers Bill at its (initial) Second Reading on 15 March 2016. However, there remain a number of important areas of concern with the Bill as it has been introduced and we will be seeking to strengthen the Bill on its passage through the Parliament.
I agree that it is crucial that a new framework for providing these powers to the Police and intelligence and security services which can command public trust by balancing strong powers with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties. We need to see stronger privacy requirements in the Bill. The Government must be much clearer about the case for why intrusive powers such as new bulk powers are needed, and for the widening of the definition and potential use of Internet Connection Records (ICRs). There are also concerns around the way the Bill deals with sensitive professions, such as protection of journalistic sources and legal professional privilege, and the Government must look again at this.
This legislation will have major implications for privacy, and how we are governed and policed. It is, therefore, crucial to take time to get it right and why I believe it is important to take a responsible and constructive approach in working with the Government on this issue.
Compulsory Academies I consider these latest proposals to be profoundly misguided on several levels. They will be an expensive (£1 billion plus) distraction from the continuing task of raising educational...
St. John’s Wood Society Response to Proposed Cycle Superhighway 11
The executive committee of the St. John’s Wood Society has had difficulty reaching a consensus view on Transport for London’s Cycle Superhighway 11 proposal. Members have a range of opposing opinions on CS11 and have expressed them with conviction. The issues CS11 raises about pollution, transport and the sharing of resources are difficult ones that will persist for years, particularly as London’s population grows and becomes more dense. We recognise these issues can’t be ignored, and that there do need to be cultural changes in how Londoners approach transport. We recognise that change will be disruptive.
The executive committee unanimously supports the principle of Cycle Superhighways as a way to reduce London’s air pollution and promote cycling as an alternative to private car travel.
Regarding the current CS11 proposal, however, a majority of committee members view it as having fundamental flaws, and we therefore oppose it. The committee also is aware – based on views expressed at the 7 March public forum at St. John’s Wood Church and in written and other communications – that a clear majority of the general membership of the Society oppose the scheme.
The committee would like to see the CS11 proposal withdrawn until there is clarity about the impact of the HS2 train line on the route and surrounding areas. We believe it is essential that any CS11 proposal factor that impact into its design. While we note that other cycle superhighways have been built near Crossrail, we do not regard that as comparable to the magnitude of HS2 on this proposed route.
Regarding the current CS11 proposal, our main objections are:
-Failure to model for the traffic impact of HS2 and the re-development of the St. John’s Wood Barracks. HS2 will have a major, more than decade-long impact on traffic flows from Camden Town and Albany Street, across Primrose Hill and Adelaide Road and west down Boundary Road. The re-development of the Barracks will involve more than 200 lorries a day travelling on Finchley Road in both directions. Any modelling of traffic that fails to include them can’t be regarded as complete.
-Failure to release traffic modelling data. This has made it impossible to judge the validity of the conclusions TfL has drawn about likely traffic flows associated with CS11 or the assumptions on which those conclusions are based.
We also are concerned that the modelled traffic times are not accurate. The proposed route runs from Swiss Cottage to Portland Place, but the estimated travel times cited in the consultation document are from Swiss Cottage to Baker Street, not all the way to Portland Place.
-Increased congestion. Even with “smart” traffic lights, it is difficult to believe that there won’t be increased congestion on Finchley Road and Wellington Road (and Park Road further on, particularly with the probable introduction of the Baker Street two-way system) as a result of this proposal. (And without TfL’s traffic modelling data, it’s impossible to make an informed judgment.)
Additionally, the proposed scheme will mean that there will be essentially no place for traffic on Marylebone Road travelling west to turn north between Tottenham Court Road and just west of Baker Street once the HS2 construction is underway, as moving north on Albany Street will be closed and severely restricted. That will increase traffic on Marylebone Road.
All of this is likely to bring heightened air pollution. It also is likely to create rat runs through residential streets of St. John’s Wood, adding to emissions there and risking the safety of residents. Some of the likely rat runs will be on newly created Cycle Quietways such as Ordnance Hill, which would undermine the very purpose for which they were created.
-Failure to consult comprehensively. There was compelling evidence at the St. John’s Wood public forum on 7 March that TfL’s consultation documents on CS11 hadn’t reached a significant number of residents. Anecdotally, similar accounts have continued to surface since then of individuals or buildings that say they hadn’t received the documents.
Design changes the Society would like to see:
-Regent’s Park segregated cycle lanes. We believe Regent’s Park should be treated like other parts of CS11, and other Cycle Superhighways generally, and utilise segregated cycle lanes. We note this is how the East-West Cycle Superhighway is configured in Hyde Park. We also note that highway doesn’t restrict car journeys in Hyde Park, and we believe that same policy should apply in Regent’s Park. While we recognise Regent’s Park is Grade-I listed, we do not accept that as a convincing reason segregated cycle lanes can’t be introduced in the Outer Circle or speed cameras or speed limit signs erected there. Segregated cycle lanes would encourage commuter cycling, while allowing for continuing co-existence with motorists. The shared use of roads and segregated lanes are elements of essentially all Cycle Superhighways and Regent’s Park shouldn’t be an exception.
-Swiss Cottage layout. We believe the stretch of Avenue Road between the Swiss Cottage Library and the back of the Odeon cinema should be accessible for cars continuing south to Avenue Road or turning east onto Adelaide Road, not just to buses and bicycles. This would help to prevent increased congestion on Finchley Road south of Swiss Cottage and also would prevent the creation of rat runs in the residential streets of St. John’s Wood. This design change would be crucial if auto access to Regent’s Park were left in the status quo – as we are seeking.
If these points were addressed, the Society would consider taking a fresh look at a re-imagined CS11. In its current form, a majority of the committee oppose the plan.
St. John’s Wood Society,
on behalf of the Executive Committee
St. John’s Wood Society Response to Proposed Cycle Superhighway 11 The executive committee of the St. John’s Wood Society has had difficulty reaching a consensus view on Transport for London’s...
I would be very grateful for a further update regarding the Whiteleys development, with specific reference to:
- Any recent modifications in design
- The viability study in respect to affordable housing.
I would also be very grateful if the following points could be added to the objections being put forward to the Planning Committee taking the decision.
I have had a number of objection to the current proposal for the redevelopment of Whiteleys from local residents, with concerns almost entirely reflecting yours, including:
- loss of light, especially as this impacts on residents in Kensington Gardens Square
- the bulk/height of the development
- the effect on the Listed building
- the lack of affordable housing provision
I am anxious to ensure that we do take the opportunity to build more residential accommodation and accept the importance of kick-starting the regeneration of Queensway, but that should not mean accepting unsatisfactory designs or ignoring the wider responsibilities to local residents, heritage and need for more affordable homes. It is clear that many in the local community feel that the current proposals fall short on these grounds.
Karen Buck MP
Dear Amanda, I would be very grateful for a further update regarding the Whiteleys development, with specific reference to: - Any recent modifications in design - The viability study in...
Very good to meet you at the Labour group in Portcullis House yesterday. As promised, this is to update you about the refurbishment of the Bakerloo line trains.
With over 40 years of service, the Bakerloo line fleet is the oldest on the Tube network and is inevitably starting to show its age. It is one of four London Underground lines (along with the Piccadilly, Central and Waterloo & City lines) set for new trains from the mid-2020s – the New Tube for London.
In the meantime, we are extending the life of the current Bakerloo line fleet. The upgrades will see various customer-facing improvements:-
The seat cushions and fabric are being replaced with a new moquette, and all 36 trains will be completed by the end of the 2016/17 financial year. We have actually started this week, and the seats will be changed out at a rate of around one train per week. The worst of the existing seats will continue to be cleaned thoroughly until they are replaced.
The outsides of the trains will also be refreshed over the next 12 months.
The floor finishes, interior body panels and ceiling ventilation fans, will be renewed by 2020.
Other improvements include structural repairs to the train carriage body and replacement of internal wiring circuits. The larger maintenance work will be done gradually over the next 48 months to ensure the trains remain in service for customers.
I trust you find this information useful.
London Underground & London Rail
Very good to meet you at the Labour group in Portcullis House yesterday. As promised, this is to update you about the refurbishment of the Bakerloo line trains. With over...
We are writing to you as Cabinet Member for Children and Young People to oppose the decision being made by Westminster City Council to cease funding voluntary sector youth clubs and youth providers from September 2016.
We understand that councils are under pressure to cut ‘non-essential services’. However, our services are very much necessary to the lives of hundreds of young people. We give young people a place to feel safe and somewhere they can achieve outside school, whilst gaining skills they can use in the classroom, at home and at work. We support young people to develop their communication skills, teamwork abilities and to build resilience. This enables young people to participate and be active members of the communities they live in. The relationships young people develop with youth workers helps guide them through the challenges they face growing up in some of the UK’s most severely deprived areas, challenges which include substance misuse, criminalisation and radicalisation. Taking away our services is likely to result in young residents becoming further alienated from their society, particularly those who need help the most.
We believe that these cuts are short-sighted and will prove costly in the long term, as young people will be left without support and resources to deal with their challenges. Whilst the cuts being proposed will undoubtedly save the council money in the short term, the long term financial impact for the council could be worse. We would question whether this has been assessed as part of the council risk and impact assessments.
We acknowledge the intention of WCC to establish a Westminster Youth Foundation – but this will still be in its infancy in September. Without significant statutory resources, the new Foundation will be competing for increasingly scarce resources from trusts and the private sector.
We call on WCC to delay its decision for a year until the impact on young people of such a cut is established, and until a Westminster Youth Foundation is in place that can provide the necessary resources to support the needs of young people in Westminster.
Mesba Ahmed, CEO of London Tigers
Intaj Ali, Chair of Trustees, Marylebone Bangladesh Society
Geoff Biggs, Director, Westbourne Park Family Centre
David Bryan, Chair of Trustees, Working With Men
Michael Furness, Chair of Trustees, The Crypt Youth Club
Paul Lawrence, Chief Executive, The Feathers Association
Gabby Machell, CEO, Westminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities
Jennie Marshall, Chair of Trustees, The Avenues Youth Project
Albert St. Ange, North Paddington Youth Club
Drew Stevenson, Chair of Trustees, Paddington Development Trust
Graham Whitlock, CEO, Dream Arts
Dear Councillor, We are writing to you as Cabinet Member for Children and Young People to oppose the decision being made by Westminster City Council to cease funding voluntary...