NHS, Housing and Schools – solving the crises

I finally caught up with the leaders debate last night. Watching it without the hype of a live broadcast exposed the tropes that each of the main party trots out, as they have for the last 20 or so years :

  • The Tories say you can’t trust Labour because they’re tax and spend.
  • Labour says Tories are all cut, cut, cut.
  • While Nick Clegg actually said ‘we would cut less than the Tories and tax less than Labour’! You can’t make it up.

I didn’t think Leanne Woods came off as badly or Nicola Sturgeon seem as wonderful as the polls suggested, while sadly Natalie Bennett didn’t have much chance to shine, although she managed to get some key policies across.

Worst of all was Farage who, at the very least, exposed him and UKIP for what they really want – to take us out of the EU. And this, when they have 24 MEPS – the hypocrisy of a party funded by the very institution it wants to leave knows no bounds.

What I would say about UKIP is that they’re very good in defining the problems besetting the British people, while blaming the wrong causes (migrants) and suggesting poor solutions (leaving the EU).

1 Housing – UKIP says the pressure on housing is because of immigration.

NO. The strain on housing is caused by Right to Buy which has taken council houses away from the poorest in this country, and have not been replaced as promised. On top of this not enough homes have been built to meet demand, instead, this Coalition government has put house prices up by guaranteeing mortgages with their ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Plus, giving landlords tax relief on the interest on their mortgages has just helped private investors and inflated prices up while taking these properties out of the reach of first time buyers.

Solution – build council homes. Allow councils to borrow money so they buy land and properties on which to put social rented homes. Build on brown field. Stop developers riding roughshod over councils in their pursuit of profits by letting them buy their way out of providing ‘affordable homes’ within their developments. Remove the tax relief for landlords, and change tenancies from 6 months/1 year to 2/3 years, so that tenants have more security and rental costs don’t keep being put up every time the contract is renewed.

2 Schools – UKIP says the pressure on school places is because of immigration.

NO. The squeeze on school places is caused by local councils being so strapped for cash they haven’t been able to invest in the land or property that becomes available in their area so they’ve sold it off to developers instead, so creating further demand down the line. And, now under the Coalition, the Free School fiasco ensures councils have no controls over where and when schools are created, as they are reliant on Academy Trusts putting in bids to the Department for Education and then the Education Funding Agency buying a site, within its limited budget, appropriate or otherwise.

Solution – give councils back the ability to buy land and property as needed for schools and the funds to do it with. Only when local authorities can buy land or brownfield sites in their areas to do with as required, whether it’s for schools, homes or health centres will the problems our communities face over lack of infrastructure be properly dealt with.

3 NHS – UKIP says the pressure on doctor’s appointments and our NHS is because of too many migrants coming to the UK for our health service.

NO. Labour introduced market forces into the NHS, which have added been to by the Tories in the Coalition government. Plus, changes in GPs contracts under labour allowed them to stop providing out-of-hours care – while paying themselves more at the same time – which then forced more people to go to their local A&E rather than their local surgery.

Solution – keep the NHS free at the point of access, tax the top 1% wealthiest in the UK to raise around £21 billion to pay for it and reform GPs contracts so the out-of-hours care is not forced on to local hospitals instead.


Let’s get Cassel Hospital turned into a Primary School

Richmond Council has been consulting residents about a number of sites in the borough that are up for development. One of them is Cassel Hospital on Ham Common.
As a Governor of Latchmere School in North Kingston, which is already four-form entry and has to take a further ‘bulge’ class in 2014/5 to cope with the demand for school places in our two boroughs, I believe that North Kingston and Ham needs a whole new primary school. As well as the population growth that our area is having to cope with, there has been an influx of families seeking the excellent schools we have here. Plus, there’s all the new dwellings proposed for
Latchmere House, the flats already being built on the river in North Kingston, the impending developments on the gas storage site at Sury Basin, the conversion of the Regal Bingo building that will all bring more and more families into our neighbourhood. Additionally, Ham Close is up for development, one of the options being to knock down the existing blocks of flats and rebuild them with twice as more dwellings on the site, so increasing the local population.

There is a possibility that a new primary school will be built to accompany the flats on Sury Basin, but these will only ‘mop up’ the children in the immediate vicinity and not the roads from Kings Road up towards the Tudor Estate. And, the new primary school near Sury Basin is not even definite as the developer is pushing for student flats instead.

Without a new two/three-form entry school in North Kingston/Ham we will hear more and more about distressed families whose children have missed out on school places, or have to travel long distances across the borough to go to other schools. The alternative is that Latchmere School becomes five-form entry throughout all years, and other schools have to expand from two/three to three/four-form entry. All of which will put pressure on resources, building space and hard-pressed playgrounds.

The Cassel Hospital building was assessed when St Edwards were considering setting up a Kingston Church School Foundation free school in the area (KET got their bid approved by the DfE to set up Kingston Academy in the North Kingston Centre so St Edwards pulled) and it was deemed a suitable site for a school. It has 20 acres of land around ideal for sports grounds and additional buildings if required. Also, it is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, public transport and car – although too many vehicles would cause problems on this road.

So, if you do one thing today, email ldfconsultation@richmond.gov.uk and ask Richmond Council to set aside Cassel Hospital for community purposes, and more specifically a primary school.