Monday, 5 October 2015

Tory strategy ...... create a crisis then offer dubious means of escape

There is a lot going on at county level at the moment with devolution of services coupled with the proposed spread of responsibilities for newly designated powerhouses. This involves Derbyshire County Council (DCC) because there are plans to increase the hinterland of both Manchester and Sheffield, encroaching on the provision of, for instance, health care and transport in the northern parts of our county. If we factor in the ambition of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to coalesce as yet another regional powerhouse then the future of our council structures seem to be very uncertain. All this is happening without any real debate and I notice that even friends and comrades in my local Labour Party branch, (Belper & Duffield Labour Party Branch - or B&DLPB)who would normally be up with such things, are voicing concerns that these changes have snuck up on us ........ unawares.

It was this BBC article that sparked off our alarm: link to - Sheffield City Region: Elected mayor in 2017 after devolution deal signed. In this article it is stated that: The city region is comprised of the nine local authority areas of Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield.  

Later in the article we find: All four big South Yorkshire district councils, together with five smaller ones in the North Midlands, have been in agreement for some time that their economies are so closely linked that they are the obvious partners to take on extra powers and budgets from central government.
Virtually all Labour-controlled, they set aside their opposition to having a directly-elected executive mayor in order to gain the financial benefits on offer.
In the past few days there has been a considerable amount of email activity in the B&DLPB, sharing further information such as this report: DERBYSHIRE HEALTH AND WELLBEING BOARD 14 May 2015 Report of the Strategic Director Health and Communities DERBYSHIRE COMBINED AUTHORITY AND HEALTH DEVOLUTION which contains details of the thinking behind the Manchester proposals.
Sheffield is honestly stating that they are entering into this devolved process because the Tories are offering cash incentives (£30 million a year for Sheffield) and Manchester are under the belief that their NHS shortfall of £500 million will be halved if health powers are devolved. The really sad fact is that our NHS, and don't forget that the "N" stands for NATIONAL, will be carved up into regional, autonomous sections, that have power over spending but will still be dependent on a national government that retains tax raising and gross budget setting control. This is the next step in the Tory government agenda of slicing and dicing our most precious institution with the ultimate goal of privatisation and a shrinking of the welfare state. Postcode lottery ........... you ain't seen nothing yet.
I was amazed that the Labour position on devolution was not clearly defined at the Labour Party Conference but I suppose that's not so surprising because listening to speeches from our front bench team I don't think they know what the policy actually is. This topic is in the same basket as Trident and .......... well so many others.
I will report on the devolution of transport in much more detail in a following post. Needless to say, Osborne is offering similar to the health sector bribes to regional authorities if they accept the Tory (Lord Adonis) view of a transportation nirvana.
What is perhaps not surprising is that consultation (for such massive changes to the way we govern ourselves (stop laughing) and the way we organise the delivery of such essential services) is spoken of but hard to detect. I have a suspicion that what the word "consultation" actually means in our post May 2015 world is that consultants will consult each other. Once they have agreed upon a wording that sufficiently mystifies the masses then it will be safe to proceed to phase 2; or have we passed that point some time ago and are already moving on to phase 3 ........ whatever that might be ........... but don't be fooled, the ultimate goal is a shrinking of the state and the onward march of corporate provision of all essential services in this land ........ more commonly know as privatisation.

I have no doubt that whilst I am sitting here at my desk there are Tories at their conference spouting off about powerhouses and devolving power to the people. The reality is that it is the responsibility for what will become toxic problems that is being devolved whilst the Tory government will remain blameless at the 2020 polling stations. You just need to see how Osborne and Cameron point the finger at Welsh Labour and their handling of health and education in Wales; they highlight any small discrepancy even as there are parts of England with far worse performance ............. but they never come clean about that. The mayhem caused by Lansley then Hunt is never acknowledged.

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