Welcome to the May edition of our monthly bulletin that provides you with the news of what is going on within the Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party.
Secretary’s report by Bryn Hollywell
Most of our recent activities have concentrated on canvassing, both for the Blackwood by-election in the neighbouring constituency of Islwyn, and the forthcoming European Parliament Election on Thursday 22 May.
I am delighted to inform you that Allan Rees won the Blackwood by-election for Labour. The results were announced just before midnight on Thursday 24 April, and despite a low turnout Allan easily beat the Independent candidate. The Plaid candidate was pushed into third place, and the last candidate, a Tory, gathered only 68 votes!!.
Allan, of course, was a recent branch secretary in the Hengoed ward, and we have sent him a congratulatory letter. Allan has accepted an invitation to speak at our October GC on the new social care organisation within the NHS in Wales, as he is a full-time social worker, and we look forward to hearing him.
It is vital that all Labour supporters turn out to cast their vote on Thursday 22 May. The voting system we have is based on the number of votes cast for their political party of choice. There are 4 seats for the Wales constituency, and consequently the more Labour voters we persuade to cast their vote, the better our chances of winning as many seats as possible. We will have delivered a specially designed letter/leaflet from Welsh Labour for all the identified Labour voters with a postal vote we have canvassed within the Caerphilly constituency by the time you read this bulletin. But if you know of any of your neighbours, friends or family members who are Labour supporters with a postal vote, please make sure they cast their vote.
No doubt you will have heard and read about the disgraceful attacks in the media led by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on the NHS in Wales. I have included in this issue an excellent response written by Tony Beddow, secretary of the Socialist Health Association, Wales Region, to which the Caerphilly CLP is affiliated.
Finally, please note that there will be a special meeting of the Caerphilly CLP General Committee on Saturday 7 June at 10:30am in the BTM Community Council offices, Newport Road, Bedwas, to debate and agree our responses to the Agenda 2015 General Election manifesto put forward by the National Policy Forum of the Labour Party. This is your opportunity to comment on the policies being drafted in readiness for the general election in May 2015. I have circulated to all members the details of the various headings in the eight chapters in this document and I have drafted my own responses (commonly known as the Hollywell Manifesto!!) and these will be debated at this Special Meeting. If you are interested in any of the eight chapters I will send you a full version of the document and invite you to attend the meeting. For those people who cannot attend the metting, I will ensure each response will be debated.
Welsh NHS: Cameron and Hunt - Apologise to the House and to Wales
A Retort from Tony Beddow
The Welsh NHS has for weeks been attacked in the Commons by Cameron and Hunt, being described as failing and a shambles. Now, on a weekend when the independent Nuffield Trust reported that NHS Wales compares well with the other UK health systems, Cameron compounded the crime by telling the Tory Conference that the Welsh border separated life and death. Both should apologise to the House for misleading it and correct the record. Cameron should apologise to Wales for the "line of death" slur.
Faced with Nuffield Trust's assessment on Radio Wales 11th April, Welsh Tory MP Alun Cairns was reduced to blustering that the massive failure of the Welsh NHS was all due to elective orthopaedic waiting times – supposedly longer in Wales.
He didn't want to hear that cancer care was better in Wales. He didn't want to debate the impact that the 1978 Barnett formula automatically has on reducing total expenditure in NHS Wales. As a result of the austerity agenda NHS Wales now operates on £1,900 per person compared with the North East of England (similar to Wales in terms of ‘need’) which gets £2,100 – 10% more. He couldn't admit that the cause of the problems in Mid Staffs were slashed nurse staffing levels as the Trust went hell-bent for Foundation Trust status, which doesn't operate in Wales.
He won't want to quote the outgoing English NHS boss rating NHS England only 5 out of 10. Perhaps too he doesn't know that the massive re-organisation of the English NHS – never put to the electorate in either the Tory or Lib-Dem manifestos – has wreaked havoc, with hospitals forced to compete rather than collaborate and commissioners forced to put NHS services out to tender. Spending on ‘regulation’, lawyers and redundancies continues to rise. Will the manifestos of the Conservative and Lib-Dem parties in 2015 proudly state "Vote for us and let us finish off the NHS"?
He couldn't say if he supported propping up the NHS Barnett 10% shortfall by robbing large chunks of the Welsh education or social care budget to give to health. Anybody who knows anything about the inadequacies of Joel Barnett's 35 year old "temporary" fix – which clearly doesn't include Cairns, Cameron and the Welsh Lib Dems – knows that those are the unattractive options for plugging this huge gap in the funding of a devolved service, taking about 40% of the total Welsh Government block vote.
And what of that orthopaedic waiting time figure? Cairns might be right that the reported figures show an average hip and knee operation waiting time in Wales of 170 days as opposed to 70 days in England.
However, reported figures do not necessarily indicate poorer treatment for real patients. First, English figures are not collected and reported on the same basis as Welsh ones. English waiting times rules describe many ways of ‘stopping the waiting times clock’. Some of the difference in waiting times is almost certainly down to England being better at gaming the data than being better at treating patients. Second, it is more important that patients are treated at the best time for them (and average figures are by definition a mix of short and long waits). For some patients, agreeing with their Welsh doctors the optimum time for such surgery and perhaps waiting a while so that future revision surgery some years hence is less likely, makes sense. Third, for as long as Wales gets 10% less than its English equivalent region, waiting times will inevitably suffer.
Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford was right to say that "Nuffield has shot Cameron's Fox". For the Prime Minister to lose one Fox in a term of Government is unfortunate. To lose both Reynard and Liam to different means of pest control is careless.
Tony Beddow is a former NHS Chief Executive in Wales. He is also Secretary of Socialist Health Association (SHA) Cymru Wales. This piece is written in a personal capacity.
Article from Wayne David MP
Tackling the ‘epidemic’ of zero-hours contracts
Since 2010 there has been a huge increase in the number of workers who are employed on zero-hours contracts. These are contracts which often tie a worker to a single firm, but in return the worker is not guaranteed any employment from week to week.
One survey found that 57 % of all workers on zero-hours contracts say that they find it difficult to budget from month-to-month.
The number of people employed on zero-hours contacts was revealed at the end of April when the independent Office of National Statistics (ONS) published new figures. The ONS says there are now 1.4 million people on these contracts across the UK.
These truly shocking figures are much higher than most experts had predicted and show that employment on zero-hours contacts in this country has now reached epidemic levels.
The flexibility offered by zero-hours contracts does suit some semi-retired workers or students who want to do some extra work around their wider commitments. But an independent report commissioned by Labour has shown that these sorts of contracts create significant financial insecurity for most employees due to the uncertainty about what they will earn from one week to the next. The lack of clear rules also leaves scope for abuse.
That is why Labour is committed to taking action to end the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts if the Party wins the general election. Under Labour's plans, workers on zero-hours contracts would:
• not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours
• be free to work for other employers
• have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice
• have "clarity" from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions
• have the right to request a contract with a "minimum amount of work" after six months with an employer
• have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with an employer
The spread of zero-hours contracts under the Tory-led Government is further evidence of the failure of David Cameron and George Osborne to deliver a balanced recovery that works for all. Only Labour will outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people, ensuring that people at work are protected and get a fair deal.
Article from Jeff Cuthbert AM
Wales and the European Union
On 22 May Wales goes to the polls to vote in elections to the European Parliament. Wales returns four Members of the European Parliament and as such Welsh Labour have put forward four strong candidates: Derek Vaughan (who has been an MEP since the last elections in 2009), Jayne Bryant, Alex Thomas and Christina Rees. It’s important that we do all we can to return as many Labour MEPs as possible.
Of the four existing Welsh MEPs (1 Labour, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru and 1 UKIP), Derek consistently works the hardest. He spends the most time in the European Parliament, votes on the most legislation, and delivers the best results for Wales. Derek was the only Welsh MEP to fight against cuts for Wales in the new EU budget – his efforts means that Wales will benefit from an additional £130 million in European Union funding rather than the £400 million cut that the Tory-led UK Government originally insisted on. Derek’s work therefore means more EU money to support Welsh businesses, research and jobs in our communities.
Wales benefits hugely from EU membership and therefore it’s vital that we don’t jeopardise our position within it by flirting with confrontation and / or withdrawal. With anti-EU parties like UKIP enjoying a surge of popularity as they position themselves as the party of protest politics, and David Cameron giving in to his right-wing backbenchers and touting withdrawal following a referendum in 2017, this is now more important than ever. So, just what has the EU done for Wales?
People in Wales have benefited from EU legislation in areas like workers’ rights (health and safety protection, paid holidays, equal rights for part-time workers); women’s rights (rights during pregnancy, parental leave, maternity rights); consumer rights (rights to a refund when returning certain goods, early rights to cancel a mobile phone contract, rights to repair or replace faulty goods); jobs (since 2007, £1.9 billion of EU funds has helped to create 6,000 new enterprises and nearly 20,000 jobs – helping to fund Welsh Government initiatives like Jobs Growth Wales); and trade and investment (the EU is our largest trading partner, with 150,000 Welsh jobs dependent on £5 billion exports of goods and services to EU countries each year).
With all the publicity that UKIP are getting, what exactly would they do? They would put all of this in jeopardy by pushing for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. They want to cut taxes for millionaires (even more than the Tories have done!); endanger public health and safety by relaxing drink-driving and public smoking bans; and want to scrap numerous workers’ rights laws and reduce maternity pay. They also paint a picture of a Britain being ‘invaded’ by EU migrants – when in fact, nearly as many British people live and work in other EU countries (2.2 million) as EU nationals live and work here in Britain (2.3 million). Indeed, EU migrants only make up around 4% of the British population and they are very unlikely to claim out-of-work benefits.
So if you’re thinking that this is ‘only’ the European elections, then think again – there is a lot at stake on 22nd May. If we want to halt the march of UKIP and Europhobia, we have to make sure that we make clear the benefits to Wales of being in the EU. If Labour supporters turn out on polling day, there is a very good chance that Derek will be joined by more Labour MEPs, while the Tories and / or Plaid will lose out.