Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 46 Number 25, December 17, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Syrian People Fighting to Defend their Sovereignty
Against Interference of the Anglo-US Imperialists

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

The Syrian People Fighting to Defend their Sovereignty Against Interference of the Anglo-US Imperialists

For Your Information:
A Note on the "White Helmets"

Workers' Movement:
Southern Rail Drivers and Conductors Take Action to Defend Safety and their Livelihoods

Workers' Movement:
Teaching Assistants' Strikes Broaden

The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS:
North East London Campaigns against its Footprint's STP

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The Syrian People Fighting to Defend their Sovereignty
Against Interference of the Anglo-US Imperialists

According to latest reports, tens of thousands of Syrians living in Aleppo have been evacuated from areas previously held by terrorist groups, including those financed by the US, Britain and other countries which seek to overthrow the Assad government. On December 8, the Syrian Arab Army suspended all military operations in eastern Aleppo to evacuate 8,000 civilians. On December 10, more than 20,000 were reported to have exited formerly besieged areas. By December 16, over 3,000 of anti-government fighters had surrendered, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, and many thousands of people had returned to their homes or been evacuated and received humanitarian assistance. Stories of brutality from Syrians forced to live for years under the rule of Anglo-US-backed death squads in Aleppo are already coming to light. The liberation of eastern Aleppo has been completed, according to the Russian Defence Ministry's Centre for Reconciliation, apart from around two percent.

Britain's has been engaged over the last six years in interference in Syria, supporting the "moderate opposition" in an effort to try and overthrow the government of Assad and bring into power a regime that champions Anglo-US interests in Syria. This interference of these Western powers has left hundreds of thousand of Syrian people dead, with millions of Syrian people having to flee as refugees to Europe and other parts of the world.

This human tragedy has been compounded over, and over again by the British government's hostile stance towards these Syrian refugees who have been forced into refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey and barred from entering Britain at Calais. Now, the Syrian government, the Syrian people and their allies that have come to their aid, have increasingly defeated and driven out these armed groups that are occupying their country. This is why Britain, the US and the other NATO powers are crying foul and have suddenly become the champions of "human rights" in Aleppo demonising the Syrian government and Russia, whilst extolling their own role in this terrible human destruction that they have brought about by their interference over six years. Unable to use the UN Security Council to advance NATO proposals for a no-fly zone over Syria, these imperialists have now turned to schemes to use ground forces to establish pockets of territory outside of the control of the Syrian authorities, which they call "humanitarian corridors". This they are doing to try and salvage their aim to bring about regime change, or at least now their long-held plans are set back to dismember parts of Syria and try and plunge Syria into the further chaos that they have created throughout the region and the world.

In fact, the precedent for this interference in Syria was Britain's involvement with NATO in bringing about the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011. This war crime of the then Cameron government was carried out in a few weeks, when tens of thousands of people were killed by the bombing of the US, Britain, France, Italy and other countries in NATO. This culminated with the despicable murder of the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. Even more, this caused a massive destruction of Libya's infrastructure, stealing its wealth as one of the richest countries in Africa. They took its oil, destroyed its water resources, its housing and health care system. This intervention left Libya in anarchy and chaos, a situation from which Libya and its people have never recovered. What is more the Anglo-US imperialists in their arrogance thought they could achieve their aims in Syria - within a similar short time. This has not happened and the conflict has not only brought them into conflict with the Syrian people who have heroically resisted and opposed their interference in their country and defended their sovereignty, but has also brought them into conflict with the allies of the Syrian government, with Russia, China, Iran and other countries.

At this time, the ruling elite is deliberately peddling confusion against the stand of the anti-war movement in Britain, who oppose Britain's interference in Syria, oppose Britain's bombing and its military involvement in supplying special forces to fight and train the "moderate opposition" in Syria. In October, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary said in Parliament that the Stop the War Coalition should encourage people to "march on the Russian embassy" over the country's role in the Syrian conflict and others since have gained notoriety for criticising Stop the War, as well as the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, for "only condemning the west".

The anti-war movement does not have to answer to the British warmongers. Syria's right to sovereignty means that its government will seek help from its allies when faced with the threat from the Anglo-US imperialists and the threat from the proxy armies that they and their allies have armed and trained. It is the Anglo-US imperialists' efforts to decide the future of countries and their peoples, so as to serve their own empire-building, whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Haiti, Cuba, DPRK or any other country, which is precisely what has resulted in the most heinous and gross violations of human rights of the peoples of the world.

The issue for the anti-war movement is not simply a case of standing on the sidelines, and casually condemning each and every incidence of violence. It is true that as a principle the people's movement fights that international affairs must be sorted out without resource to armed might. But this is directed towards depriving the purveyors of the doctrine of "might makes right" the power to impose their will by armed aggression, by fomenting regime change by overt and covert means, and by the crime against peace of preparing and launching war.

The anti-war movement must consciously take up the task of bringing about an anti-war government in Britain. That is why it is so crucial that the movement aims its blow against the British government, which is a war government. Furthermore, bringing about an anti-war government does not simply mean replacing one political party with another. It is a fundamental task to be elaborated and fought for, that the stand and participation of the people in fighting against war must be reflected in the aim to deprive the warmongers of power, which includes a serious democratic renewal of the political process and empowering the working class and people. An anti-war government is the aim. As a crucial step, the movement must be built on the outlook of settling scores with the warmongering of those in power in Britain. This is a major contribution that the working class and people can make to averting further catastrophes and securing peace and stability.

Article Index

For Your Information

A Note on the "White Helmets"

Infographic produced by website UKCOLUMN on links between White Helmets and other organisations

The "White Helmets" are part of the imperialists' private special forces on the civilian front. They reinforce the aim of regime change in Syria, including acting as auxiliaries for anti-government armed groups that are financed by the imperialists.

The "White Helmets" were founded in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a British private military contractor, consultant for the Foreign Office and former military intelligence officer[i], when the governments of the US and Britain funded select individuals in rebel-held territory in Syria to travel to Turkey to allegedly receive training in rescue operations. The White Helmets group is supported by a foundation started by Le Mesurier called Mayday Rescue which operates out of the Netherlands, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey. According to the US State Department the group has received at least $23 million in US government funding but the Foreign Office is said to be its largest single backer.

The group has operated exclusively in those areas which were under the control of armed groups that have been refusing to participate in a political resolution to the conflict in Syria.

(Source: TML Weekly, December 10, 2016)

(i) James Le Mesurier, "founder and Director of Mayday Rescue," who, according to his official biography at the Mayday Rescue site, "has spent 20 years working in fragile states as a United Nations staff member, a consultant for private companies and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a British Army Officer. Much of his experience has involved delivering stabilisation activities through security sector and democratisation programmes." According to an article in Men's Journal, Le Mesurier was a member of the Royal Green Jackets. He was deployed in northern Ireland and Kosovo. The article notes he is also a private security trainer. "He trained several thousand citizens to become the oil and gas field protection force for the UAE, designed security infrastructure for Abu Dhabi - 'everything from the potential of sea-level rise to political uprisings, shit you just don't think of, so you're sitting down with futurists in New York talking about what the world will be like in 30 years' - and ensured the safety of the 2010 Gulf Cup in Yemen, a regional soccer tournament held in the midst of fears of a potential Al Qaeda uprising." In 2013, "with help from Turkey's elite natural-disasters response team, AKUT, and $300,000 of seed funding from Japan, the UK, and the US, he launched the first seven-day SCD [Syrian Civil Defence] course to teach 25 vetted Syrians". Who vetted them and based on what criteria of course is not mentioned. The article also notes that Le Mesurier does not go into Syria as he "fears his presence alongside the team would compromise its local integrity".

Article Index

Workers' Movement

Southern Rail Drivers and Conductors Take
Action to Defend Safety and their Livelihoods

Train drivers and conductors, members of ASLEF and RMT, have been escalating their programme of industrial action in opposition to the intransigence of Southern Rail and the government in seeking to impose driver-only-operated trains. Southern Rail has become notorious above many other privatised train operators as failing to provide an acceptable service to passengers, with a high proportion of cancelled and delayed trains, overcrowding and lack of concern for both passengers and the workers of Southern Rail. About 300,000 passengers usually travel on 2,242 Southern services every weekday.

The concern of the drivers and conductors of ASLEF and the RMT has been for the safety of passengers if Southern were to impose its axing of train conductors, as well as for their own livelihoods and dignity in being treated as disposable items and not as human beings and as workers with their own knowledge, experience and values.

The attempts of Southern in chorus with the government and others to brand the drivers and conductors as holding the public to ransom does not wash. The travelling public is well aware of how Southern claims its share of the value added by its workers and then absolves itself of responsibility to provide a reliable and acceptable service. There have been and continue to be protests pointing the finger at Southern for its profiteering and at the government for its neo-liberal agenda in attacking public transport.

Talks at the conciliation service ACAS have failed to bring any resolution to the dispute. Not only that, but the government is openly promoting the idea of changing the law in order to ban strikes in public services altogether. It is already illegal for prison officers to strike. The fraudulent argument is put forward that it is for the public good, but the reality is that the state is further attempting to impose its authority in the interests of its neo-liberal agenda, privatisation, paying the rich and cutting back investments in programmes which benefit society.

As the unions have pointed out, these private franchises need reminding that cuts to jobs that jeopardise safety lead to accidents such as that at Potters' Bar where many workers who were passengers died. Public transport must be effective and safe. According to the media, "Whatever happens here will be reflected in future franchises as they take delivery of new, driver-only-operated trains." It is clear that they want only the interests of buyers' and sellers' profitability to be considered. In contrast, it is a pro-social demand that the entire railway service be run by an accountable public authority.

The general secretary of ASLEF, Mick Whelan, has said that the strike was a response to "ill conceived" changes "fraught with danger". Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accused the government of attempting to pin the blame for its own incompetence on trade unions.

Mick Whelan said: "We have a trade dispute with GTR Southern, and only a poor government would seek to spin it any other way. We were willing to go to ACAS last week but GTR Southern refused because they wanted to go to court." The spurious grounds, which the Court of Appeal threw out, for this legal action by Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) was that the strike was in contravention of EU law guaranteeing freedom of movement, since Southern is the operating company that runs trains to Gatwick Airport.

In a further development, ASLEF is accusing Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of calling on train companies to take "secondary action". Mick Whelan accused Chris Grayling of hypocrisy after a report suggested that he call on train operating companies to work together on a strategy for tackling industrial action in the rail industry.

Mick Whelan said, "It is illegal for trade unions in the UK to take secondary action so I am staggered by the hypocrisy of the Secretary of State for Transport who is effectively telling train operating companies to take secondary action in support of Southern rail and extend their poor employment practices throughout the rail industry. These comments once again demonstrate that this is a political action by the government that has caused this trade dispute. His call to train operating companies to act collectively against unions will only lead to further unrest and by fanning the flames of strife. I can only conclude that he is either incompetent or panicking or both."

Justice is on the side of the workers and their demands must be met. Workers' Weekly calls on everyone to support the struggle of Southern workers in defending the safety of passengers and in defence of their livelihoods.

Further Southern planned rail strike dates:

00:01 Monday 19 December to 23:59 Tuesday 20 December (RMT)

00:01 Saturday 31 December to 23:59 Monday 2 January (RMT)

00:01 Monday 9 January to 23:59: Saturday 14 January (ASLEF)

Sources: BBC, ASLEF

Article Index

Workers' Movement

Teaching Assistants' Strikes Broaden

Teaching Assistants rally at the Durham miners' hall, Redhills

Durham and Derby teaching assistants (TAs) have been taking strike action over the past month in defence of their rights and terms and conditions of work. These actions began with a 48-hour strike by TAs in Durham on November 8-9 in response to an attack on their pay amounting to cuts of as much as 23%.

The strikers, members of Unison and ATL, held a huge rally of some 1,200 TAs. "If Durham council underestimated the strength and passion of Durham teaching assistants, they won't now," declared Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis, speaking at the rally. "We will fight this pay cut and we will win."

The TAs' blog "Lions of Durham" explains:

"This is not action we are taking lightly but we have been forced into it by the Council's refusal to discuss an alternative to imposing 23% pay cuts for working the same hours or 10% pay cut for working an ADDITIONAL 175.5 hours a year (many TAs are unable to work the extra hours or have not been offered them).

"Teaching Assistants are already low paid (particularly in County Durham) and we simply cannot afford to continue in our jobs while losing up to £4,600 a year. Our jobs will not have changed when we return to work in January: we will still be expected to mark, to plan, to support and, yes, to TEACH.

"Durham County Council like to refer to us as 'non-teaching staff' but anyone who has worked in a school or had a child in school knows that Teaching Assistants teach all of the time. Many years ago, we were Teaching Assistants; now we are Assistant Teachers. We teach 1:1, small groups, large groups and whole classes. When we teach whole classes, we mostly do it without any support (whereas teachers have a TA to support them)."

The Durham TAs further explain that they "have always been prepared to do whatever is needed to support the teachers, the children and their families. This has involved huge amounts of unpaid overtime spent planning, marking, preparing resources, taking children on trips, going on residentials."

A further 48-hour strike took place on November 23 and 24. To fund this ongoing fight, the Durham TAs have set up a crowdfunding campaign, which has raised an impressive £36,268 at the time of writing:

This site outlines the history of the dispute:

"In Oct '15 proposals were announced to change the terms and conditions of the contracts of employment for 2,700 Teaching Assistants. We have rejected 3 slightly varied proposals to date, offering only 1 year's compensation for loss of income, and this could result in us being sacked on December 31, 2016 and reinstated on January 1, 2017 under new terms and conditions. These relatively low paid workers provide invaluable assistance to teachers and we strongly object to the way the need for these changes, under threat of inequality pay claims, have been presented by our employer.

"TAs have come together and after organising initial meetings, formed the County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists Committee (CDTAAC). Donations have begun to be received and we hope to fund legal advice and industrial action.

"The strength of feeling is such that 500 TAs attended a meeting at Redhills Miners Hall supported by Durham TUC and subsequently 800 TAs marched at the Durham Miners Gala gaining support from unions at a national level and from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

"The issue is difficult in terms of employment procedures. However, many TAs have 20-30 years in post, years that have seen several huge changes in the delivery of education to children across the board. The role of TA has developed into something much more akin to Teachers' employment than that of a similar graded Business Administrator.

"CDTAAC represents TAs in all their varying circumstances. Being offered increased hours is an attempt to reduce the impact of contract changes but not all Heads can offer increased hours and not all TAs can suddenly accept more hours due to other commitments.

"Historically, we know our pay is for term time working divided equally by 12 months. At this point in time our employer is trying to say we are paid over the school holidays and to convert us to term time pay again, by reducing our paid weeks. Without taking the increased hours the loss adds up to 23%, or £4,000 in real terms."

Similar cuts to TA pay in Derby have also led these education workers to take strike action. New contracts imposed in June mean some 2,700 staff losing a significant portion of pay averaging £300-£400 per month, and in some cases as much as 25%, or about £6,000 per year.

The TAs held a number of strikes in June and October and began a new round of action on December 14, with four days of strikes between then and December 20. The latest strikes were called after rejecting a derisory offer by the council to make a one-off payment of £2,000 to just one in ten of the affected staff. A further two days are planned for January 19 and 20.

Videos of their protests and details of their hardship fund can be seen on the Facebook page of the Unison Derby City Branch:

These pay cuts are completely unjustifiable. It is clear from the direct experience voiced by the teaching assistants that they perform an essential role, a role that is itself ever-more crucial as a result of underinvestment in education.

These cuts arise from austerity in the form of a general slashing of funding to local government, which has been leading to cuts to social programmes across the board. Furthermore, cuts to education workers' pay come in the context of an agenda of privatisation and a programme to go all-out to create a capital-centric school system; they are part and parcel of the neo-liberal wrecking of education.

The sheer scale of the pay cuts, potentially adding immense difficulty to these workers' lives as it moves them firmly into the ranks of the low-paid, amounts to a tactic of shock and awe, and acts to marginalise the TAs: the decision amounts to imposition from which they are deprived of any say. In opposition, education workers demand a say over their conditions of work, to improve them and the system as a whole with increased investments.

It cannot be accepted that there is a lack of money for investment. The pay of these TAs is not a cost: they clearly add immense value to the economy along with the education system as a whole. Being forced to work in conditions of greatly reduced income, marginalised and deprived of a say, can only have a negative impact and be a true cost to the economy.

Workers' Weekly congratulates the teaching assistants on their stand in defence of their rights and on persisting in their struggle to affirm their value, both to the education system and as human beings.

Sources: Lions of Durham blog, Unison, National Shop Stewards Network, various news reports.

Article Index

The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS

North East London Campaigns against its Footprint's STP

As the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England, announced in NHS planning guidance published in December 2015 and since prepared in secret in 44 "footprint" areas, are now being revealed, so is the opposition to them beginning to gather momentum.[i]

The STPs have been prepared in great secrecy by bodies that have no democratic accountability and in an absurdly short space of time.[ii]

One such STP is that of North East London (NEL), and a campaign is being fought exposing its implications, its underlying aims and its detrimental effect on health care.

The North-East London STP appears to incorporate the five-year plan known as Transforming Services Together (TST), drawn up between 2014 and 2016 to radically reconfigure health services in the London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

In an Expert Witness Statement to the Inner London Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JOSC), presented on December 13, Mary Burnett and Terry Day point out that a Freedom of Information request for financial and working details of the NEL STP was rejected in November on the grounds that disclosure "would be likely to inhibit the ability of public authority staff ... to express themselves openly ... and explore extreme options ... Deliberation needs to be made in a 'safe space' to develop ideas and to reach decisions away from external interference which may occur if there is premature public or media involvement".

This is not only an insult to everyone concerned over the direction in which the NHS is being driven, but to public authorities which are meant to scrutinise plans.

The Expert Witness Statement points out that Operational Planning and Contracting Guidance from NHS England 2017-2019 requires that all contracts between purchasers and providers to be based on the STP plan. The total cost must not exceed the STP financial control total and the contracts must be signed off by December 23, 2016. Mary Burnett and Terry Day ask: "How then can there be proper scrutiny, how can there be meaningful public engagement, let alone consultation, when the plans will be embedded in contracts by December 23? And how can this be described as a collaborative, system wide transformation of our health service?"

They go on to point out that out-of-hospital and integrated community care is the mantra informing all the STPs. Out-of-hospital care is predicated on "transforming" care in the community. The STP says: "The implementation of our common framework for better care and wellbeing, and the development of accountable care systems, require the radical transformation of primary care to lead the progression and development of a successful out of hospital health and care system." The point is that this is nothing but a cost-cutting exercise in the context in which it is being put forward. It is dangerously like a guidance that first and foremost "lower-risk" patients must fend for themselves or ring the NHS 111 number to be screened before booking appointments for community-based urgent care. This is being called "self-care".

The Expert Witness Statement says that "the STP still proposes it can transform a deficit of £578m in 2021 to a potential surplus of £37m and improve the service. You've read Julia Simmons quote of blue sky thinking and lies. It's unsurprising given the scale and speed of the plans, and that they are, in fact, an artifice for massive spending cuts. If implemented, they will cause enormous pressure across health and social care, harm to patients, and pressure on carers. They will, in effect, shift risk into the community, onto the most vulnerable people. Harm will get lost behind closed doors."

A paper produced last month for the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) by Vivek Kotecha and Colin Leys has this to say: "Over the next fifteen years East London's population is projected to increase by some 270,000 (30%), while government spending on health services per head is set to fall. The main hospital provider in the area, Barts Health, has the biggest deficit of any hospital trust in England. So the area's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are being required to move away from reliance on hospital-based services to providing much more care in the community." It continues: "At the same time primary and community care services will be radically changed. The planners predict a need for 195 additional GPs by 2025 but by then there will be a third fewer GPs than at present down from 600 to 400. Instead much of the work now done by GPs will be done by nurses, physician associates (science graduates with a two-year postgraduate diploma) and pharmacists leaving GPs to deal with only the most serious cases."

Can there be any doubt where this is leading? The NHS is being wrecked under the mantra of integrating health and social care and primary and community care. Serious trouble is brewing for the NHS into which gap will increasingly step the private health companies, delivering health care privately, and can charging for health care be far behind?

North-east London STP Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons, December 16

Labour MP for Ilford South, Mike Gapes, led a debate on the North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan in the Commons on Friday.

He introduced the debate by saying: "Changes to our national health service are being planned all over the country, which are going to have profound implications for the quality of health, the availability of both primary and secondary services and for the size and location of our hospitals. There has been justified criticism of the secrecy with which this process of producing so-called sustainability and transformation plans has been carried out. The Department of Health has produced a five year forward view and a very large number of plans. I want to focus on the north-east London sustainability and transformation plan draft, which was published on 21 October, and on the eight delivery plans supposedly to implement it."

Mike Gapes continued: "My local council, Redbridge Council, has been concerned that it has not been adequately involved in the process. It has made it clear that it will act in the interests of our local community and that Redbridge will not be signing off or endorsing the STP unless we are satisfied that it is in the interests of Redbridge residents

"I understand that the STP programme boards are not required to hold meetings in public, and no agenda or minutes are published. The secrecy surrounding this process has not been helpful in building public trust and has caused suspicion within communities all over the country - I speak particularly from local experience - as to the intentions of the proposals. In many respects what could be a reasonable response in the circumstances to the crisis we face in terms of future funding, the ageing population and other challenges to the NHS, is being undermined because of process issues. The NHS needs to learn from these experiences about how better to engage with the public and key stakeholders, including elected local representatives."

The Labour MP went on: "Today we have seen news about the reality we face in our NHS: large numbers of hospitals with dangerously high bed-occupancy levels and little or no flexibility. The CQC's chief executive recently talked about hospitals being dangerously full. On 26 November, a leaked memo from NHS England revealed that hospitals were being banned from declaring so-called 'black alerts' and told to prepare for the winter crisis by passing on scheduled surgery to private hospitals and discharging thousands of patients to get bed occupancy down from a national average of 89% to 85%.

"However, north-east London's population is massively increasing. The report states that the population of north-east London boroughs will increase by 18% over the next 15 years - equivalent to a new city - and yet there is no plan for an additional hospital to cope with that change. In fact, page 20 of the draft policy states that building an additional hospital is 'not practical or realistic'. Indeed, the situation is worse than that. Not only is there no extra hospital, there is the planned closure of the A&E at King George hospital in my constituency. The plan is to stop overnight ambulances sometime next year, with a total closure in 2019. The STP is calling for that not only because it would meet some savings and restructuring requirements, but also because there are unsustainable costs. The previous Health Secretary announced in 2011 that the A&E at King George would close in 'around two years'. That has not happened because it was deemed unsafe and because there is insufficient capacity at Queen's hospital in Romford or at Whipps Cross university hospital in Waltham Forest to cope with the increased demand.

"Despite our excellent and hard-working staff, all the hospitals in north-east London are in crisis. With pressure for early discharges, but inadequate social care and community support, we have large-scale bed blocking and delayed discharges. Sick patients then get readmitted because they cannot get GP appointments due to the pressures that exist in that sector. The STP sees out-of-hospital and integrated community care as the way forward. However, Dame Julie Moore, who in 2014 chaired a commission on hospital care for frail elderly people, said:

'As much as it suits us all to have one nice neat solution to the problem of our growing, ageing population...
the truth is that as a catch-all answer it is simply wishful thinking. Integrated community care is a good thing...
but this can never be a substitution for hospital care.'"

Mike Gapes goes on to say: "The STP executive summary states: 'Our total financial challenge in a "do nothing" scenario would be £578m by 2021. Achieving ambitious "business as usual" cost improvements as we have done in the past would still leave us with a funding gap of £336m by 2021.' Those are eye-watering figures. The claim is made that 'we have identified a range of opportunities and interventions to help reduce the gap significantly'. However, the £240 million gap between the 'business as usual' case model and the actual predicted figure requires a series of other measures, including significant funding from the sustainability and transformation fund, reductions and changes in specialised commissioning, and what is called 'potential support for excess Public Finance Initiative (PFI) costs'. That covers Whipps Cross hospital, Queen's hospital, Romford, and, to some extent, King George hospital. 'Potential', what a lovely word. So this is not real and it is not even planned - it is just 'potential'."

He concluded: "There will be enormous pressure on my local council because of budget problems, and I am worried about the situation. I am glad that the STP highlights the social care challenge, but it needs to be taken seriously by the Government if we are truly to have an effective health and social care system. The statement in this House yesterday did not offer a solution to my borough. It did not answer the challenge that boroughs such as Redbridge are facing. These boroughs are already ahead of the game in the integration of health and adult social services and are working with neighbours to take up the challenge by being a pilot for the development of an accountable care system.

"Yet with all that transformation, Redbridge still faces a huge social care challenge. That is made worse by a triple whammy of public sector funding reductions to local government - my borough has lost 40% of its income since 2010 - chronic underfunding of adult social care by the Government and the fact that Redbridge does not get a fair funding level in the first place. There is, potentially, a major problem. We face a shortfall of about £4 million in social care and the 1% extra on council tax raises less than £1 million. The responses that we have heard from the Government in recent days have been inadequate - indeed they have been worse even than the silence from the Chancellor in the autumn statement. They offer no real solutions to the growing crisis that will impact on some of the most vulnerable in our society.

"I conclude with this plea: please will the Government look at the situation in north-east London and will the Minister meet me to discuss the fact that this plan is unrealistic, incredible, unachievable and will lead to disaster?"

(i) For further background explaining the significance of the STPs, see Workers' Weekly Internet Edition, December 10, 2016

(ii) For further elaboration regarding the secrecy over STPs, see Workers' Weekly Internet Edition, December 10, 2016

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