National Conference

Report on the 4th Occupy UK and Ireland Conference held at Occupy Southend between April 13th and April 15th, 2012.

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 Southend-on-Sea’s Debt    ..…is £330m. You owe:


The Fightback against Fragmentation and Privatisation of the NHS

Norman Traub of ‘Southend Keep our NHS Public’ writes: “In spite of the opposition from the vast majority of the staff of the NHS - nurses, doctors, midwives, physiotherapists, clerical workers and porters - the Health and Social Care Bill has been passed by Parliament. The GPs, through the BMA and the College of General Practitioners, have vociferously opposed the Bill. The patients and public, in one poll after another, have demonstrated their total opposition to the Bill. The tiny minority of the population, consisting of the directors of the big health care companies and their shareholders , who will benefit from their profits and the politicians in Parliament and the Lords, who run the Con Dem government and are beholden to the big companies, support the Bill.

The Bill is designed to break up the NHS and open up its £100 billion budget to big private companies, competing to provide health care. The much vaunted power, that the local GPs are supposed to hold in deciding which companies and non profit providers are allowed to compete for delivery of NHS services in their locality, will be wielded by the regulator, Monitor. This unaccountable quango  and another quango, the Care and Quality Commission, will draw up the list of providers it deems “qualified” to deliver services to patients, irrespective of the views  of patients, GPs and other professionals. Companies providing health care will be able to cherry pick patients , who are younger and have less complex illnesses. Increasingly, the older patients with chronic illnesses, the disabled and the mentally ill will find that their health care is compromised. The Bill allows hospitals to derive 49% of their income from private patients. NHS patients will find themselves at the back of the queue for health care at their local hospital. Hospitals that are unable to compete in the market, will either close or be taken over by private companies. GPs  will become scapegoats for rationing health care and their relationships with their patients will be damaged as the health service is broken up and a postcode lottery in health care is created.

As the big companies come to dominate the market in the commissioning and provision of health services, it is the patients who will suffer and the NHS staff who will be frustrated and discontented. It is up to all of us, the health care workers in their trade unions and professional bodies, patients, pensioners  and organisations such as ours, Keep Our NHS Public, who must unite and fight against the closure of wards and sacking of hospital staff. We must oppose cut backs of health services and slapping charges on existing services. We must fight for the return to the principles on which the NHS was founded, a publicly funded and publicly run NHS, free at the point of delivery.”

The Illusion of Local Democracy

One of the most common issues raised by people visiting Occupy Southend at St. Mary’s Church centred on Southend Council and its dismissive and contemptuous attitude towards the majority of the townspeople. Arrogant, money-wasting, gaff-prone - three of the many adjectives used to describe the local junta. And yet many of the people who talked to Occupy Southend were unfamiliar with how so-called local democracy really works in our town. Occupy Southend explained how Southend Council’s power, your power you gave to them, lays in the hands of a group of eight conservatives. These eight conservatives make up the cabinet and decide on all the big issues in the Borough. Long gone are the days when all 51 councillors had a fair vote to reflect the consensus majority view in their wards. The gang of eight are the cabinet system. Once people had digested the way the Southend Council power structure worked, they understood how certain projects had come to be, and pondered ways of ending the ‘never can be defeated’ cabinet. Occupy Southend believes party politics have contributed greatly to the mess our town and our country find themselves in. Occupy is non-political but we understand that changes can be made through the ballot box. We have been asked to list all councillors who would vote to remove the cabinet system, regardless of party affiliations. We will oblige.

This statement is subject to revision over the next few days, to reflect the continuing input of the people of the Borough.