In a letter addressed to everyone, Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England has vented his disappointment in the Government’s decision last week to take no immediate action on tobacco and alcohol death prevention. The opening extract of his letter reads;
We share and understand the disappointment across the public health family that neither standardised packaging nor minimum unit pricing are to be taken forward for the moment by Government. With tobacco and alcohol being among the nation’s top killers this is, however, hopefully a case of not now, rather than never. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made clear that they are open to further evidence emerging. Lest we forget, nine out of ten smokers begin as children and helping them make better choices is a child protection concern. Likewise, the evidence tells us that doing all we can to reduce the ready availability of cheap, higher strength alcohol helps the youngest and the heaviest drinkers most.
There comes a cros by which you wonder why the Government felt the need to totally flip their position on these issues and create disappointment to their own professional most senior Public Health Chief Executive.
In February last year, I wrote a blog piece on this website praising the prime Minister for raising the issue of binge drinking and at the time, it was looking like David Cameron would take some strong action on the issue – LINK.
The problems with street drinking, and especially in this current amazing weather, are persisting in Neasden. I feel a minimum pricing policy would deter people from drinking so much. We have a dispersal zone in place which should be helping tackle the impact of street drinking and it is illegal anyway. However, there is a lack of police presence and patrolling in the area because of successive years of police cuts – LINK.
In addition to the failure to introduce plain package cigarettes, it looks like the Tory Liberals will also not be introducing minimum pricing for alcohol. In addition, research published in the British Medical Journey yesterday showed that the number of deaths among women born in the 1970s has “disproportionately increased” since the mid-2000s – LINK.
The Government needs to act on the alcohol health warnings that are screaming out at everyone.
Following on from my blogpost here LINK there is further news of the defection of Brent Liberal Democrat Councillor Carol Shaw to the Brent Conservative Party. The news broke on the Kilburn Times website this morning LINK
I was delighted to attend the 25 years on event celebrating the 1987 historic election when four ethnic minority MPs, Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng were elected to Parliament. The event was held at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham. Paul was of course a MP in Brent and now sits in the House of Lords.
Indeed that weekend, I had been watching the Election 1987 programme on BBC Parliament and it was evident that it was an exciting election all around. In terms of social progress in society, it was great for ethnic minorities in this country. It paved the way towards seeing more ethnic minorities in public life in prominent positions. There are 27 ethnic minority MPs in the current Parliament, serving as either Labour or Conservative MPs.
I am proud of the progress that our Brent Labour Group is making and our ethnic composition that reflects the diversity of Brent. Around 60% of the Brent come from ethnic minority backgrounds and 60% of the Labour Group are ethnic minorities.
It’s great progress that Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt is one of three ethnic minority Leaders of a London Borough Council. Despite London’s diversity, it is surprising that there are not more.
With the news that we are officially in a double-dip recession period LINK it is becoming clearer that the Tory Liberal economic policies are fundamentally flawed. Yes, they inherited a large deficit, but they also inherited a growing economy.
Cutting too far too fast has recklessly damaged the UK’s good prospects of getting our economy moving again. So far, the Tory Liberals have increased unemployment by
Slashing jobs in the public sector on the unsubstantiated claim and risk that jobs will miraculously appear in the private sector to make up for the rise in unemployment in the public sector
Increasing VAT which has an impact on a business’ take home profits, meaning that they have less profit available to employ people and expand
The VAT rise also impacts on consumer spending and disincentivises businesses
Scrapping the Future Jobs Fund which equips young people to be work ready. Indeed the long term impact of this has also been ignored by the Tory Liberals. Even if there is a lack of employment opportunities in the country, it is important that these schemes are invested in so that people are equipped with the skills they need and are work ready for when the economy does recover and there are jobs for people to go into.
Unemployment should never be a price worth paying. The immediate and long-term impact of worklessness is far worse than pursuing an aim to get rid of the deficit in four years. The Tory Liberal Government have made this their priority and ignored the impact that this damaging course has on ordinary people.
The VAT rise also had a detrimental impact on inflation. Naturally, it costs more to buy products because there is more tax paid on spending money. This leaves less disposable income to the individual and what’s more, wages are not going up with inflation. People are being squeezed with higher costs and lower income.
This brings me to my final point on the deficit, which has increased under this Tory Liberal administration – LINK
Growth is a key component to tackle the deficit. Without economic growth, it becomes difficult to address the deficit. This has been the Tory Liberal Coalition’s main failure. There is the issue of the Eurozone crisis that the right wing Government will point to. However, slashing public sector jobs with a front loaded approach and the VAT rise are policies of the Government’s own making.
The Tories are out of touch with ordinary people and their stance on the 50% tax rate at this very moment in time is testament to that. The Liberals aren’t bothered about issues such as employment, jobs, the economy, crime and the NHS – this is proven with how easily they flipped their position on these what I consider core issues. They are far more concerned with the House of Lords and the electoral system and appear more principled on these issues than ones that have a more profound impact on people.
The Brent Liberal Democrats have failed to field a candidate for the Barnhill by-election on May 3rd 2012. Just two years ago at the local Brent Council elections in May 2010, the Lib Dems put up three candidates in Barnhill and they attracted a respectable 987, 903 and 799 votes for the three candidates there.
A number of questions arise on the mystery decision. Perhaps the Lib Dems are stepping aside to help out their Tory Coalition partners.
Despite the rank hypocrisy highlighted by the Political Scrapbook here (LINK), which describes how David Cameron profited £84,000 from a “binge drinking” bar chain, The Prime Minister is right to raise the issue of binge drinking.
Although the issue in Dudden Hill ward is in a slightly different context compared to what David Cameron is talking about, some of the issues are experienced in my ward, particularly in the Neasden area.
The Government talk of the soaring costs to the NHS because of excessive drinking. In Neasden, street drinking has an impact on the Council’s resources as people are drinking and throwing cans away on the streets rather than recycling.
In addition, individuals off their heads on alcohol are taking part in anti-social behaviour in surrounding streets and can appear intimidating hanging around in groups in front of people’s houses.
The additional time that the Police have to spend in these hotspot drinking areas is also having a drain on Police resources. In Neasden, I am working with Sergeant Matthew Howard and the Safer Neighbourhood Team along with the Neasden Action Group. Last week I also took the opportunity to raise it with Brent Borough Commander Matthew Gardner.
The Council also has a role to play through licensing. Alcohol is too readily available. It does not help that one in four premises in the Neasden shopping centre sells alcohol; and in some cases, as cheap as £1 a 500ml can of beer.
At the same time, there are underlying issues of jobs and unemployment that have to be addressed on a national scale.