Chief Executive of Public Health England reacts with disappointment to the Governments sudden change of mind on alcohol and tobacco

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;

Dear everyone,

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.

(Extract from Duncan Selbie letter)

The full letter can be found here – LINK.

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.

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I was wrong to praise David Cameron on alcohol – he has failed the public health agenda

Binge Drinking
(Photo credit: Mark Turner)

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.

EXCLUSIVE: The Government cut Discretionary Housing Payments in the 2012 Autumn Statement

The Ministerial statement and widely reported U-turn on the Bedroom Tax does nothing to alleviate concern about the impact of the Bedroom Tax on disabled people.

Couples where one individual has to sleep in a hospital bed and the couple cannot share a room will be penalised for having an “extra” bedroom.

The bedroom tax, due to be implemented in April, will penalise households in social housing deemed to have more bedrooms than they require. About 670,000 households will face a 14% cut in housing benefit for the first bedroom deemed surplus to requirements and 25% for two or more bedrooms. The government estimates the average household affected will lose £14 a week (Source: Guardian).

The Government seems to say that everything is fine because disabled people will be able to apply for discretionary housing payment from their local council and any shortfalls will be addressed – everything is hunky dory. WRONG!

On Page 68 of the 2012 Autumn Statement, the Government makes a positive move to exempt people in supported accommodation from the bedroom tax but they pay for it using money allocated for Discretionary Housing Payments!

DHP Cut in 2012 Autumn Statement

That’s a £15 million reduction in Discretionary Housing Payments up to 2017 and front loaded so that £10 million is taken out in the first two years!!!

However, DHP is a funding pot that people have to apply for every year, it is non-statutory and if it runs out, that is it. Reducing it is concerning and makes the future uncertain for disabled people.

Voters ‘brainwashed by Tory welfare myths’ The Independent

independent front page 4012012

An interesting front page of the Independent today. It confirms what many have been saying all along. That this Tory Liberal Government are using specific examples and making out as if this is the norm. As if everyone on benefits is workshy and sleeping happily in the home with their curtains drawn while people get up early to go to work in dark hours of the morning.

Indeed this article by Ramesh Patel, a Conservative himself, calls on David Cameron to apologise for his deficit arguments – LINK. He even refers to the Nazi tactic at the end of his article pushed by Joseph Goebbels, that if you repeat a lie over and over, people start believing it, no matter how ridiculous it is – LINK.

In Brent, most people affected by the benefit changes are in low paid work. The Independent article (available online – LINK) says that two thirds of those affected by the cap are in work.

It’s sad that people are believing these Tory Liberal distortions. The article says that polling reveals three in five believe the system has created a culture of dependency.  Brent Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Paul Lorber talked of this culture of dependency at the last Full Council meeting and has done so before, so even a senior Brent Lib Democrat is explicitly using this line of attack.

What we need is a better understanding on the lives affected by these changes. The atmosphere and toxicity that currently exists in society today in the UK towards people who receive benefits, not helped by Government and some parts of the media, is detriment to a peaceful society.

Brent Food Bank

Councillor Muhammed Butt at the Brent Food Bank
Councillor Muhammed Butt at the Brent Food Bank

On Monday, the food bank in Brent broke its own record for the amount of food vouchers given out in a single day. Leader of Brent Council Muhammed Butt said “the service provided by the food bank on Scrubs Lane is an invaluable service being provided at a time of severe hardship which is being felt by many individuals who are reliant on this service to help them to get through very difficult times.”

This poster shows how you can contact the Food Bank LINK

You can contact the Food Bank here LINK

This week Ed Miliband ripped into the Prime Minister David Cameron for his vision of the ‘Big Society’ being there to feed hungry children of the working poor LINK

The absolute end of the road for the NHS?

Jeremy Hunt appointment as Secretary of State for Health is bad for the NHS. This article from the Mirror in 2009 explains why – LINK

English: Credit: James Firth of Dalton Firth L...
English: Credit: James Firth of Dalton Firth Limited. Copyright (c) Dalton Firth Limited, released under Creative Commons (CC) Attribution – Non Commercial license v2.5: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another episode of Nicholas Clegg-ocrisy

So Nick Clegg cuts tax for the highest earners in the country and then says that the wealthy should pay more tax – LINK

Here are some Twitter reactions to Clegg’s announcement.

You’re not fooling anyone Clegg.

 

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: “A windfall for the rich and we’re paying for it!”

The March budget was delivered at a time when the economy is stagnating, output is still below 2008 levels, public and private investment is falling and unemployment and poverty levels are rising. Yet the coalition picked this time to give a windfall to the richest people in the country by announcing a tax cut of from 50p to 45p in the pound for earnings over £150,000 a year. And the people who will have to pay for it include pensioners and some of the poorest families in the country.

The windfall is worth an estimated £3 billion to the 300,000 highest earners in the UK – an average tax cut of around £10,000 a year or over £40,000 a year to the 14,000 members of the group who earn over a million pounds a year. Amongst the people who will benefit from it are Barclays’ Bob Diamond (whose 2011 package was worth £25 million), Reckitt Benckiser’s Bart Brecht (£12.1 million), Shell’s Peter Voser (£10 million plus), Barclays Rich Ricci (£10 million), FT-owner Pearsons’ Marjorie Scardino (£9.6 million), HSBC’s Stuart Gulliver (£7.1 million) and GlaxoSmithKline’s Andrew Witty (£6.7 million). The Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies (average £4.2 million) will also benefit handsomely, as will many members of the coalition cabinet, including David Cameron who is expected to be in line for a £3,000 saving.

Companies will also benefit from the budget as a result of the decision to cut corporation tax from 26% to 24% but this is unlikely to interest companies like Amazon, which had UK sales of over £7 billion in the last three years and apparently paid no UK corporation tax at all!

But it is working people and those who can least afford it who will be expected to pay for this windfall to the super rich. They will include 4.4 million over 65s who will be £83 a year worse off on average because of Osborne’s ‘granny tax’ and people who become pensioners from next April, many of whom will be £285 a year worse off because more of their pension will be taxed. People getting tax credits will be penalised as well, due to the main element of working tax credit being frozen and eligibility criteria being changed for working and child tax credit. One result of this could be that as many as 850,000 families on modest and middle incomes could lose all of their child tax credit, worth around £545 a year. And around 212,000 working couples earning less than £17,000 a year could lose all of their working tax credit if they are unable to increase their working hours. This could mean a loss of over £3,000 a year and would be a disaster for some of the poorest working families in the country.

Labour was right to describe the changes to tax and benefits as one of the most ruthless assaults on the finances of low and middle income earners ever seen. And Ed Milliband was right to launch a savage attack on the Chancellor’s proposals on budget day. But Labour needs to show more leadership and organise a far more aggressive campaign against the coalition’s inept handling of the economy, bias towards the super rich and attacks on working peoples’ interests. The Unions also need to show more leadership and all of us need to stop agonising and start organising in our own workplaces and communities as well. Austerity for the poor is not the answer to Britain’s problems! We need to reject it and fight back!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.