Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/456/5467
Lewisham - Liberals save Labour's blushes on NHS
AT THE Lewisham council meeting on 20 September, Labour's mayor Steve Bullock was desperate for good news on the NHS. He put forward a resolution praising Lewisham Hospital for its award of an "excellent" grade for services for children in a Healthcare Commission review.
All councillors wanted to congratulate Lewisham's NHS staff for their skill and hard work. But the two Socialist Party councillors and Greens both put forward addenda, though the Greens withdrew their amendment in favour of ours.
Our addendum was based on a Lewisham Pensioners Federation letter welcoming increased public funding for the NHS but "concerned about the billions going into restructuring on market lines, the millions paid to management consultants and financial advisors, and the drain on hospital budgets from the long-term financial burden of PFI loans." The resolution said the government should immediately halt "these costly and wasteful measures."
Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood, an NHS employee, said that the best way to support staff was to fight for their services, not just to put forward a one-sided resolution that ignored the cuts and privatisations that lead to huge deficits, to wards and even whole hospitals being axed or reduced.
The Liberal Democrats, though, weren't prepared to oppose New Labour. Socialist Party councillor Ian Page derided the LibDems' attitude. When they went to Pensioners Federation meetings, they boasted how anti-Blair and pro-pensioner they were, but they were opposing their resolution on attacks on the NHS!
So, only the Socialist Party and Green Party councillors voted for the addendum. The capitalist LibDems were acting like New Labour in waiting! Chris Flood's suggestion to New Labour of a debate on the NHS was turned down.
Lewisham is a 'hung council' with New Labour the biggest party and with a directly elected Labour mayor. Apart from the two Socialist Party councillors there are 17 LibDems, six Greens and three Tories to 24 New Labour.
Bullock tried to get some interim 'budget savings' proposals through in mid financial year to keep the budget 'under control'. The opposition wanted to just 'note' the proposals and have a full discussion on budgets at a future meeting, as happens at most councils.
Socialist Party councillors pointed out that many proposed cuts hit jobs, conditions and services. There were for example proposals to save money by using agency staff rather than trained council-employed gardeners; deleting some unfilled staff posts and making serious cuts in Children and Young People's provisions, some involving deportation of children.
At the vote, the combined opposition members there should have ensured that 25 councillors voted for merely 'noting' the proposals to 24 New Labour. But 25 councillors voted for Bullock's plans - a Green Party councillor bailed out Labour.
In The Socialist 28 September 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis