Our hospital battle goes on

Archive for February, 2012

Our hospital battle goes on

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Last Friday I went back to Barking Hospital to see the Walk in Centre which has just reopened in the new Hospital. It was wonderful to finally see nurses seeing patients in their new brand new surroundings. And it was good to talk to people who had come in for their blood tests.

Before it was relocated to the Barking Hospital site, 30,000 people had been seen by the Walk in Centre since April last year – that just goes to show the demand for health services in the local area.

What a difference it was from the last time I was there just before Christmas! Then I was joined by campaigners, including the Friends of Barking Hospital, standing in the freezing cold demanding that the Hospital be opened.

Getting the Walk in Centre in place is an important milestone in what has turned out to be a year-long campaign. But it’s taken NHS managers nearly a year to approve it. And we’re still fighting for the GP surgery and the maternity wards!

As more people move into the area, demand for more urgent care and maternity services will increase. That’s why we need more health services based in places people can get to easily. And that’s why we need to keep the services we’ve got at King George Hospital.

Everyone who was at my coffee afternoon later that afternoon understood this, including two ladies, in particular. One who was born in the old Barking Hospital in 1945 and the other due to have a baby in May. If only those people who run the NHS would meet local residents and talk to them face to face. Maybe then they would begin to understand!

We already have one of the highest birth rates in the country with more babies being born here than anywhere else in Britain. Barking Hospital alone is expected to manage 670 births every year in the next 3 to 5 years. Yet more top-down reorganisation will be a complete waste of money and will mean less money for the doctors and nurses that we desperately need.

Before Christmas the Government announced the closure of A&E and maternity at King George. This decision is simply wrong. But we did get a commitment that King George won’t close until Queens is given the “all clear” by the Inspectors. That could be another 5 years. I don’t think Queens will ever cope. We can still get the Government to see sense and halt this ridiculous proposed closure which is all being driven by money not need. Our fight goes on.

Recent visits

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I’ve visited lots of people in Barking and Dagenham during the last month.

Lifeline’s newest centre in Barking recently opened its doors to the public and it was great to see the work that is being carried out there to support jobseekers back into work.

Lifeline’s Centre offers local residents of Barking a comprehensive employment service including help with updating their CVs, interview techniques, support with application forms, additional training and 1-2-1 support.

I met pupils at the brand new George Carey Church of England Primary School in Barking, which opened in September 2011.

After meeting Headteacher Chris Harrison, I was extremely pleased to see what progress the school is making during its first year.

I also had a guided tour of the Coca-Cola warehouse managed by Howard Tenens in Dagenham, which will service the Olympic Park during London 2012.

I was really impressed by this fantastic operation. It’s great to see a family business in the borough making an essential contribution to the Olympics during 2012.

Exposing the taxman’s double standards

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

The Government tells us that we are ‘all in this together’. That means everyone paying their fair share in tax.

But through the work I do in Parliament, as chair a Committee of MPs that looks at government spending, I recently uncovered a huge unfairness in the system.

We looked at the way HMRC settles disputes with big companies that are refusing to pay their taxes. We found that HMRC has been giving these companies ‘sweetheart deals’ where they are let off huge sums of money they owe.

In one case, the banking firm Goldman Sachs had been let off up to £20 million in interest payments on taxes they had been avoiding for 5 years. It was outrageous. Just think what £20 million could buy for us in the Borough – the new schools we need, opening the maternity unit at Barking Hospital, more decent affordable homes to rent.

When we confronted the officials responsible, they seemed to simply try and lie their way out of it. They had been wined and dined by these companies and then claimed ‘taxpayer confidentiality’ to avoid answering questions about the deals they had made. It made me furious.

If you are a hard-working taxpayer, a corner shop or a small business, you are relentlessly pursued if you make the smallest error.

I’ve recently been helping Becontree Baptist Church in Dagenham, who were given a huge fine and threatened with legal action over less than £500 they owed the taxman. They had simply made an honest mistake.

Rich companies employ teams of expensive lawyers to help them avoid tax. Local organisations like Becontree Baptist Church can’t even afford an accountant to check their tax returns. I contacted HMRC on their behalf and it has now relented on the fine.

But these double standards are completely unacceptable. The Government must take a much tougher approach to making sure companies like Goldman Sachs pay their fair share. It can’t be one rule for them and another for everyone else. It’s something I feel so strongly about and one of my top priorities for the new year is to get a change in the system.