Guest blog by library campaigner Gaynor Lloyd
I refer to the “open letter” from James Allie published on Martin Francis’ required reading Wembley Matters blog.
Speaking as a Labour supporter of the “Old” variety - and so heartsick at understanding this - Mr Allie will forgive my saying that he displays a woeful lack of understanding of New Labour’s role in the impending car crash of the NHS currently being accelerated by the Coalition Government.
Thatcher may have started the bridgehead of the private sector into the NHS – of which our Shaping a Healthier Future – Brent/Ealing plans are just the latest manifestation - but Blair, his assistant and his Ministers of Health pushed it into pole position.
· Simon Stevens walked out of Blair’s private office to a senior position in the British arm of United Health (an American healthcare company) which was keen to bid for my doctors’ surgery, amongst many other NHS facilities.
· Alan Milburn left the Health Ministry to walk into a£30,000 a year post as adviser to Bridgepoint Capital which is a private equity company investing in Care UK – on your front page last week as “managing” the Urgent Care Centre at Central Middlesex - which is all we’ll have left if the consultation goes through and A&E goes.
· Patricia Hewitt came from McKinsey (American management consultants) into Blair’s Health Minister’s job and promptly set off introducing the necessary means to get the American health model here, with its opportunities to take profit from our marketised health service. McKinsey have a role in drafting the very constitution of the Clinical Care Commissioning Group that will take over the responsibility for commissioning health services in our Borough (just like many other Boroughs) – so many thanks to New Labour, Mr Allie, for facilitating that. I would just say – be very careful, Mr Allie who you jump into bed with on the grounds of their “Labour values”.
Tory Andrew Lansley has to take prime liability for the latest reforms, of course but, as far as I can see, whilst the Lib Dems may have been useless in stopping the recent legislation, they do seem to be the only one of the three main parties without some “high up” compromised by his/her role in this debacle.
Why I really needed to burst into print was to rebut Mr Allie’s disgraceful comments about Paul Lorber and his alleged “posturing” in relation to the library campaign. Has Mr Allie had any sort of clue about the facts behind these cuts and the Library campaign in particular, he might have amended the script of his open letter.
I have been involved in Brent SOS campaign virtually from inception. I am no Lib Dem but at least I keep my political points to facts. If you feel like getting a few facts, try asking the Council’s officers, Mr Allie, about what appears to be their gross mismanagement by the Council of their trusteeship of the Barham Charity resulting in losses over the years while the Officers treated our building in Barham Park as though it was the Council’s own. Perhaps if the Council had paid the rent it ought to have done to the Charity for the use of its buildings, the alleged losses that the Council based its closure of Barham on, might have disappeared!
I cannot speak for other members of Brent SOS campaign but, in so far as Barham Library is concerned, without Paul we would be nowhere. He works unceasingly for the disadvantaged people of his Ward – crucially affected by the closure of “our library” at Barham. Mr Allie, ask the 210 members – mostly children – who have joined the Barham Library in exile. Ask their parents whether their children love coming to our Volunteer Library for the fun we have, the educational quizzes and activities we do, and the number of books we issue, as Paul devotes time week after week after week. He is an inspiration to us volunteers. He does all of this, because he cares about the effect of the closures – not for the purpose of political point scoring but for the disadvantaged of Brent.
I sat in the Council Chamber (as I can only think you did but perhaps you had dropped off) while your new colleagues laughed as they acclaimed the closure of our libraries. Some of them have had the grace to come and look at the work we are doing – even commending it. I still have enough naivety to believe they meant it and you just aren’t up to speed, being a new recruit. Please, Councillor Allie, remember that comments like yours may win you a few friends in your new “safe” home with Brent Labour Group – but they don’t cut much ice with anyone who knows anything about Brent’s unique policy on library closures, or the figures behind it.