Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Virgin on the Ridiculous!

I recently attended a patients' forum put on by the Richmondshire, Hambleton and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (RHWCCG), the very name of which indicates just how cumbersome this Tory monster has become.

The main aim of the forum appeared to be to get patients to volunteer to do the jobs previously done by paid NHS staff.

One of the CCGs other admissions was that the NHS budget was going to have to stretch to cover social care as well, something not publicised by the Con Dems when they foisted this unlooked for change in the NHS upon us. A NHS re-organisation was expressly excluded from the manifestos of both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, so watch out for further nasty volte-faces if, (God forbid) we get another right wing coalition after the election. For me, this betrayal of Lib Dem promises on the NHS was probably worse than their notorious lie about abolishing tuition fees.

RHWCCG also announced that they had awarded Virgin Care a multi-million pound contract to supply Whitby Out of Hours and Community Care. This was after an 18 month procurement process that did not include any NHS run bid, but did cost hundreds of thousands of pounds (including costly legal advice). As part of their justification, the RHWCCG spokesperson said that Virgin had told the CCG that they would not make a profit in the first two years. Not surprising as Virgin Care appear to be avoiding tax by taking their profits offshore!

You may have read about this in the recent story in the Guardian newspaper (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/mar/21/ow-lucrative--deals-go-to-firms-that-use-tax-havens), which detailed the tax arrangements of Virgin Care.

According to this article and a recent report from Unite the Union, Virgin care has a complicated structure of 13 intermediate holding companies between Virgin Care Limited and its ultimate parent company, Virgin Group Holdings Limited.

The company’s main offshore links are with the British Virgin Islands where its ultimate parent company is based. The way in which Virgin is structured, with multiple holding companies in locations that provide a high level of secrecy, means that it is very hard to get a clear view of the group’s finances.

These structures are wholly inappropriate for a company in receipt of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of public sector contracts in the National Health Service. Virgin Care Limited should urgently reform its corporate structures and tax arrangements or negotiate the speedy return of its NHS contract back to the RHWCCG.

RHWCCG should itself revisit any contracts with private companies indulging in tax avoidance measures. It should also look more closely at Virgin Care's chequered history.

In 2012 a NHS watchdog accused a Virgin Care urgent care centre of putting patients' health at risk by using receptionists with minimal medical training to assess how unwell arrivals were. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/04/nhs-watchdog-virgin-care-croydon-hospital The Care Quality Commission (CQC) report criticised the operation of the urgent care centre at Croydon hospital in south London, which was run by Virgin Care.

If you agree that NHS contracts should not go to tax dodgers, then please sign a petition to tell Virgin Care to pay their taxes and protest against the continuing privatisation of the NHS! http://action.peoplesnhs.org/page/speakout/virgin-pay-your-tax?js=false

Friday, 20 March 2015

Tax on School Children

Leslie Rowe, the Green Party Parliamentary candidate for Richmond, attended the Richmondshire Area Committee today (Wednesday 18 March 2015), to protest at the proposal to increase a tax on kids. "This tax takes the form of charges for travel to school or college, which had been proposed to increase from £480 to £550 a year. Also proposed is a charge of £380 for primary-school children aged 8 to 11. Compare this with the situation in Tory grandee Boris Johnson's London, where children can travel free on public transport." A North Yorkshire County Council report to the meeting pointed out that the September 2014 increase to £480 had led to a "much-reduced" take-up of post-16 transport. Green candidate Leslie Rowe pointed out the environmental impact of the thousands more car journeys now being taken by parents unwilling to pay those exorbitant charges. "This has increased the County's carbon footprint at a time when we are obliged by international agreements to reduce it." "Teaching problems at various schools, including Richmond, have also led to an increase in after-school revision and extra-curricular activities, so pupils miss the scheduled bus home," commented Mr Rowe. "If forced to pay, pupils should have the option of paying only for the journeys they actually take, especially where buses are running with empty spaces, because of the already reduced take up." During his statement to the committee Leslie Rowe acknowledged the leadership of Councillor John Blackie on this issue. "Although John Blackie and I are opponents in the parliamentary election I acknowledge that he has led the fight against school-bus charges in the County Council in recent months and we are as one in our opposition to this discrimination against local children. The council should fulfil its statutory duty to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment as soon as possible." "Although the proposal to increase the post-16 charge to £550 has been shelved until after the general election you can be sure it will be reintroduced once the election is over. This tax on children's education has been forced on North Yorkshire by the Tory and Lib Dem coalition austerity measures. As the Conservatives regard the Richmond constituency as a safe Tory seat they think they can impose this tax on kids with impunity. They would not dare to introduce such charges in more marginal urban areas such as London. This is discrimination against rural communities and they should not be allowed to get away with it." Promoted by Leslie Rowe on behalf of Richmond Constituency Green Party, c/o 73 Richmond Road, Brompton on Swale, Richmond, DL10 7HF