A damning report today reveals the “totally unacceptable” inequalities driving a widening health divide between the North East and the South.
Experts are warning the current approach to tackling the gap is failing, and the situation is only likely to get worse.
According to the report, a baby girl born in Coxhoe, County Durham, can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in Richmond, London.
Public health experts have now highlighted how devolved powers from central government to the North East could play a vital role in helping close this gulf.
Due North: the report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North, is the outcome of an independent inquiry, commissioned by Public Health England.
Professor Clare Bambra from Durham University’s Department of Geography and an Inquiry panel member, said:
“The differences in people’s health in the north compared to other parts of the UK are totally unacceptable. Without a radical change to the current approach to health inequality, we are likely to see things getting worse.”
In the North East, 18% of residents are classed as living in poverty, compared to 12% in the South East. During the past 20 years the region has consistently had lower employment rates than the South for both men and women. These factors, among others, have had a subsequent knock-on effect on general health.
In more recent years, massive efforts and tens of millions of pounds have been spent across the North East on schemes aimed at improving wellbeing. Newcastle and Sunderland are just some of areas that have implemented ways of reducing inequality by campaigning for the payment of a Living Wage.
But the report sets out a number of recommendations including the use of devolved powers to ensure decisions about health issues in the North East are made in the North East. It states:
“Devolution is central for addressing health inequalities with the rest of England. Devolution means regions in the North retaining more power and resources to collectively develop solutions that build on the assets and resilience of the North.”
Ms Bambra said:
“Central government takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach to health spending. Devolution would allow us to address the problems we have here. In recent years we have lost our regional agencies in the North East so there is less focus on us.”
The report also recommended “collecting better data on children in the early years” so they can be tracked over time, monitoring inequalities in development.
In Sunderland over the last two years, figures showed 10% of reception-age children are obese, with local variations of 13 to 17% in some areas. By Year 6, the figure is 21% average, with some areas spiking at 26 to 34%.
Just days ago, plans to build a McDonald’s near a Newcastle school were rejected by councillors. Hundreds of people objected over fears the restaurant would promote unhealthy eating to children from nearby Kenton School.
Ms Bambra said:
“Lots of children’s life chances are determined before they are even born. We need to improve peoples’ access to affordable, healthy food.”
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said:
“This report highlights the need for Government to take action on poverty and the underlying causes of health inequalities.
“Many people in our region also still suffer ill health as a result of our industrial past. Ministers should prioritise those parts of our country with greatest need, not shift resources into more affluent areas.”
However, Coun Lee Martin, leader of Wearside’s Conservatives, said:
“If Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had done exactly what the coalition are doing on jobs, welfare reform, and education then the gap would have closed in the last 20 years. If anything we need to go further in tackling poverty and poverty of aspiration. Some of the North East’s councils adopting the Living Wage would be a start. I’m all for more powers being devolved but let’s have them devolved to people the public can elect directly rather than faceless council leaders.”
Prof Eugene Milne, director of Public Health at Newcastle City Council, said efforts were underway on Tyneside to address some of the most prolific health concerns. He added:
“We know that we have an extensive public health programme which aims to improve the general health of the local population – as a result we have made progress in key areas over recent years.
“However, this report correctly points to a continuing divide across the country, and between the rich and the poor in our society. We welcome that debate.
“Even with the rate of progress that we have, we know that it would take many decades to close the gap between the north and the south. Larger scale action is needed if the problem is to be addressed.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Sept 2014
If children cannot read, write or add up well enough by the age of 14, he says, their parents should be denied state benefits and made to live on food vouchers.
That is the proposal of Lord Digby Jones, the only person to have ever served as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government without being a member of a political party.
> I think with views like that he’s an honourary member of all the main parties anyway…
And it is a good job that he has no political allegiance, because he is scathing about Labour’s pledge of a bankers’ bonus tax as the solution to the country’s woes and would certainly have faced a few awkward questions were he sitting at Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet table.
He has little time for any politician who pledges low taxes and high spending and believes Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tories alike to be guilty of such empty promises.
This is Asia’s century, he tells an audience of business people and academics in Wolverhampton.
The former minister for trade under Gordon Brown is adamant that there is no way for British manufacturers and service providers to compete with India and China on price alone.
The solution, he says is to offer better quality. And the only way to do that is a skilled workforce.
But there is a problem. Kids are not coming out of school with high enough standards of literacy and numeracy.
As the 58-year-old gives his speech at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park he says he knows that the left-leaning newspaper the Guardian ‘will say shame on you’.
He says it anyway.
“If children can’t read and write by the time they leave formal education the teaching profession has failed,” he says.
“The teaching profession will say they have kids who go home and they don’t see a book again until they are back at school the next day.
“If you have kids who can’t read and write to the appropriate standard by the time they are 14, you should have your benefits stopped.
“You can have food stamps. But the extra bit, the Sky dish, the fags, that stops until the kids can read and write.”
> Yeah ? But what if the kids who can’t read come from a family NOT receiving benefits ? Even, god help us, a rich family ?
Already it’s a two-tier system. Benefits = punish them, rich = oh, never mind, our connections will get him a job in the city even if he is as thick as a brick.
Speaking with the Express & Star, he also suggests that schools could lower the age that children can leave to 14, particularly if they are disruptive in class.
“You could solve youth unemployment if the education system could send young people out of school at 16 able to read, write and add up.
“I would have them out at 14 if they want to come. Get them out into the world of work.”
> Oh for fuck’s sake – THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH JOBS TO GO ROUND AS IT IS. And this guy advised the government ? My god… no wonder we’re in a mess.
He says he would want them to be given some form of vocational training or an apprenticeship if it suited them better than studying in a classroom.
“Having skills doesn’t mean a PhD,” Lord Jones says.
> So tell that to all the employers who seem to regard paper qualifications far more highly than time-served practical skills.
His frustration at the level of ‘functional illiteracy’ among young people in Britain goes hand in hand with his concerns that the country must change the way it does business if it is to compete with developing countries and the new economic powers of China and India.
In his speech Lord Jones suggests that Britain is on the verge of a calamity, even invoking the image of the ‘doomsday’ clock used to explain how close mankind is to some form of nuclear or environmental catastrophe.
“The Guardian will say shame on you. But this is five minutes to midnight my friend.
“This is Asia’s century.”
Lord Jones believes the employers have to innovate and add value to their products and services.
“If all you compete on is price, then China will have your lunch and India will have your dinner,” he says.
The 58-year-old former lawyer was director general of the CBI from 2000 to 2006. He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 but did not join a political party, instead being made a life peer.
> “He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 “ – just before things really started going pear-shaped. Coincidence ?
Innovation, he says, is not just about invention.
“It was a Brit who invented the World Wide Web, a Brit who invested the television, penicillin, the telephone.
“We remember how good we were at invention but who leads the world on this now? It’s about innovation, taking an idea to the market.”
> It was a Brit who invented Universal Credit and all the other “innovations” that don’t work but continue to swallow cash by the billions.
He tells his audience that politicians of all parties in all countries have ‘lied’ ‘every day in every way’.
> Well, can’t argue with that… but then he spoils it by repeating all the old crap about benefits and jobs and stupid, lazy people. He’s a political party all on his own.
And it will be those who innovate in the public sector, such as the councils now drawing up deep cuts, who get themselves back on track.
“Whether it was Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour, they all told us we can have it all. They told us we can have high public spending, low taxation.
“But ‘vote for me and I will cut your spending’ is not the greatest election slogan of all time.
“Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. We all have to understand that the party is over.
> “Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money.”
Read that as : “Tax my mates ? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. Screw the poor instead.”
“The public sector has to do it in a different way. There will never be the same money around. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.”
He also warned about the pressures of Britain’s ageing population as he made a plea for people to get the skills and training they needed to get a job and have a long career.
> In a world of part-time, short contract, zero-hour contract jobs ? Its all short term nowadays – does anyone really want a life-long career doing zero-hour shifts for Poundland ?
“If you have a system of government where you’re going to be looked after for longer than you were putting into the state, you will go bust.
“People will live longer and with the scourge of dementia.
“No-one costs more to care for than a physically healthy but mentally challenged older person.
“Where are we going to get the money from? And don’t say just tax bankers’ bonuses. That doesn’t solve it all.”
> It’d be a bloody good start, though…
Source Wolverhampton Express & Star, 27 Feb 2014
That’s the astonishing claim made by the Daily Telegraph after focussing on a part of Iain Duncan Smith’s speech this week which went unreported elsewhere in the press and was not included in the transcript published by The Spectator.
According to The Telegraph: “Mr Duncan Smith indicated his party is preparing to review tax credits, which are paid to people on low incomes or with children. The system was introduced by Gordon Brown and has been criticised for subsidising low wages. They will cost £28bn this year, and the cost is forecast to rise £35bn by 2018/19.
He said the cash pushed people above an “arbitrary” poverty line on paper but failed to change their lives, and some “unproductive” people spent the extra money on drink and drugs rather than…
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On the same day that the government announced it was scrapping the £180-million-a-year Social Fund for the destitute, a new survey showed that the big US internet companies operating in Britain have increased their UK sales last year by 18 per cent but paid even less tax to the Treasury than the year before.
Apple UK made £1 billion this country in 2011, but paid only £15.7m in tax. Last year its UK turnover rose £1.2bn, but its tax payments vanished to almost nothing – £1.7m, or precisely 0.1 per cent of turnover.
Facebook made £20m in the UK in 2011 and paid an almost invisible £200,000 in tax.
Last year its turnover nearly doubled to £35m, but its tax payments to Britain shrivelled to nothing at all.
Taking all the seven companies together – Apple UK, Google, Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo UK, Facebook UK and Amazon UK – their turnover in the UK last year was just under £3bn, but their tax payments totalled just £51m, or 1.7 per cent of turnover.
At the other end of the scale the Social Fund is being wound up by the Tories – something even Thatcher refused to do.
The Social Fund is the last helpline for the poorest families in extreme distress, often brought on by an unexpected financial crisis.
This last-resort lifebelt has been in place for the hardest-hit ever since 1948 and its removal will devastate families, often including children, leaving them literally destitute.
The Tories will no doubt argue that it’s part of the drive to make savings to reduce the budget deficit.
That claim won’t pass muster for two reasons. First, the deficit last year was £111bn, so cutting £180m will save 0.16 per cent – an enormously painful and destructive cut for an utterly minuscule saving.
Second, tackling the corporate tax cheats would be far fairer and produce vastly more money.
So why doesn’t the government get serious about industrial-scale tax avoidance?
Partly because HMRC has been significantly scaled back – and it started under Blair and Brown – as a result of industrial lobbying.
And partly because the Tories get half their annual income each year from the finance sector, so Cameron, Osborne and co aren’t going to touch the biggest tax crooks of all with a bargepole.
Of course the companies will come up with their usual plaintive mantra that they’re complying with the tax laws.
What they mean is they devise the most artificial contrivances they can think of to circumvent the weak and inadequate tax regulations that exist, knowing perfectly well that their practices are aggressively anti-social and contravene the national interest, but as long as they don’t actually fall foul of the letter of the law they have no interest in Britain whatever and will go on feathering their own nests – as well as, of course, the Tories’.
Source – BS News, 09 Jan 2014