Tagged: public health

Thatcherite policies ‘have made us sick’

‘Thatcherite’ policies have caused ‘epidemics’ in obesity, stress, austerity and inequality, according to a new book by public health experts.

The authors of the book, from Durham University, argue that the UK’s neoliberal politics, often associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, have increased inequalities and literally made people sick.

They suggest that the epidemics could have been prevented, or at least been reduced in scale, through alternative political and economic choices such as fairer and more progressive taxation, strengthened social protection and reduced spending on warheads.

The public health researchers are calling on the new Government to take drastic action to ensure a decent living wage, a fair welfare system and an end to privatisation within the NHS.

The book, ‘How Politics Makes Us Sick’, is due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on May 20.

The authors, Professors Clare Bambra and Ted Schrecker, show that the rise of precarious jobs and zero-hours contracts has led to an epidemic of insecurity and chronic stress, and austerity measures have widened the gap between rich and poor with destructive consequences for health.

 They also highlight scientific evidence connecting the epidemic of obesity, which has doubled in the UK over the last 30 years, with the epidemic of insecurity that followed the neoliberal transformation of labour markets.

The book points out that the rising economic inequality is resulting in a growing health gap between the most and least deprived ten per cent of local authority districts in England, which is now larger than at any point since before the Great Depression.

Co-author Clare Bambra, professor of public health geography and director of the Centre for Health and Inequalities Research at Durham University, said:

Our findings show that modern-day ‘Thatcherism’ has made us fat, stressed, insecure and ill. These neoliberal policies are dominating the globe and they are often presented as our only option but they have devastating effects on our health.

 “What we need is a political cure in the form of a revitalised and social democratic welfare state in which workers have a living wage, the welfare system means that people are not below the breadline, and the market is removed from our public services such as the NHS.”
Source – Northern Echo, 15 May 2015

Controversial McDonald’s scheme in Newcastle to be raised in the House of Commons

Controversial plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school are to be raised in the House of Commons.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, a former pupil of the school affected, Kenton, is taking the step as she is so outraged at the prospect of it being sited there.

The two-storey ‘drive thru’ outlet is planned for Kenton Lane on the site of the old Crofters Lodge pub, sparking huge controversy.

Despite 221 objections put to Newcastle City Council, and two online e-petitions signed by nearly 600 people against the scheme, officers have recommended that planning committee members grant the application at a meeting on Friday.

Ms Onwurah said:

“I’ll be raising it in the Commons on Monday at Department for the Communities and Local Government questions.

“If it gets approval, I’ll be asking Secretary of State Eric Pickles why councils can’t take proper account of strength of local feeling.

“If planning permission is refused and I certainly hope it is, McDonald’s may think of appealing. If it is allowed then the planning process will have failed. In either case I want too know where this puts the Government’s so called localism agenda.”

McDonald’s claim the scheme will help create 75 jobs and generate £1.9m for the local economy.

However, since the plan became public Kenton School, which has 2,000 pupils, parents and local residents have strenuously objected to it.

Their concerns are about increased traffic on an already busy road, litter, noise, anti-social behaviour and public health issues.

With the country in the middle of an obesity crisis amongst the young, and Newcastle having some of the worst figures for it, there are fears that having a fast food outlet near a school could make the situation worse.

In their report, planners said litter teams, acoustic screens and control of its opening and delivery times will keep noise and litter issues under control.

They also said the existing highway network will be able to cope with increased traffic while the council’s ‘Draft Core Strategy’ which seeks to control the location of, and access to, unhealthy eating outlets don’t justify refusing the proposal on public health grounds.

Ms Onwurah said:

“Obesity is a danger to our children’s future. I really don’t understand how the officers came to their conclusion.

“There is a McDonald’s already close by in Kingston Park, a commercial area, and that’s fine.

“This is a cynical attempt to grab a new market in an area close to a school.”

She added:

“I am calling for Newcastle City Council and McDonald’s to respect the views of the residents of Kenton and Kenton School which are overwhelmingly against the proposals because of the impact it will have on their environment.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  03 Sept 2014

Plan for a new McDonald’s in Newcastle – and locals aren’t loving it

Plans to build a new McDonald’s fast food outlet near Newcastle’s biggest school have provoked a storm of protest.

Feelings are so high it has caused a city councillor to stand down from the planning committee which will decide whether to give it the go ahead – to help organise protests against it.

David Pearmain, head teacher of Kenton School, where around 2,000 pupils study, has submitted a lengthy objection to the city council in which he concluded: “For the sake of our children’s health and safety, please do not approve this application.

Coun David Stockdale, who represents the neighbouring Blakelaw ward, has taken the rare step of “recluse” – voluntary exclusion – because he felt so strongly against the application.

It is for a two-storey drive-through outlet on the old Crofters Lodge pub site at the junction of Kenton Lane and Ponteland Road.

On the committee you have to be open minded about applications you consider,” he explained. “I’ve already got a pre-determined attitude towards this and it is against it.

“Newcastle has some of the highest incidents of childhood obesity in the country. It’s an epidemic and this would site a McDonald’s on a road leading to the biggest secondary school in the city.”

He added: “Until recently I had public health responsibility on the council. One of the things we did a lot of work on was the provision that we had more power to control unhealthy eating outlets.”

Coun Stockdale said feelings were running high in the area as he leafleted houses located near the proposed site.

Coun Stephen Lambert, who represents the Kenton ward, said: “I’ve had over 58 objections from the Kenton area to this proposal. We feel it’s inappropriate. It is on an extremely busy junction, so there are issues of highway safety.

“All three Kenton councillors are supporting the residents who object to this planning application.”

A local resident who didn’t want to be named, said: “There’s are already two McDonald’s in the area, including one at Kingston Park.

“Obviously it will be a temptation to kids at lunchtime and we worry about it attracting anti-social behaviour. Petitions are being gathered and a lot of people have objected on Newcastle City Council’s website.”

One person who has is Mr Pearmain. He wrote: “Kenton School enjoys the Healthy Schools Award status, but Kenton students will be far more tempted than ever before to buy fast food snacks because of the proximity to the school.

“We know that unhealthy eating and its associated conditions are very high in the relatively deprived districts which are close to the site and which the school serves.

“Although McDonald’s also serves healthy food for those who choose it, as a commercial organisation they allow their paying customers free choice across their products and many young people will choose unhealthy options without the guidance they would receive in school. This will tend strongly to undermine the City Council’s own health policies.”

A McDonald’s spokesperson: “At McDonald’s, we serve good food made from quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. We offer a broad choice and we provide clear nutrition information on our menu boards so our customers can make informed choices that are right for them.

“We would like to reassure local residents that our main priority is to be a good neighbour and we are happy to work with any member of the local community who has concerns about the impact of our business.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 June 2014

Nine Sunderland Libraries To Be Closed

Despite grassroots protests,  including occupation of threatened buildings, by Hands Off Sunderland Libraries, nine libraries across Sunderland have been closed by the city council, in a bid to save 850,000 pounds.

The libraries affected are those at Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green.

Coun. John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness  and culture:  “This is a very emotive subject and we recognise the strength of people’s  feelings.

“As I’ve said before, we probably wouldn’t have gone down this route if the council didn’t need to make 110 million pounds savings as a result of cuts from central government. The fact is the library service needs to save 850,000 pounds, so we have had to look at changing how we do things as budgets continue to be cut and resources become  ever more stretched.

“As councillors, we have to make difficult decisions . Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.

“But I firmly believe that the new library service will be much more flexible to fit in with people’s needs and will result in better services reaching more people  across a wider range of locations.”

Eh ? How does closing public services across a wide range of locations reach more people across those same locations ? I suspect the only flexibility resulting will be the closed service users, who’ll have to be a lot more flexible to find an open library.

How much will be saved really ? Has any account been taken of vacant buildings needing to be maintained, books and equipment to be mothballed, staff who lose their jobs ?

“Had savings not been made here, they may have had to fall on children’s or adults services.”  A nice attempt at emotional blackmail, but what exactly are libraries if not children and adult services ?

And should it be either/or anyway ?  We know only too well about the nature of the current national government, but Sunderland City Council is Labour controlled. Shouldn’t they – and other Labour controlled councils – be providing, you know, opposition ?  Getting together and going head-to-head with the government perhaps ? Making a moral stand ?

We’ve been promised years more austerity, whoever wins the next general election. Now the process has been started, which libraries will be next ?

As noted in no less an organ than Private Eye (#1349) –

Sunderland library chiefs have some handy advice on what can replace local libraries facing closure.

“Because of Facebook, because of gadgets, we dont need libraries the way we used to when I was 15,” Cllr Graeme Miller told a public meeting, which agreed proposals for the closure of nine libraries to save #850,000 a year.

Quite apart from how completely un-useful Facebook is for most homework, research or reading for pleasure, Sunderland is part of the UK region with the highest concentration of people off-line, with a recent survey finding only 42% of less well off people in the city had online access from any type of “gadget”, including computers, smart phones  and so on.

Quite.

Hands Off Sunderland Libraries on Facebook at –
https://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Hands-off-Sunderland-Libraries/615546618458212