Thursday, 10 December 2009

Good News, Bad News

As is often the way with campaigning, some bad news follows hot on the heels of success...


Regular readers will remember that I have previously posted about my involvement in the Hackney Keep Our NHS Public group, and particularly their campaign over the possibility of two new GP-led health centres being taken over by multinational corporations.

Well, the outcome of the bidding process for the GP-led health centre at Oldhill has been announced - and it has been won by a group of local GPs in the Lawson clinic! A real relief, at least for now.

The campaign has thrown up a number of crucial issues - not least among them the enormous cost to local GPs of making such bids (some £40,000+), and the huge amount of time-consuming effort that has to go into drawing up a bid (which requires complex financial modelling, which is not one of the skills GPs are trained in - they are trained to look after patients) and the cost to the PCT of going through the bidding process - some £3million.

Big commercial healthcare companies, of course, have these resources on tap. This is money that would be far better spent on improving existing GP surgeries and encouraging them to network to provide the extra services the GP-led health centres are supposed to provide. The government is rolling out 150 of these GP-led health centres across the UK - so the cost to PCTs extrapolates to £450 million. Just think what could be done with that amount of cash in the health service!

Also, despite the eventual outcome, the very real issue of the PCT's lack of consultation remains - along with the fact that our local Health Scrutiny Committee was not prepared to do anything about it.

Still, celebration is in order - and the campaign's Xmas party on 15 December at the Marie Lloyd pub (7.30-10 pm) will be a good opportunity....!


And now, the bad news. The proposed eviction of the Kings Crescent Community Housing Project has gone ahead, although all the squatters were gone by Tuesday morning, when the police turned up with riot gear and battering rams. The reason they were gone? According to reports from the scene, contractors broke up the water pipes above the squatted properties, flooding them! This not only drove out the community housing project, but one presumes also did serious damage to the flats.

So, now the majority of flats in that block, and many all over the estate, are unoccupied once more. The ones that were squatted are boarded up, and the Council has done its job - not the job of providing housing, which is supposed to be a human right - but of crushing any sort of alternative provision, quickly and with overwhelming force. And, in this case, quite possibly illegally - the appeal against the closure order against which the squatters never got to defend themselves remains lodged with the courts.

The mastermind behind all of this? Who else but Banksy's arch-enemy, Cllr Alan Laing:

He commented: "These squatters spoilt the quality of life for tenants who were paying to live in this block. They selfishly wrecked the structure of the building and now, due to this premises closure order, they are finally out of the block where they caused so much damage."

Unlike Cllr Laing, I actually bothered to meet the squatters. They struck me, at all times, as being pleasant, community-minded and constructive - and included at least one family with a week old child, just looking for somewhere to spend the winter. Interestingly, and tellingly, they have never been presented with the exact accusations of their alleged anti-social behaviour, nor have they seen any evidence, nor have they had a chance to defend themselves.

Welcome to Kafka's Hackney - if you try to house yourself in flats that have been kept empty, even if you say that you will leave as soon as they are needed, keep a look out for:

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