Press release: Sheila Gilmore MP pledges to become arthritis champion for Edinburgh East

Sheila Gilmore has today agreed to become an ‘Arthritis Champion’, supporting Arthritis Research UK in their efforts to find a cure for arthritis while calling for policy change to prevent its onset.

By agreeing to become an Arthritis Champion, Sheila Gilmore has pledged to:

  • campaign to make musculoskeletal conditions a public health priority
  • fight to ensure that people with arthritis get high-quality care at the time they need it
  • champion the UK’s leadership role in medical research

Speaking about the manifesto, Sheila Gilmore said,

I am pleased to become an Arthritis Champion. Musculoskeletal conditions affect a huge number of people and are a significant cause of disability in the UK. These are painful conditions which can have a massive impact on every aspect of people’s lives. We need to see change that creates the best possible policy environment in which to prevent and cure these conditions, and we need an urgent transformation of the services available to those that are living with musculoskeletal conditions now.

Dr Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer of Arthritis Research UK, said,

I’m delighted that Sheila Gilmore has become an Arthritis Champion. Our Arthritis Research UK manifesto sets out an exciting vision for the future of musculoskeletal conditions. We are calling for policy changes to support the prevention, transformation and cure of musculoskeletal conditions. There is much that can be done: but we can’t do it alone. We need to work in partnership to put the needs of people with arthritis on the political agenda and transform the lives of people living with arthritis.

For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.

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November 2014 Newsletter

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Merry Christmas

Christmas CardFriday ClubWith the mild weather holding winter back later than usual, it seems quite early to be sending my Christmas wishes. I’d like to wish you a peaceful and joyous festive period when the break does come around. While we spend time with family, remember some friends and neighbours are less fortunate, so please remember to check on them over the festive season.

The festive artwork featured below was kindly produced by the members of the at Ripple Project ‘Friday Club’ and will appear on my Christmas card which will now be distributed to 5,000 Edinburgh East households.

The Friday Club is a social and activities club for residents who are 60+ in Restalrig, Lochend, Craigentinny and surrounding areas. The group meets on a Friday 1.30pm-3.30pm at the Restalrig Lochend Community Hub to enjoy music, films, games and a variety of entertainment from guests. A dedicated group of volunteers help the afternoon run smoothly and provide refreshments.
For more information about the club, how to join, as well as the details of other activities at the hub for friends and relatives over 60, call 0131 554 0422.

Westminster Report

Devolution
Smith CommissionThe Smith Commission’s report on further devolution to the Scottish Parliament has now been published. There was a further House of Commons debate on this issue on 20 November, and in my speech I argued that we should start to move on from debating what powers should or shouldn’t be devolved, to how the Scottish Parliament uses those powers it has to create a fairer and more equal society. For example the new tax-varying and borrowing powers that already guaranteed following the Scotland Act 2012 could be used to significantly increase investment in affordable housing or social care.

Disability benefits
As regular readers will know, I’ve long been concerned about the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance – the main benefit for people who believe they cannot work due to ill health or a disability – with at least one in ten decisions being overturned on appeal.

Atos Healthcare are set to walk away from their contract to carry out the face-to-face part of the WCA, and earlier this month the UK Government announced that this work would transfer to US outsourcing specialist Maximus. Unfortunately Ministers don’t appear to have taken the opportunity to reform the test so that the number of incorrect decisions is reduced – see this piece on my website. I also reacted angrily to reports that the Conservatives are considering cutting ESA payments for some claimants.

In other social security news:

  • It has emerged that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith knew his flagship welfare reform Universal Credit was late and over budget far earlier than he’s previously admitted – I gave my reaction to the Huffington Post.
  • After fellow DWP Minister Lord Freud had to apologise for suggesting disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage, I highlighted his failure to address the concerns of my disabled constituent when I raised concerns on his behalf.
  • In the Guardian I argued that George Osborne’s new personal tax statement – which people should start receiving soon – fails to explain that most welfare spending goes on things that people support, such as disability benefits, housing costs, and tax credits for those in work.
  • I reviewed a new book – Good Times Bad Times: the welfare myths of them and us, by John Hills – for the think tank Progress.

East Coast
Over the last year and a half I’ve been campaigning against the UK Government’s plans to re-privatise intercity services on the East Coast Main Line, which have been run successfully by the UK public sector since 2009. On 24 November it was widely anticipated that the contract was set to be awarded to Eurostar and Keolis – and would stand to benefit French train passengers with profits being reinvested services there. My reaction was picked up in the Evening News and Herald amongst others. The Government has since announced that the franchise would in fact be awarded to Stagecoach and Virgin. Regardless of the fact the franchise has been awarded to British firms, it is highly disappointing profits will go to private companies, rather than to the exchequer, as happens at present. On Thursday morning the matter was the subject of an urgent question.

What did Labour do in the Scottish Parliament?
I spend time every week knocking on doors somewhere in the constituency and I recently had a conversation with someone who claimed Labour did nothing during our time in Government at Holyrood. Obviously I took a different view, and while it wouldn’t be appropriate to set this out here, I’ve reproduced my response on my website for other constituents to read.

National Health Service
This month I received a record 438 emails on the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, which would ensure that a new EU-US trade deal cannot change the way the NHS in Scotland is run – something I raised with David Cameron on 17 November – and stop the gradual privatisation of NHS services in England.

NHSMy Labour colleagues and I voted in favour of the bill at its second reading debate on 21 November, and it was passed by 241 votes to 18 (although unfortunately there are lots of barriers to it becoming law before the next election). For more on this see the response I sent to constituents on my website.

Gordon’s Fightback campaign successes
It was great to see my constituent Gordon Aikman attend a reception with Samantha Cameron at Downing Street as part of his fight back against Motor Neurone Disease.

Gordon's FightbackAnd in the past week he has had further successes! At the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards, Gordon won a special judges award for the work he has done through his Fight back campaign. He then went on to secure agreement from First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for a review of the care provided to those suffering MND. For more information on Gordon’s campaign see gordonsfightback.com/#takeaction.

News in brief

International Development BillCitizen's Advice

Constituency Report

Supporting Afghan Women
On Friday 14th November I attended a play at Summerhall performed by the St Mark’s Amnesty Group in my constituency, called ‘Even if we lose our lives’. To be honest, on a cold evening, with a head cold brewing I went out of a sense of duty, but came away stunned and humbled by the performance which brought together the real life stories of three Afghan women; a teacher, a doctor and a family mediator. What these women had been through to defend human rights and provide services was a stark reminder of the ongoing problems of their country. But the message from all was that they were not going to give up.

Afghan WomenMore recently I attended a session at Westminster run by Action Aid drawing attention to similar issues and calling in particular for women and women’s issues to be centre stage in the forthcoming London Conference on development in Afghanistan. For more information on Action Aid’s campaign go to action.org.uk.

Remembrance Sunday
On Sunday 9th November I attended the wreath laying service at the Prestonfield War Memorial. When the new residents of Prestonfield and Priestfield moved here during the 1930s many of the names on the memorial would be well remembered fathers, uncles, brothers and husbands. And within only a few years many families saw their sons, and daughters, going off to war again. One of them was my own Dad whose family had not long moved to Cameron House Avenue. He was one of the lucky ones who came back.

Common Repairs and Statutory Notices
A big problem in the constituency is getting common repairs done. Despite the well-known problems of the Council’s previous system of dealing with Statutory Notices, many people support the retention of some method of council intervention when it proves impossible to get agreement among owners. Recently the Council has restricted its interventions to emergency work only. New proposals, for a service which would step in, but only after information and advice had been given with a view to assisting owners to agree among themselves, are now being considered. In some circumstances the council would be able in future, due to new legislation, to pay a ‘missing share’ where an owner refuses to co-operate. After looking at a number of ways of providing a service when agreement proves impossible, the Council has decided that an in house model will be used. I broadly welcome the recommendations; I had said previously that I thought something of this kind must be reintroduced. The report makes clear the importance of good communication with owners throughout the process, which was one of the flaws before. The new system won’t be fully up and running until autumn next year. For more information read the full report on the Council’s website.

HMOs – does Edinburgh need an over-provision policy?
This is a subject which provokes much lively debate in many parts of the city. HMO licensing has done a lot to improve the quality of the properties for rent and clamp down on gross overcrowding. But the unresolved issue is whether it is right to control the quantity of HMOs in certain areas. The Scottish Parliament gave councils the power to adopt an ‘over provision’ strategy in 2011, a matter which was discussed at a recent meeting of the Regulatory Committee, and was covered in a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News. Over the next few months Edinburgh Council will be consulting local groups and community councils to establish whether Edinburgh should adopt such a policy. I wrote an article for the Evening News on this subject which called for the consultation to be thorough and learn from the experiences in other Scottish cities. Let me know what you think, and look out for details of the consultation.

Canongate Youth project secures People’s Millions funding
I am delighted the Canongate Youth Project will receive a £38,000 grant from the People’s Millions fund for their Old School Cafe project after securing enough votes in a telephone poll held on Tuesday. The project will create a new city centre cafe in the South Bridge Resource Centre to improve the employment prospects of 25 unemployed young people providing on the job training and experience. Well done to all involved!

Edinburgh East’s new Crown Post Office
In November I opened the new Edinburgh City Post Office, located in Princes Mall. The Crown Post Office is now located in a new modern branch has nine staffed counters and longer opening hours (the ubiquitous self-service machine has also been introduced!).

Post Office

The branch move has come well in advance of St James Centre closing its doors next year; hopefully the new premises will be become familiar in advance of this big change for shoppers.

Planning update

Meadow Lane application – submit your comments now
The University of Edinburgh has now submitted its ‘full’ application for purpose built student accommodation at Meadow Lane. The university propose demolishing the 18th century coach houses and to build accommodation for 267 students. While this application is undeniably very close to the University area it is in addition to a proposal to return Buccleuch Place to residential use for students. The proposed density has angered Buccleuch Street residents who will feel swamped. When I attended the pre-application exhibition earlier in the year many said they were concerned about the distinctly modern design and height of the building, in this part of the Southside Conservation Area.

I will be submitting my own objections before the 12th December deadline. To review the plans and submit your own comments, use reference numbers 14/04674/FUL and 14/04682/CON on the Planning Portal.

Baileyfield decision due this month
Last month, I included details of my submission on the Baileyfield application, along with details of the Portobello Community Council consultation on the plans. I have now been informed that the application is due to be determined at the Development Management Sub-Committee on 17th December which will hold a ‘Hearing’ where local groups can make deputations.

Stanley Place application
Next month the developer proposing student accommodation intends to come back with a revised application to build student accommodation on a very narrow site next to the East Coast Main Line on Stanley Place. Residents have had the opportunity to meet with developers at an exhibition of the plans in November, but many report they are underwhelmed the plans have not changed enough. I have been provided with a copy of the boards displayed, please let me know if you would like a copy of these.

Billboard on Cairntows Park refused
In August JCDecaux submitted a number of plans for LED lit advertising hoardings at various sites across the city. This included on the Peffermill Road edge of Cairntows Park. As Southside residents have learnt previously, neighbouring properties are not notified of these applications, thus the Community Neighbourhood Alliance and I swung into action to object to this proposal, knowing that if approved this would not promote the amenity many campaigned for when they saved the park from development.

Inchview Terrace care home proposal
Last year, the Council refused an application for a Lidl store at the former Stratstone Land Rover premises at Inchview Terrace. New developers have now submitted a proposal for a 60 bed care home. You can view the plans on the Planning Portal using reference number 14/04780/FUL. Please get I touch if you have comments on this new proposal.

Dates for your Diary
White House2nd December – One World Shop Christmas Shopping Event and Website Launch – 5.00pm-7.00pm – St John’s Church, West End of Princes Street – All shoppers will get 10% off their purchases on the night, mulled wine and Christmas biscuits, and have the chance to enter into the raffle to win vouchers to spend online.

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National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill

I’ve received hundreds of emails from constituents regarding the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill. I’ve reproduced the response I’ve been sending out in full below.

Thank you for writing to me with regards to my Labour colleague Clive Efford’s Private Member’s Bill, the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill.

It is important to note that the only part of Clive’s Bill that applies directly to Scotland is the set of clauses to ensure the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) cannot impose procurement or competition obligations on the NHS in any part of the UK. I fully support confirming this in law, and raised this with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on Monday 17 November. You can view our exchange here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141117/debtext/141117-0002.htm#14111713000324

Although the rest of Clive’s Bill only applies directly to England, I am happy to set out my position on these provisions. The Bill seeks to repeal key elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the most significant of which is the requirement placed upon GP commissioners in England to allow private companies to bid for NHS work, subject to regulation from Monitor and the Competition and Markets Authority, and EU competition law. This market framework is diverting money towards tendering exercises and assessing bids, and away from patient care. Clive’s Bill proposes to scrap this market framework so that the NHS is run on the basis of collaboration and integration rather than competition – something which I fully support.

In addition the Health and Social Care Act allows hospitals in England to raise up to half of their income from treating private patients, which has led to the expansion of private patient units while waiting lists for NHS patients lengthen and treatments are rationed. Clive’s Bill would set tougher controls on private patient income to ensure NHS patients are put first.

Clive’s bill was debated in the House of Commons last Friday and I am pleased to inform you that I attended and voted in support of it. The Bill was passed by 241 votes to 18 and will now proceed to its Committee Stage. You can keep up to date on its progress here:
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/nationalhealthserviceamendeddutiesandpowers.html

Thank you once again for writing to me on this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Sheila Gilmore MP
Edinburgh East

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The straw man argument

This is a favourite tactic of the Coalition. ‘Labour got it all wrong’ is their favourite cry. Now this is something all governments do to some extent but the Coalition has raised this to an art. It’s not just political knockabout but has been used to justify many of the huge changes David Cameron is making to our public services.

So education Michael Gove endlessly tells us that Labour’s education record was appalling. Therefore we need to speed up the freeing of schools from local authorities through setting up academies and ‘free’ schools. But on 24th July 2012 in the Independent Michael Wilshire, the head of Ofsted is quoted as saying that schools in London were 50 times worse in the 70s, 80s and 90s and are now in his words ‘hugely better’. So unless you believe there has been a miracle perfomed in the last 2 years maybe Labour did something right after all, even in London which has tended to get some of the greatest criticism.

So too it goes with health. Generally the line here is that despite substantially increased spending ‘things didn’t get better’. Productivty we were told was poor. Running with this line of argument brings the ability to imply that reducing spending doesn’t have an impact. It also is used to justify the wholesale reorganisation of the NHS in England

But if the basic premise is wrong then all this upheaval is unnecessary. The annual British Social Attitudes Survey tells a different story. Satisfaction with the NHS was sitting at 34 per cent in 1997 and rose to 70 % in 2010.

And the decline in productivity argument has also been challenged. In February 2012 the Guardian reported a paper published in the Lancet, in which Nick Black, professor of health services research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that although the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, claimed NHS productivity had fallen 15%, the opposite was almost certainly the case.

The constant suggestion that the NHS ‘isn’t working’ can have other impacts too. A few weeks ago here in Scotland I was in a conversation where someone said ‘with the NHS on its knees why are we letting in so many immigrants to use our services’. While resources are always at a premium in health, not least because of the way in which medicine is always developing and able to do more and we have an ageing population, the NHS is far from being ‘on its knees’ and such exaggeration by politicians does little to assist rational debate on either the NHS or immigration.

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