Where does Peterborough MP stand on Labour Group Leader’s 15% Council Tax increase call?

Dear Ms Onasanya MP,

I am writing to ask if you will use your influence to ask the Leader of the Labour Group on Peterborough City Council to rule out plans to introduce swingeing council tax increases that would hit those on fixed incomes in our City hardest of all. As Peterborough’s Labour MP you should bring pressure to bear to pull Cllr Ed Murphy back to the centre ground, and prevent him inflicting a hard left experiment with the City’s finances, should Labour win control of the council at the elections next year.

In November last year – the Peterborough Telegraph reported that the Labour Group Leader would have supported council tax increases of up to 15% prior to the council’s budget meeting. This has caused a great deal of concern among local residents who feel they could be asked to find hundreds of pounds further a year. For example in Ravensthorpe ward – where I am campaigning hard on behalf of local people and which is in your constituency – this could mean an extra £222 on council tax bills for families living in an average Band D property. You can appreciate why many people have contacting the local Conservatives on this issue.

While council tax increases suggested by the Labour councillor would require a City wide referendum (and the associated cost of this), these quite open comments suggest what would be in store for tax payers should Labour ever lead the council. What’s more, the growing involvement of the far left group, Momentum, in local Labour politics (including your election campaign) should also be of concern. In Bristol, where they are firmly entrenched, they have suggested council tax increases of up to 200% according to the local paper. I dread to think what they would inflict on our City should their influence on the Peterborough Labour Party continue to grow.

Politics does generate strong feelings and emotions. However, party politics have sometimes been put aside locally in order to do what is best for our City and our residents. This is evident in the council’s ‘Stand Up for Peterborough’ campaign. These radical proposals from the Labour Leader break with this tradition.

Will you show leadership in your position as Peterborough’s MP and within the local Labour Party to bring the Labour Group Leader back to the centre ground?

Will you publicly declare your opposition to Cllr Murphy’s support for council tax increases of up to 15%?

Will you distance yourself from Momentum and other far left groups who are pressing for more influence in Labour nationally and locally?

If you are able to demonstrate this independence of mind and leadership, it will be great comfort for many of your constituents who are deeply worried about the prospect of a Labour administration, who could play a dangerous game with our City’s finances?

Yours sincerely

Paul Bristow
Ravensthorpe Conservative Action Team

Think Peterborough, Think Brexit


Published in the Peterborough Telegraph on 14th December 2017

Dear Sir,

I was disappointed to read the latest opinion piece from our MP Fiona Onasanya where she complains bitterly about Brexit and hardly mentions Peterborough at all. On top of that we have a Labour Group Leader on the Council – and Ravensthorpe councillor – that said on the radio that leave voters are poorly educated. This is quite a position for the leadership of the local Labour Party to take in a city where over 60 percent voted leave.

Whether you voted leave or remain, I think the vast majority of people want our local politicians to help get the best deal for Peterborough and the UK. Now the prime minister has successfully got us past the first hurdle guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens already living in Peterborough, I am now excited about what Brexit might mean for our City.

We have some tremendous advantages to help us attract new businesses to Peterborough as the UK starts to have the freedom to negotiate trade deals with countries across the world. We can look to our friends in the Commonwealth, the dynamic economies of Asia, and of course the U.S. This is in addition to a good trade deal with our partners in Europe.

We have excellent transport links by rail and road to London and to the North. We are close to trade routes heading to the ports on the east coast. We are close to the successful technology cluster around Cambridge, and many national and international brands have decided to make Peterborough their home. We have a skilled, hard working workforce, and are an optimistic City. We should make Brexit our own.

Many communities from Pakistan and other parts of South Asia have come to live in Peterborough. Like them, we want the brightest and the best to come to our city from across the world, as uncontrolled immigration from the EU no longer limits us geographically on who we can welcome to Peterborough. This is an opportunity for our BME communities that should not be passed up.

Instead of whining about Brexit or insulting over 60% of the city’s voters, the Labour Party should be ambitious. Now is the time to be optimistic. I want a future where the UK, and indeed the World, think Brexit and think Peterborough!

Paul Bristow
Conservative Action Team Leader, Ravensthorpe

Let’s demonstrate our commitment to the NHS

First published on the Conservative Home website on 7th January 2017

Paul Bristow: The NHS needs more money

David Cameron once said that “Tony Blair explained his priorities in three words: education, education, education, I can do it in three letters: NHS.” For years, Labour arrogantly believed that the NHS is ‘our issue’, and that they would always lead the Conservatives on which Party was best suited to managing the country’s health. Cameron did an excellent job of reassuring the public that the NHS was safe in the hands of a future Tory Government. Indeed, I remember many hours at campaign stands in Middlesbrough and Guisborough during the run up to the 2010 election, convincing local people of our commitment to the health service. And while there will always be controversy after reform, Jeremy Hunt deserves credit for ensuring the NHS did not become a vote-winner for the Labour Party during the 2015 election.

While the Labour Party its own problems, and Brexit will dominate the political agenda for the foreseeable future, we as a Party cannot be complacent. With a new Prime Minister, we should again demonstrate that the NHS is key to our ambitions in Government, and we are determined to build a service that will address the challenges of an ageing population, many with long-term conditions.

Where to start? Let’s be bold, and begin with finance. As Conservatives, we know that compassion cannot be measured by how much you spend on something. It was an achievement that the NHS was protected from budget cuts when David Cameron became Prime Minister.

However, real-term funding for the NHS has remained fairly level since 2010. New accounting methods from the OECD, which includes social care, puts UK health spending at 9.9 per cent – behind Germany and France, but above the OECD average. This sounds promising, but King’s Fund research shows that UK GDP is forecast to grow in real terms by around 15.2 per cent between 2014-15 and 2020-21 while on current plans, NHS spending will grow by much less – 5.2 per cent. Few would claim that the NHS and social care are not facing serious financial challenges in the short and medium term. Unless something drastic changes, these will get worse, simply because of demographics.

Some will argue that the NHS has been treated well during austerity, has had more money than the rest and should have modernised years earlier. There are plenty of efficiencies to squeeze out of the system. I have a lot of sympathy with this view, and feel that much can be explained by an NHS culture that does not embrace innovation and new ways of delivering care. But, in defence of the service, there have also been a lot of distractions, and an obvious need to focus on the day job.

While the NHS has sometimes been poor at modernising, local authorities have on the whole been very efficient. Despite significant decreases in budget, they have become very proficient at operating at the margins, contracting out and reducing cost. It is local authorities that have faced the brunt of the funding squeeze when it comes to social care which, in turn, affects the NHS, the care sector, private providers and the third sector.

Might a tapered aspiration – depending on economic performance – to get health spending (NHS and social care) consistently over the EU and OECD average by 2025 be something that a May Government could consider? It would demonstrate commitment to social care as well as the NHS, and show that the Government is taking the long-term costs of healthcare seriously.

Finally, we should have a message to send to the 1.3 million people (and to the millions more in social care) who work in the NHS. Not just doctors and nurses, but ancillary workers, allied health professionals and social care staff. These are tough jobs, and there are certainly reputational bridges to be built after the junior doctors’ strike. Recruitment in healthcare is and will continue to be a major challenge unless politicians of all sides back staff with measures much more than platitudes about hard-working doctors and nurses.

Poor recruitment costs us millions. We have to tackle spiralling agency costs with a meaningful push to get nurses back working in the NHS. Some ideas that have been discussed among health commentators include free and tailored retraining packages; free childcare, and/or the free use of public transport.

Others published include a shorter, better experience for trainee doctors. Why not dump the ‘junior doctor’ title and have levels of training that aren’t based on the assumption everyone wants to be a consultant. We want the NHS to be an employer everyone wants to work for

It may seems that I simply want to throw money at the problem. However, it would be wrong to assume just because it has been protected from the worst of austerity that everything is fine with our health and social care system. The population is getting older, and we will need an appropriately funded and staffed health system. Provided that the economy continues to perform well, and the deficit is narrowed further, the Conservatives will have to prioritise healthcare if we are to remain the party of the NHS and if the current service model is to be retained.

Satisfaction with the NHS

The new Kings Fund study delves into overall public satisfaction with the NHS, but also the breakdown of opinion on areas such as geography, favoured political party, and experience of different NHS treatments.

1. Satisfaction with the NHS it at historically high levels – and actually rose in 2014

At 65%, this is the second best satisfaction rate for the NHS since 1983. Satisfaction was much lower in the 1990s and most of the 2000s. Dissatisfaction is at its lowest since 1983.

graph 4

2. Recent contact with the NHS usually makes little difference

Perhaps surprisingly, the graph below shows that for the last dozen years satisfaction among those who have stayed in hospital has closely tracked satisfaction among those with such direct experience. Even prior to 2003, the difference was not vast.

graph 3

3. There is currently little difference between supporters of the political parties on satisfaction with the NHS

graph 1

Historically, people tend to show somewhat more satisfaction with the NHS when their own party is in government, and less when it is in opposition. This was particularly true during the Major Government. But under the Coalition, Labour supporters are just as satisfied as Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

4. Whether you live in England, Scotland or Wales makes a big difference

Only half (51%) of Welsh people are satisfied with the NHS, compared to 75% of Scots. One in five (21%) Welsh are dissatisfied compared to only one in twelve (8%) of Scots.

On both measures, England is somewhere in between, with 65% satisfied and 16% dissatisfied.

With health devolved to the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly, four different political parties are now running three different healthcare systems. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats run the NHS in England, the SNP runs it in Scotland and Labour runs it in Wales.

5. The NHS is one of the big three biggest political issues for British voters

Although it was the top political issue for most of the Blair government, the economic crisis of 2008 saw the economy dramatically overtake immigration and health as the top issue for voters. But the last six years have seen a steady rise in public concern about the NHS, going from around 15% naming it as the most important issue to 30%. Three months before the 2015 General Election, all three issues now have approximately equal public attention.

graph 2