Richest 1% of people in UK now wealthier than 70% of population combined

The richest 1 per cent of people in the UK are now wealthier than 70 per cent of the population combined, according to analysis by Oxfam.

A report by the charity highlights how the 685,500 richest people in Britain are worth a total of £2.8 trillion, compared with 48 million people in the UK whose combined wealth totals £2.4 trillion.

Oxfam’s report, called Survival of the Richest, builds a picture of widening worldwide inequality, after extreme poverty and extreme wealth increased simultaneously over the past two years for the first time in quarter of a century.

Continue ReadingRichest 1% of people in UK now wealthier than 70% of population combined

Keith Starmer offers up ‘dangerous false solutions’ to crisis-hit NHS, campaigners warn

NHS sign
NHS logo

LABOUR’S leadership is offering “dangerous false solutions” to the crisis-hit NHS, campaigners warned today after Sir Keir Starmer said the health service must “reform or die.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s successor told the BBC that the NHS should always be free at the point of use, but that there is also a “role for the private sector,” including with help clearing massive waiting lists.

The Socialist Health Association, Labour’s affiliated socialist society for healthcare and medical professionals, said Sir Keir is “right that the Tory-damaged NHS is in urgent need of repair.”

But the group stressed that his solutions “are all wrong.

“After over a decade of Conservative austerity, with staff leaving in droves amid real-terms pay cuts of up to 26 per cent since 2010, the NHS is desperately in need of more funding.

“Instead, the Labour leadership is offering bromides and dangerous false solutions. For Keir Starmer to advocate self-referrals for internal bleeding is a recipe for disaster that will waste resources and cost lives.

Continue ReadingKeith Starmer offers up ‘dangerous false solutions’ to crisis-hit NHS, campaigners warn

Scottish Greens call on Westminster to ‘wake up to the reality of the climate crisis’

Image: Chris LeBoutillier / Creative Commons

THE Scottish Greens called on Westminster today to “wake up to the reality of the climate crisis” and change course on fossil fuels instead of “dragging us towards environmental disaster.”

The challenge followed publication of the Scottish government’s draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition document, which calls for a halt to new oil and gas exploration licences and outlines plans for Scotland to lead a transition to renewables.

The strategy includes ideas to increase the country’s renewable electricity generation capacity by 20 gigawatts (GW) over the next seven years, equivalent to nearly 50 per cent of current demand, the Scottish Greens said.

“Even as the world burns, the UK government has committed to approving 100 new oil and gas exploration licences and is opening the first new coalmine for 30 years.

Continue ReadingScottish Greens call on Westminster to ‘wake up to the reality of the climate crisis’

The Brexiteers promised shorter A&E waiting times after Brexit …

Continue ReadingThe Brexiteers promised shorter A&E waiting times after Brexit …

Sunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

Rishi Sunak has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money and making a mockery of the government’s strategy for tackling the climate crisis, after chartering a second private jet for a UK trip within a week.

The prime minister took a roughly 90-minute ride in an RAF plane to Scotland for a two-day visit, where he held a meeting with the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and announced the opening of two new freeports.

Both leaders met in Inverness, before Sunak headed to nearby Port of Cromarty Firth to mark the announcement about plans for a green freeport there. He headed back to Downing Street on Friday afternoon.

Continue ReadingSunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

Rupert Murdoch deposition in Dominion-Fox lawsuit delayed until next week

Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is now slated to appear for a deposition later in January as part of Dominion Voting’s defamation lawsuit against the company and its cable news networks.

The deposition is set to occur Thursday and Friday next week, according to court filings. Murdoch had initially been scheduled to appear for a deposition in December via video call, but he’s now set for an in-person questioning on the Fox Studio lot in Los Angeles, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person declined to be named because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Most recently, his son and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch faced questioning as part of the lawsuit.

Dominion has brought a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox, arguing that Fox News and Fox Business made false claims that its voting machines were rigged in the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Continue ReadingRupert Murdoch deposition in Dominion-Fox lawsuit delayed until next week

Revealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

Original article republished from Open Democracy

Private health tycoons have wined and dined senior ministers while cashing in on NHS contracts

Martin Williams

12 January 2023, 11.02pm

Private health firms have donated more than £800,000 to the Conservative Party over the past ten years, openDemocracy can reveal.

This includes companies run by wealthy tycoons who have wined and dined former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May and other senior ministers.

NHS sign
Rishi Sunak’s party has accepted huge donations from private health firms.

The finding comes as the government hands out more NHS contracts to the private sector in a bid to tackle the backlog in the health service.

The British Medical Association has warned that relying on the private sector threatens the “sustainability of the NHS”, which has suffered from “a decade of underinvestment”.

Now, an investigation by openDemocracy reveals how Rishi Sunak’s party has received at least £800,000 from more than 35 private health and social care businesses. The true figure could be even higher because donors do not have to declare their field of work, meaning some may have flown under the radar.

And this is on top of huge personal donations from some of the business moguls behind these private healthcare companies.

Health profits

The Conservative Friends of the NHS is a group of Tory-voting doctors and health professionals who claim to support the NHS. The group’s president is health minister Maria Caufield and it has hosted stalls at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

But the organisation’s chairman and founder, Dr Ashraf Chohan, has not worked for the NHS for 23 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and himself has a private GP and private health insurance.

Chohan is a private health tycoon who set up a portfolio of medical and nursing businesses in London. One of his firms, West End Medical Practice Limited, has donated more than £198,000 to the Tories since 2019 – making it one of the sector’s biggest political donors.

As chair of the Conservative Friends of the NHS, Chohan has met with senior politicians, including Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi. Before Christmas, in the midst of the ongoing NHS crisis, he also attended a “meaningful” meeting at Number 10.

Despite the group’s claim to support the NHS, it has repeatedly championed a two-tier health system on Twitter, saying the private sector “should be applauded for reducing demand for the NHS”. In other tweets it has advocated health insurance and argued that “all high taxpayers must have [private health] insurance by 2025”.

Experts say reliance on private health firms is creating a system in which poorer people who cannot afford to go private are “left to put up or shut up”.

NHS outsourcing to the private sector has also been linked to higher mortality rates. And hospitals that use private cleaning companies have been linked with higher rates of the MRSA superbug.

Image reads Accident & Emergency, A & E
NHS outsourcing to the private sector has been linked to higher mortality rates.

During the pandemic, Chohan – who previously donated to Labour before switching – came under scrutiny over two private firms he ran with his son that sold Covid tests. Reports said customers were charged between £80-£200 for the PCR tests, but many complained about lost samples and refused refunds.

Another Conservative Party donor is Genix Healthcare Ltd, which is part of a group of private dental clinics that makes the “majority” of its £6.6m income from NHS contracts.

The company was set up in response to the “severe shortage of NHS dentists” and says it aims to become the “dental corporate of choice for the NHS”.

Genix Healthcare has bankrolled the Tories with donations worth more than £158,000 since 2015, including cash and sponsorships.

Its owner, Mustafa Mohammed, who has posed for photos with Johnson and May and boasted about owning a Rolls-Royce and a Mercedes S-Class, has also given almost £225,000 of his own money to the party.

This includes a £20,000 donation to Jeremy Hunt in 2019, the year after he resigned as health secretary.

As one of the party’s top donors, Mohammed has been part of an elite Tory dining club called the Leader’s Group, which enjoys regular access to the prime minister and senior government figures.

Care homes and GPs

The majority of Tory donations from the private health sector have come since the pandemic began in 2020.

One such donor, Doctor Care Anywhere Group PLC, has given the party more than £37,000 in the past two years – and reportedly spent £1,000 on a ticket for government minister Paul Scully to watch a cricket match at Lord’s.

The company, which charges up to £60 for a single telephone call with a GP, raked in £25m revenue in the 2021 financial year.

Yet its records from last year say that a “severe shortage of GPs in the UK” has meant the firm’s “clinician capacity is currently insufficient to meet patient demand”. Bosses said they would not try to incentivise staff with additional pay rises because this would impact on Doctor Care Anywhere’s “cash generation”.

The Conservatives also accepted £28,000 worth of donations from Advinia Health Care Limited, which operates a network of 36 care homes across the UK.

The company has earned huge amounts of public money and boasted almost £96m in turnover in its latest financial accounts. From this, Advinia took more than £1.8m of pre-tax profits.

“Approximately 80% of group revenues came from state-funded Local Authorities and CCGs [clinical commissioning groups],” the company’s 2021 report says, adding that the taxpayer money “provide[s] the group steady, secure and timely cash inflows”.

But despite its healthy finances, Advinia’s founder and chairman, Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, recently called on Sunak to increase the government’s financial support to private care homes.

The Tories continued to accept donations from Advinia Health Care even after questions were raised about its finances. In 2019, the Guardian reported that the company had been placed under investigation by regulators over concerns about its cash flow and financial management. It was also claimed that bosses had refused to agree to an independent audit of its finances.

The true owners of Advinia Health Care remain unknown, thanks to the company’s financial structure. Records say the ultimate controlling party is the ‘Paraman Trust Settlement’, but there is no explanation of what this is, where it is located, or who is behind it. There is no trace of the Paraman Trust Settlement on the UK’s official company registry and little mention of it anywhere online.

Money donated by companies like Advinia Health Care comes on top extra cash that has been personally given by wealthy business tycoons in the health sector.

They include Dolar Popat, who has donated more than £188,000 in the past decade. Popat used to run a care home business and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010.

John Nash is another former private healthcare tycoon who has donated to the Conservatives and been made a peer. Nash is the former chairman of Care UK, which operates 150 residential homes for elderly people.

Another firm, Babylon Healthcare, which provides GP consultations over the phone, also came under the spotlight recently amid reports that shareholders had donated to the former health secretary, Matt Hancock.

Original article republished from Open Democracy

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Continue ReadingRevealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

Another call for earlier ban on flaring in oil and gas fields

This is the second report this month to call for a ban on flaring in the next two years. A cross-party report by the House of Commons environmental audit committee made the same recommendation on 5 January.

Mr Skidmore was commissioned by the former prime minister, Liz Truss, to review UK proposals to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Last year, the government accepted a ruling by the High Court that its net zero strategy was unlawful. The landmark judgement agreed with arguments by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project that the strategy failed to show how the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets would be met.

The review ran to 340 pages and had 129 recommendations.

It said flaring was responsible for 22% of carbon emissions on oil and gas fields. About 70% of oil and gas field emissions were from powering equipment on platforms, it said.

The offshore industry published a Methane Action Plan in 2021 to reduce emissions and flaring. This committed the industry to a 50% methane emission reduction by 2030, compared with 2018 levels. Shell has committed to zero routine flaring by 2025.

Net zero: Tory MP warns government must take urgent action to meet climate goals
Continue ReadingAnother call for earlier ban on flaring in oil and gas fields

Ambulance performance times reach record new low

Image reads Accident & Emergency, A & E

Union brands crisis a ‘national shame made in Downing Street’

AMBULANCE performance times are now the worst on record, the latest data revealed today, with unions branding it a “‎national disgrace made in 10 Downing Street.”

One in 10 people were left waiting for ambulances for more than three-and-a-half hours last month after falling seriously ill with the likes of hearts attacks, strokes and sepsis, according to NHS England.

Downing Street, which has refused to call the situation in the NHS a crisis, said the figures are “obviously unacceptable” and the government was “very focused” on improving NHS performance.

But Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the government “must carry the can” for excessive deaths caused by the problems highlighted in last month’s statistics.

She said: “The blame for this tragedy lies with years of underfunding and poor pay. It is a national disgrace delivered by Downing Street.

Continue ReadingAmbulance performance times reach record new low

Extinction Rebellion drops banner from Westminster Bridge to launch 100 Days campaign

Image: Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion UK dropped a large banner from Westminster Bridge in London that reads ‘APRIL 21: UNITE TO SURVIVE’. A group had marched with flags from Jubilee Gardens along Belvedere Road where they stood in single file off the road, forming a chain across the length of the bridge. When there, an important message was passed along a human chain from one side of the bridge to the other, symbolising connection across divides. 

The action officially launches Extinction Rebellion’s ‘100 Days’ campaign – the biggest mobilisation campaign XR has ever undertaken. With it, a new Crowdfunder is set in motion with a £1million target by 21st April, 2023, when 100k are expected to stand together outside the Houses of Parliament. 

Today marks the 100 day countdown to ‘The Big One’ on 21st April and is encouraging millions of conversations with friends, family, colleagues and strangers, as well as organisations across and beyond the environmental space, to bring 100k people to Westminster. With Extinction Rebellion’s official ‘ticker’ count revealed to show over 7,000 people ready to be there, this powerful targeted campaign aims to reach new audiences with an accessible, inclusive and easy-to-understand invitation to bring the remaining count into active resistance.

Anna Hyde of Extinction Rebellion UK, said: “The climate, ecological and biodiversity emergencies are not distant threats – they are happening right now, unevenly affecting many – ultimately affecting everyone, and life on Earth is at stake. Covered up by corrupt media, those in power continue to profit from the crises unravelling around us. The fossil fuel era must end, and restoration of the world must begin. This is where solidarity comes in.” 

Following Extinction Rebellion’s New Year statement stating that we will “disrupt the abuse of power and imbalance” by targeting the true perpetrators, all signs at this chaotic time in history point toward cooperation between groups and movements taking our love and rage to the seat of power in Westminster. Horrified by the climate disasters unfolding around us, thousands in the UK are ready and waiting to do the work the government is unwilling to do.

Dr. Caroline Vincent of Scientists for XR, said: “Disruptive protest has done so much to change the conversation around the climate and ecological emergency over the last 4 years; more and more people are waking up to realities of the climate crisis, and more and more are saying they want immediate and decisive action.

“The reality is however, that as the general public becomes more concerned, the government in the UK backtracks on its already meagre climate promises, sanctioning a new coal mine in Cumbria at the end of 2022. So, the government isn’t listening and the only way that changes is by all of these newly concerned people recognising their own power and stepping into active resistance. At the same time, the Government is clamping down on the right to protest and criminalising those raising the alarm. In the current circumstances it’s clear that only larger numbers of people taking peaceful action together over prolonged periods will prove impossible to ignore.”

Continue ReadingExtinction Rebellion drops banner from Westminster Bridge to launch 100 Days campaign