Comment: Serious questions prove no piece of cake for Chancellor

I have never quite understood what our political elite hope to achieve with awkwardly contrived photo ops.

When George Osborne took time out of what I hope is a fairly rigorous schedule to fill a sponge cake with jam and cream in the new Morrisons, what message was he and his aides hoping to telegraph to floating voters?

“This is a man undaunted by rudimentary baking tasks,” perhaps? Or possibly: “This a chancellor so obsessed with economic growth he’s willing to put the cream into the cakes that will fuel our increased productivity with his own bare hands?”

But these are questions to be answered by far more astute political minds than my own.

Baffling optics aside, the Chancellor’s visit did present this paper with an opportunity to press the man holding the nation’s purse strings about what cash is available to rebuild Watford General.

Sadly, here Mr Osborne served up less substantial fare than with the aforementioned cake he had diligently worked on.

The gist of his noncommittal response was essentially that detailed discussions are yet to take place between the Treasury and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust over the project.

This is not entirely surprising as the trust is yet to unveil its new clinical strategy, which will outline its vision for the hospital’s redevelopment.

But the fact that detailed negotiations have not taken place indicates how far away a new hospital is.

I fear many people are still under the impression that we will get a comprehensive redevelopment, like the 500 bed new hospital promised under the original (and now discredited PFI) proposals.

However, at the moment, it is not only unclear what the redevelopment will entail, but also exactly how it will be funded.

The latest reports from the hospital trust show it is coming under increasing financial pressure and sliding further away from attaining the more independent foundation status needed to participate in any large scale regeneration scheme.

One of the few things that is clear about the long-overdue project is that any serious redevelopment of Watford General is going to need substantial financial backing from central Government.

Last year, Hertfordshire County Council’s chief executive John Wood received £171,376 in salary and pension contributions.

Bear that figure in mind when you consider that, in contrast, it would cost an additional £166,000 a year to bring the hourly rate of 4,412 staff currently paid below the Living Wage up to the £7.65 an hour considered necessary to cover basic living costs.

The council’s Conservative leadership last week voted down a proposal to introduce the Living Wage on the basis it would mean an increase in the cost of school dinners.

The decision means staff at the bottom will continue to earn salaries as low as £12,435 a year. It is the upper end of the public sector pay scale that tends to provoke the most indignation.

Yet last week we learned the salaries of those in the less gilded echelons of public service are just as scandalous.

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Comments (3)

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1:11pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Harry Caine says...

What a transmogrification, last week Rich Harrington this Gidiot, who will it be next week, Downhill Dorothy?

At last the WO has discovered its backbone and that Rich Harrington needs the publicity much more than they need the Monkey a week his front page ad probably costs!!!

It's a pity there was nothing about the Mauritius connection and all that lovely lucre from flogging Time Share last week
What a transmogrification, last week Rich Harrington this Gidiot, who will it be next week, Downhill Dorothy? At last the WO has discovered its backbone and that Rich Harrington needs the publicity much more than they need the Monkey a week his front page ad probably costs!!! It's a pity there was nothing about the Mauritius connection and all that lovely lucre from flogging Time Share last week Harry Caine

1:20pm Fri 13 Dec 13

TRT says...

"Last year, Hertfordshire County Council’s chief executive John Wood received £171,376 in salary and pension contributions."

This is far in excess of the remuneration MPs receive, even cabinet ministers. So what's going wrong with our political system? Is it any wonder that central government feels it is right to squeeze the purse strings at a local level when they see how it's being spent. Salaries are the biggest component of outgoings usually, and high salaries feed inflation and house prices. So if the upper and middle tier of wages were squeezed or frozen, allowing the lower levels to catch up and bring inflation under control, then perhaps a "living wage" wouldn't seem so unreasonable. Although I'll admit that we've allowed our nation to become over dependent on fuel from overseas fuel, so global market trends (rising fuel costs) push inflation through into almost every corner of our home market and no amount of domestic jiggery pokery with interest rates, money supply, wages or taxation is ever going to fix it. We need to become self-sufficient for energy supply, which is why I support wind, solar, wave, tidal, nuclear, shale (least preferable) schemes, but only if they are UK owned producers, otherwise we're back in the same boat. Lord! I'm starting to sound like a UKIP spokesperson... I'm not of course, this is just how I understand economics.

As for the General Hospital, I'm afraid Mike's right. The original grand scheme is pretty much doomed to failure, with all the expense already incurred just going to waste lining the pockets of planners, architects, developers, lawyers, etc. The new Health Campus is supposedly going to replace hospitals in Hemel and St. Albans, so it should be sited in the centre of its catchment area, not at the very edge. Watford General is only a nudge over 3 miles from Mount Vernon and a touch over 4 miles from Harefield. Better spacing of the hospitals in the area would ensure better A&E responses and easier access on the whole. In the meantime, they'll build it piecemeal - an access road here, a new car park there, a pharmaceutical lab here, a residential block there, anything which is definitely self-funding or earmarked. Of course when the grand plan doesn't come about, they'll end up short leasing land to, say, Waitrose who will want a really good deal as it's only, say, a ten year tenure but they'll get the road for free and we'll have seen development creeping into greenbelt land by the back door of "overwhelming social need". In the meantime, no improvement to the congestion of West Watford (which tailed back from the hospital via Vicarage Road, Deacon's Hill, Eastbury Road virtually to Moor Park about two weeks ago), no great improvement for patients, more pressure on resources like schools etc, slower access for the police and fire services... are you getting my drift? So, far better to put it closer to Hemel and the M25 on a cheaper green or green-brown site where the services can be transferred one by one as they are completed, where there is room to shuffle around without the hospital looking like a building site for the next 20 years.
"Last year, Hertfordshire County Council’s chief executive John Wood received £171,376 in salary and pension contributions." This is far in excess of the remuneration MPs receive, even cabinet ministers. So what's going wrong with our political system? Is it any wonder that central government feels it is right to squeeze the purse strings at a local level when they see how it's being spent. Salaries are the biggest component of outgoings usually, and high salaries feed inflation and house prices. So if the upper and middle tier of wages were squeezed or frozen, allowing the lower levels to catch up and bring inflation under control, then perhaps a "living wage" wouldn't seem so unreasonable. Although I'll admit that we've allowed our nation to become over dependent on fuel from overseas fuel, so global market trends (rising fuel costs) push inflation through into almost every corner of our home market and no amount of domestic jiggery pokery with interest rates, money supply, wages or taxation is ever going to fix it. We need to become self-sufficient for energy supply, which is why I support wind, solar, wave, tidal, nuclear, shale (least preferable) schemes, but only if they are UK owned producers, otherwise we're back in the same boat. Lord! I'm starting to sound like a UKIP spokesperson... I'm not of course, this is just how I understand economics. As for the General Hospital, I'm afraid Mike's right. The original grand scheme is pretty much doomed to failure, with all the expense already incurred just going to waste lining the pockets of planners, architects, developers, lawyers, etc. The new Health Campus is supposedly going to replace hospitals in Hemel and St. Albans, so it should be sited in the centre of its catchment area, not at the very edge. Watford General is only a nudge over 3 miles from Mount Vernon and a touch over 4 miles from Harefield. Better spacing of the hospitals in the area would ensure better A&E responses and easier access on the whole. In the meantime, they'll build it piecemeal - an access road here, a new car park there, a pharmaceutical lab here, a residential block there, anything which is definitely self-funding or earmarked. Of course when the grand plan doesn't come about, they'll end up short leasing land to, say, Waitrose who will want a really good deal as it's only, say, a ten year tenure but they'll get the road for free and we'll have seen development creeping into greenbelt land by the back door of "overwhelming social need". In the meantime, no improvement to the congestion of West Watford (which tailed back from the hospital via Vicarage Road, Deacon's Hill, Eastbury Road virtually to Moor Park about two weeks ago), no great improvement for patients, more pressure on resources like schools etc, slower access for the police and fire services... are you getting my drift? So, far better to put it closer to Hemel and the M25 on a cheaper green or green-brown site where the services can be transferred one by one as they are completed, where there is room to shuffle around without the hospital looking like a building site for the next 20 years. TRT

1:57pm Fri 13 Dec 13

Cuetip says...

Don't you just love it when those at the top preach about the need to tighten belts and wage restraint as if they are on some just crusade.

If an ordinary worker was to dare take a second job it's called moon lighting or the black economy and in some cases disciplined. If an MP takes on 10 directorships it's lauded as spreading the talent followed by some honours recognition.

These photo ops provide quintessential places where you find those who prefer to talk the talk ie politicians and those who do the walk the walk.ie the workers usually.

Development at local and national levels will continue in a piecemeal fashion due to short term planning. Our energy supplies have become distorted in so many ways and the Health Campus original dream is looking increasingly contorted by having to squeeze in more housing.
Don't you just love it when those at the top preach about the need to tighten belts and wage restraint as if they are on some just crusade. If an ordinary worker was to dare take a second job it's called moon lighting or the black economy and in some cases disciplined. If an MP takes on 10 directorships it's lauded as spreading the talent followed by some honours recognition. These photo ops provide quintessential places where you find those who prefer to talk the talk ie politicians and those who do the walk the walk.ie the workers usually. Development at local and national levels will continue in a piecemeal fashion due to short term planning. Our energy supplies have become distorted in so many ways and the Health Campus original dream is looking increasingly contorted by having to squeeze in more housing. Cuetip

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