Lewisham wins hospital appeal

Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign have won the appeal brought by the Secretary of State for Health against the High Court quashing of his decision to downgrade Lewisham Hospital emergency and maternity service.
The verdict was delivered earlier today and confirmed that the Secretary of State and the Trust Special Administrator did not have the legal powers to make changes at Lewisham Hospital under the Unsustainable Provider Regime (UPR).
This is a great result. I was confident of our case but I am still very relieved. This is another victory for each and every individual who signed a petition, who wrote to the Secretary of State and who marched through the streets of Lewisham. Together we have fought to assert the right of the people who use and deliver health services to have a real say in their future. And we have won.
We knew the Secretary of State and the TSA were wrong in the beginning and today we all know they are still wrong now. We all now need to work together with our great local hospital and make sure it can continue to serve our community long into the future.

Supporting Credit Unions, taking action against Payday lenders

Ed Miliband has announced that a Labour government will raise millions of pounds through a levy on the profits of payday lenders – money which will be used to double the public funds available for low cost alternatives such as credit unions.

This is welcome news to those of us who have seen the devastating affects that payday loan companies can have on communities. Many payday lenders charge an extortionate level of interest and prey on the most vulnerable in our society – those people who are already struggling to get by.

Labour in Lewisham have been campaigning and lobbying on this issue for some time, and I’m pleased that next Labour government will also cap the cost of credit companies are allowed to charge.

Fortunately there are alternatives to payday lenders in the form of Credit Unions. In Lewisham we have two local credit unions that offer great value loans as well as ethical savings plans that are fully protected. I have been a member of Lewisham Plus Credit Union for more than 10 years and visited their office in Sydenham earlier this week to see how they were getting on. I was intrigued to hear that they have had a surge in interest ever since the Archbishop of Canterbury launched his ‘war on wonga’ over the summer.

That Lewisham Plus Credit Union has a presence in our high street is good.  I do not think it is positive for our high streets that that payday lenders also have a presence and have been lobbying for powers which would enable the council to control their numbers. At present, there is nothing we could do to stop new stores opening, but a future Labour government would allow us to use planning laws to control the expansion of payday loan shops.

The Government is failing on this issue and should take forward polices set out by the Labour Party immediately. The initiatives do not cost government, but will go a long way to protect vulnerable people from being exploited by payday lenders.

Young Mayor Elections 2013

Young people across Lewisham vote tomorrow to elect the next Young Mayor of Lewisham.

The Young Mayor’s Programme is celebrating it’s 10th year and continues to go from strength to strength and I am delighted that so many young people have put themselves forward. The 22 candidates are from across a range of schools and have some great ideas about what they want to do as Young Mayor.

The Young Mayor is in office for one year and has a budget of £30,000 to spend on things to make life better for young people in Lewisham. Projects in previous years have included organising healthy living activities, intergenerational work and role model and mentoring programmes.

Good luck to all of the candidates, I look forward to seeing you at the results on Thursday.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Launches

A warm welcome to the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust which officially formed today. The Trust is responsible for Lewisham Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, as well as a variety of community health services in Lewisham.

The merger of the two hospitals is a result of the Special Administrator’s recommendations for the South London Healthcare NHS Trust (SLHT). Although the Council successfully challenged the decision of Jeremy Hunt to downgrade Lewisham Hospital, we did not challenge, or disagree with, the merger of the two hospitals. The government’s appeal against the court’s ruling will not have an impact on the creation of the new Trust.

All of the services at Lewisham Hospital – including the threatened A&E and Maternity Units – remain open and are running as usual.

Some have raised concerns about the financial viability of the new trust given the dire financial circumstances of the SLHT. I am reassured to hear that the Department of Health and NHS commissioners are providing funding so Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust can continue to provide safe and sustainable services. Crucially, the new Trust will not inherit the old debts of SLHT and I understand that the government is providing additional financial support towards Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s PFI costs.

I wish the new Trust well and look forward to working with them closely in the future.