Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

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I seem to be writing pieces like this with monotonous regularity after crushing Labour election defeats nationally contrasting with record good results in Exeter.

Please, colleagues in the Labour movement and outside commentators, don't try to claim we lost because Labour wasn't radical, left wing or distinctive enough. Please don't force those of us, who are actually quite good at winning elections in Middle England, to go through those same old tired arguments of the 1970s and 80s. Surely, we learned the lessons forever in 1992: that a successful centre left Party in Britain wins from the centre left, not the left. Economic competence, combined with social justice. Without the first we can never deliver the second.

Ed Miliband has been a good and brave leader. He has held us together admirably since 2010. He has been courageous and inspirational in standing up to powerful vested interests, including the vile Tory press. He has overseen the development of a good programme for Government, that will now sadly not be implemented. Millions of people in Britain desperately needed and still need a Labour Government.

But Ed and his team bet on the British people moving to the left in response to the global financial crisis. The whole of our strategy was based on this. But it was not true. There was never any evidence either here or abroad that it would be.

The public feels growing disquiet at inequality, at austerity hitting the poor and our public realm, while a few at the top lead lives completely disconnected from the rest of us. People want a fairer, better Britain, but they also need to have confidence in the ability of a Government to manage the economy competently. We need our Party and next leader to celebrate our entrepreneurs and wealth creators and not leave the impression they are part of the problem. Economic competence combined with social justice. We learned that lesson finally, surely, after 18 years in the wilderness between 1979 and 1997. To recognise this simple truth is not to hark back to 1997, but, as John Prescott always used to put it, to adapt traditional Labour values to today's reality. That's how we rebuild and win.

Election Result

I seem to be writing pieces like this with monotonous regularity after crushing Labour election defeats nationally contrasting with record good results in Exeter.

Labour's manifesto, offering a better, fully costed future for Exeter and Britain, is now available to read online here.

Labour Party Manifesto

Labour's manifesto, offering a better, fully costed future for Exeter and Britain, is now available to read online here.

NHS England's refusal to publish the report that was finished last August into the financial crisis facing Devon NHS is completely unacceptable.

You can read their response in full below:

Dear Mr Bradshaw,

Re:      Freedom of Information request

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which we received on 12 March 2015.

Your exact request was:-

“My request is to be provided with the full and final report from the PWC investigation into the financial challenge facing the NHS in Devon.”

NHS England holds this information.

However, we are withholding this information under Section 22 of the FOI Act, which states that public bodies are not obliged to disclose information that is intended for future publication.

Section 22 is a qualified exemption, and we are required to assess as objectively as possible whether the balance of public interest favours disclosing or withholding the information.

NHS England recognises that there is in general a strong public interest in information being made as freely available as possible. However, there is ongoing work based on the contents of these reports and it is expected that for each health economy that was considered and in respect of which a report was prepared there will be at least the following steps undertaken:

  • ·         Strategic plan
  • ·         Consideration of plan
  • ·         Consultation on possible reforms to the health economy
  • ·         Recommendations for possible reforms following consultation
  • ·         Implementation of recommendations.

To release the reports ahead of the steps identified above being completed would be likely to prejudice their outcome.

For these reasons, we believe withholding the information outweighs the public interest in releasing the information. Equally, as this information is intended to be published soon, we feel that it is best and reasonable to withhold this information at present, rather than disclose earlier where error or duplication may occur. On publication, this information will be freely available from the NHS England website (www.england.nhs.uk) for you to view. There is no information currently available regarding the proposed date for publication.

I hope this information is helpful. However, if you are dissatisfied, you have the right to ask for an internal review by writing to us, within two months of the date of this letter, to:

NHS England

PO Box 16738

REDDITCH

B97 9PT

FOI Request to NHS England

NHS England's refusal to publish the report that was finished last August into the financial crisis facing Devon NHS is completely unacceptable. You can read their response in full below:...

I’m very pleased that management and the union representing disabled workers at the Pluss factory on Marsh Barton are working constructively together on a solution that could save most if not all of the jobs.

Two weeks ago, Pluss management announced they were planning to close the factory and make the workforce redundant. This plant has existed in Exeter for decades and some of its staff have worked there since the 1970s. They do an incredible job making a whole variety of products ranging from cabling for British Telecom to upholstery and cushions for NHS wheelchairs and even specialised interior seats and upholstery for rare vintage motor vehicles including the famous VW campervans. The staff at Pluss, who are mainly disabled or learning disabled, generate an income of £700,000 a year. They and their union, Community Union, believe there is a perfectly viable future for the factory and that the alternative would be its workforce losing their jobs, being dependent on social security and costing the system much more in the long run.

After meeting management yesterday, national and regional representatives of Community say they are hopeful of reaching an agreement with the management that would enable the work done at the factory to continue. It is critical that they are given time to thrash out a solution because if they are forced to close on the original May timetable they risk losing the important contracts they have with the NHS, BT and others.

I hope very much that the management and staff representatives will continue to work constructively together to save this vital and historic Exeter factory.

When I visited Pluss yesterday I was handed this moving letter by one of the employees which sums up how worried they are about their future:

Good Morning,

I would just like to start by sincerely thanking you for visiting the site today, and showing your support for the factory and its employees. I began working for the company when it was originally known as the Exeter Industrial Services Group, so I have seen many of the changes that have taken place throughout its development. I am dedicated to the company because of its social purpose, and its integrity with helping people furthest from the labour market back into employment. The fact that the 'Pluss' grew and expanded from the services and capabilities of the work staff makes it even more poignant, what a tragedy it is to close this social enterprise.

When I started my new position in the factory a couple of years ago, I was instantly welcomed and it was obvious that the team were great friends. And it is true that happy workers make for a productive workforce. The work force in the factory are the best I could wish for as they are incredibly hard working, highly skilled, professional and take great pride in their work. I can not express enough how devastating it is for them, as they have all worked together for so many years and are truly more like family then friends. The work force will face far more challenges to find employment because of their disabilities, especially in today’s current economic climate.

In terms of how supported factories are perceived as institutionalising people, I personally strongly resent this argument in relation to our factory. This is a modern factory with a great atmosphere, and the staff are highly trained professional people that love their chosen jobs. The manager has been taking great steps forward since his appointment, and I truly believe the business has the potential to flourish under the right conditions.

I know the factory can be a success, we were winning large NHS framework agreements and we were in the final stages of completing an e-commerce website, along with great improvements in our marketing and PR strategy. As a result of the renewed effort by all the team, this has meant sales have been significantly improving. The company has fantastic potential, as we have been operating in the market place for over 25 years, therefore our brand is known and trusted by all major players in this sector. Also the re-upholstery department that specialises in mainly campervans, cars and boats is always very busy and we supply some great local businesses.

I strongly believe that we as a country should be supporting British manufacturing, also it is a growing business sector, which is even more reason to help support the work force. With the increase in global shipping costs, more and more business is returning to the UK from other countries, such as China. It also has to be said that our products are ethically produced, which means our customers can have complete peace of mind with regards to human rights and health & safety regulations etc.

It is generally considered that short-term decisions are more expensive. In this current economic climate we need to make smart decisions. The people being made redundant will potentially place a long term strain on our social security system, and other related Government agencies. Therefore potentially no money will be saved in the long run, just more expense to the tax payer. I believe it is our duty as citizens in a democratic society, to look after those that have not been as lucky as ourselves, this is what makes us human beings. Disabled people do not want to be dependent on benefits, they want to work and as a result they make fantastic employees. They are incredibly proud to be able to contribute to society for example, simply by paying tax because it gives them a huge sense of self-worth, as it would anyone but more so because of the difficult challenges they face.

Fundamentally if the bigger picture is considered, and support is given to the organisation and its workforce to set up a separate company, the result can only be a positive one. As all parties will benefit and essentially the integrity of Pluss will be preserved.

Exeter Pluss Factory

I’m very pleased that management and the union representing disabled workers at the Pluss factory on Marsh Barton are working constructively together on a solution that could save most if...

During the election campaign in Exeter, I will be speaking at the following candidate public question time events:

- Leading Women UK Event – Magdalen Chapter Hotel, Thursday 16th April, 5:45 till 8 PM

- Regen SW Hustings, Westpoint Arena, 21st April, 10 till 11 AM

- Exeter College Hustings, St David’s Church, 23rd April, 1:30 till 2:30 PM

- Question Time, Exeter University , 23rd April, 6:30 till 7:30 PM

- National Pensioners Convention Devon AGM, White Ensign Club, Trinity House, South Street, Friday 24th April, 1 till 2 PM 

- Christians Together General Election Hustings, Exeter Cathedral, 27th April, 7:30 till 9:30 PM 

Candidate Question Times

During the election campaign in Exeter, I will be speaking at the following candidate public question time events:


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