On Thursday, 14 November, Barnet residents gathered at the Greek-Cypriot Centre in North Finchley for a rousing public meeting about austerity and privatization, organised by the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS). In short but emphatic addresses, the panel of national and local campaigners detailed not only what was wrong with the Government’s policies but what people could and needed to do about them, and received an enthusiastic response from the audience.
Opening the forum, Nick Long, outlined Lewisham People Before Profit’s (LPBP) various actions not only to halt the closure of Lewisham Hospital but also to fight the cuts, privatisation programmes, and bedroom tax in that borough, and their successes. He urged BAPS to follow LPBP’s example and put up candidates in the local elections.
Later, Ruth Kutner put forward BAPS’ activities and successes, and stressed its role as an umbrella group for local campaigns. It had helped to defeat Brian Coleman in the GLA Elections, save Friern Barnet Library from closure and prevent the election of a new Tory Councillor in a Tory stronghold. The immediate aim was to overturn the Conservative Council in Barnet and to reverse the One Barnet Programme.
Looking at issues on the national level, Dr Jacky Davis, co-chair of the NHS Consultants Association and a founder member ofKeep Our NHS Public, cited the facts and figures behind the Government’s strategy of running down the NHS while stressing its resulting failures, so it could then sell it off to the private sector. To protect the NHS in England, she said, it is essential to press the Labour Party to state that it would reverse the Health and Social Care Act 2012, that the NHS would remain the main provider of health services, and that there would be no further bed closures.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, drew attention to the Government’s policies of rolling back the entire Welfare State, reducing wages and increasing capitalist profits. While claiming that there is no money for public services and benefits, the Government spent huge sums on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and plan to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers money to celebrate the centenary of World War 1 –benefiting no one – and billions on the replacement of the current nuclear weapons system. Labour has to know that people do not want these policies under any guise; they want renationalisation of public services and utilities.
Focusing again on Barnet, David Lawrence, from Save Barnet NHS, emphasised the need to raise awareness here of the detrimental changes being foisted on the NHS, and the uncertainty of how Health Protection in the NHS would work with the now-privatised Barnet Environmental Health service. Agreeing that people must take political action, Mr Lawrence announced that the National Health Action Party planned to field candidates in the general election.
Nick Long Lewisham People Before Profit’s (LPBP)
Ruth Kutner, Barnet Alliance
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND
David Lawrence, Save Barnet NHS
Dr Jacky Davis, co-chair of the NHS Consultants Association