3-5 February 2023 – the weekend’s press releases (part 1)

  • Lib Dem Bill to stop prepayment meter installations blocked by Govt
  • Strike Postponement is Welcome Progress
  • Just a quarter of the “40 new hospitals” have received planning permission

Lib Dem Bill to stop prepayment meter installations blocked by Govt

A Liberal Democrats Bill to end all installations of prepayment metres over the Winter has been effectively blocked by the Conservative Government.

This comes after Ofgem announced the suspension of forcible installations of prepayment meters yesterday [2 Feb] following a Times investigation into British Gas.

Liberal Democrats have been campaigning on this issue for months; first presenting the Prepayment Meters (Temporary Prohibition) Bill on the 7th December and asking a PMQ to Rishi Sunak two weeks ago urging him to support the bill. But calls have fallen on deaf ears.

Today [3 February], the Government prevented the Bill’s progress to Second Reading – causing the legislation to fail.

Liberal Democrats have criticised the“poverty premium” paid by households with prepayment meters have higher energy bills simply because they use a prepayment meter.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy, Wera Hobhouse MP, who tabled the Bill, said:

This Bill has been in front of Parliament since early December, but the Conservative Government chose to ignore it. Only after a scandal and shocking revelations about energy companies prying on vulnerable people did the regulator, Ofgem, finally act.

It is too little, too late. My Bill would go further than the Regulator, by banning the installation of prepayment meters for a period of time to get people through this difficult winter and to investigate any rogue practices.

With the Government shunning the fastest way to help these people who become victims of predatory energy firms, families and pensioners across the country will be worried about how they will keep the heating and lights on.

Strike Postponement is Welcome Progress

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news that a number of strikes by healthcare workers in Wales have been postponed after an improved offer was tabled by the Welsh Government.

Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

It’s a welcome development to see these strikes postponed and hopefully with continued negotiations they can be halted altogether, but we will have to await the outcome of further negotiations.

We have always argued that our healthcare staff need to be valued, not just with moral support but making sure they are valued financially. This is especially important if we are to solve the retention and recruitment crisis in the NHS.

6 per cent however still sits below inflation and below the Scottish Government’s offer. No side will ever be 100% happy with the outcome in these negotiations, but it is important to try and reach a compromise.

Looking towards the longer term we need to see the UK Conservative Government recognise when setting budgets, the additional financial pressures Wales has when it comes to healthcare, in particular the fact that Wales has an older and sicker population than other parts of the UK, in part due to the legacy of industrial activity.

Just a quarter of the “40 new hospitals” have received planning permission

  • 30 hospital buildings due to be replaced are, or have buildings which are, older than the NHS itself
  • A series of parliamentary questions and Freedom of Information Requests in recent months reveal the Government is on course to break its promise on new hospitals

Two new parliamentary questions by the Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper have revealed the Government promise of “40 New Hospitals built by 2030” looks in tatters.

The new findings reveal just 10 of the new hospitals have secured full planning permission. The rest are yet to secure the necessary permission to begin building, and in some cases, have no planning permission whatsoever. Last year, the MP discovered construction work had started on only seven of the new hospitals. The lengthy delays have caused one health worker in Sussex to tell the media that their new hospital may never be built.

The worst case for delays is the new hospital for Sutton, London. The new Epsom and St Helier Hospital has yet to secure any planning permission, and a previous Freedom of Information Request (FOI) by the Liberal Democrats, reveals the hospital is already two years behind schedule and had not even submitted a request for planning permission. The Borough is currently served by St Helier Hospital which was built in 1938 and in desperate need of repair work to keep it running whilst the new hospital is late.

A separate parliamentary question by the Liberal Democrats has found there are still a staggering 284 hospital buildings pre-dating 1948, when the NHS was first created. Most of the hospitals due to be replaced have buildings pre-dating 1948, raising questions that further delays to the new hospitals programme leaves the community with crumbling hospitals.

The state of England’s hospitals has already been questioned. The Liberal Democrats revealed 34 NHS hospitals have roofs which may collapse at any moment, with some hospitals unable to treat heavier patients and some wards due to the dangerous roofs.

Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:

This is truly scandalous. The Conservative Government is on course to break their flagship NHS promise and refuse to admit it. Communities already suffering from dangerously long ambulance waiting times are also left with crumbling hospitals which are falling apart at the seams. The Government needs to stump up the cash to keep ageing hospitals running and ensure patients are treated in safe environments.

Time and time again Conservative Health Ministers are hiding the truth from the country. Their big promises have been shown to not be worth the paper they are written on. Local people in these areas have been taken for granted and have lost all faith in NHS services.