Tuesday News Review

Lib Dem unrest over NHS reforms

Liberal Democrat leaders are trying to douse a growing revolt over the coalition’s controversial NHS reforms. Party critics claim the reforms will increase health inequalities, make tracts of the NHS unviable and simply provide profits for private firms asked to take on the task of commissioning care. The backlash comes as figures show the reforms will cost £1.8bn to implement. The Department of Health today revealed it had sought authorisation from parliament to set the money aside to cover redundancy payments, pension liabilities and the penalties of breaking contractual obligations of the primary care trusts that will be abolished under the plans. But the political backlash poses the greatest risk for the coalition as Lib Dem rebels attempt to raise it at their spring conference next month. Privately many cabinet members have doubts about the politics of coalition health reforms, if not the reforms themselves, and rejection of them by one wing of the coalition would only increase those doubts. – the Guardian

No to AV… because it’s too expensive…

These are not easy times in Britain. There is much to preoccupy the Coalition, not least the parlous state of the economy. The decision to hold a referendum on a change of voting system must, therefore, be viewed as an unnecessary distraction from more pressing matters. The vote will take place on May 5, the same day as local contests in England and Wales and elections to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. It is a price to be paid for the Liberal Democrats’ agreement to enter the Coalition, though whether the referendum will do anything to prolong that union must be doubtful – the campaign will pit the two parties in government against each other. – the Telegraph

NICK Clegg’s crusade to change the way Brits vote will cost taxpayers £250 MILLION, figures reveal today. The bill is enough to pay for 8,000 extra nurses, 7,500 troops or 5,000 cops. Deputy PM Mr Clegg, backed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, wants the controversial alternative vote – or AV – system. The proposed spending spree to introduce it will trigger furious protests as millions of families are hit by swingeing cuts. The cost will be exposed today at the launch of the No to AV campaign, which aims to keep the traditional first-past-the-post voting system. A referendum on change will cost £82 MILLION – with another £9 MILLION for “voter education” in the run-up. Up to £130 MILLION will be needed for electronic machines to count voters’ alternative choices of candidate if AV is introduced. – the Sun

Switching from X to 1, 2, 3 voting might cost £250 million, say the No campaign, if you were to decide it would need “expensive counting machines”, double the number you first thought of (by chucking the referendum costs which apply whether we vote Yes or No too), and then ignore the fact that they count the AV votes by hand in Australia. QED. Still, the Daily Mail and Telegraphtried to take it seriously. The AV referendum gives us a democratic choice about whether we think our democracy would be better if we could express multiple preferences – voting 1, 2, 3 – under AV, or should keep X voting under first-past-the-post. There are arguments for and against this change. In a democracy, whether Britain could afford to count the votes really isn’t one of them. – Next Left

Private firms not volunteers joining Dave’s big society

David Cameron’s attempt to relaunch his Big Society agenda hit trouble on several fronts yesterday as it emerged that American firms could take over the running of libraries in Britain. The Prime Minister made a passionate defence of his flagship scheme, admitting it would not make him popular or win elections. However, his pledge that the Big Society was not a cover for big spending cuts was undermined by growing evidence that private firms rather than voluntary groups could land many of the new contracts to run public services. – Independent

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