Mar 03 2007

Call to protect Harrow’s pensioners from Brown’s plans to scrap benefits

2,730 people could lose their disability benefits across Harrow East  warns Bob Blackman

leadelderly-taxBob Blackman, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Harrow Eastvoiced his opposition to Gordon Brown’s new plans to scrap disability benefits for the elderly in Harrow. The small print of Labour’s plans to create a National Care Service reveals they will scrap Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance for pensioners to pay for it.

An average £3,400 a year will be snatched away from 2.4 million pensioners – equivalent to a quarter of the average pensioner’s income. In Harrow East, this would affect 2,730 pensioners who receive Attendance Allowance, worth an average of £60 a week, and 970 who receive Disability Living Allowance, worth an average of £75 a week.

Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance are based on need; they are not means tested and are intended to cover the extra costs arising from the impact the disability has on the life of the disabled person. The key feature of these benefits is that they can be spent by disabled people how they wish, without restrictions, to best support their individual care needs.

Bob Blackman said:

“Gordon Brown has chosen to penalise one of the most vulnerable groups in our society for the sake of another of his eye-catching announcements. As with every Labour initiative, someone has to pay and, as with many of them, it is once again those who are least able to afford it who are hit by Brown.

“These benefits provide vital support for disabled pensioners, giving them the chance to lead an independent life with the freedom to tailor their care to their needs.

“Of course, we need to do more to help people with their care costs, but it is completely wrong to do so at the expense of disabled pensioners. Conservatives will protect Harrow’s pensioners and fight against Gordon Brown’s plan to scrap benefits for the disabled.”

Mar 02 2007

Housing benefit system is failing Harrow’s most vulnerable tenants

New call to reform the controversial Local Housing Allowance

housemoneyBob Blackman, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Harrow East issued a stark warning that Gordon Brown’s changes to housing benefit rules are harming the most vulnerable tenants and reducing the availability of affordable accommodation.

Last year, Labour Ministers introduced a new ‘Local Housing Allowance’, with housing benefit being direct to the tenant rather than to the landlord. But vulnerable tenants often struggle to manage their finances and spend their rent money on other things.  Homeless charity, Crisis, has warned that this can result in rent arrears and eventually homelessness.

Landlords who were previously happy to take on tenants on housing benefit have suffered from non-payment of rent. Many landlords now routinely refuse to let to Local Housing Allowance claimants. According to the National Landlords Association, half of all landlords are reluctant to lend to tenants on Local Housing Allowance.

4,771 people in Harrow are on local housing waiting lists, and a sizeable proportion of them are on housing benefit. Housing waiting lists have risen by 148% under this Labour Government – reflecting the shortage of affordable accommodation.

Conservatives have pledged to change Labour’s failed policy. Tenants will be able to choose whether to have their housing allowance paid direct to their landlord. This will increase the availability of quality low-cost housing.

Bob Blackman said:

“Labour’s new housing benefit rules are failing the most vulnerable in our society. Landlords are put off from renting to those on benefit, slashing the availability of decent places to live. Some tenants struggle to manage their finances, using up their benefit money by rent pay day. They get into arrears and trouble as a result.

“Tenants should have greater choice, and be free to specify that their housing benefit should go direct to the landlord. This will help those most in need.”

Mar 01 2007

Action needed to tackle deadly new hospital superbug

Worrying increase in deaths from ‘C-diff’ bug – a bigger threat than MRSA

Bob Blackman, Assemblyman for Brent & Harrow, expressed concern (today/this week) at new official figures which have exposed an alarming spread of a new hospital superbug – Clostridium difficile (‘C-diff’). Twice as many people are now dying from major hospital-acquired superbugs than are killed each year on the roads.

Government statistics show a staggering 69 per cent increase in deaths from C-diff, and an increase of 39 per cent from the MRSA superbug. Since Tony Blair and Gordon Brown came to power, deaths from MRSA have quadrupled, and in the last two years alone, deaths from C-diff have more than doubled.

A local breakdown of the deaths from C-diff is not published by the Government, but official figures show that across North West London Hospitals Trust, there were 265 infections reported among those aged 65 and over between January and September 2006.

Conservatives are calling for:

  • The Government’s top-down, national targets to be replaced with measures of outcomes which capture the whole patient experience. This will allow the NHS to tackle all hospital-acquired infections, rather than focus on one at the expense of another.
  • Nurses to have adequate changing and laundry facilities – particularly given the hardiness of C-diff spores and their longevity on clothing.
  • The NHS to respond rapidly to cases and outbreaks of C-diff, by screening patients with symptoms routinely and isolating them if necessary.
  • Pilots to be undertaken of ‘search and destroy’ strategies – which have been used successfully in the Netherlands against MRSA – to determine their effectiveness in tackling C-diff.

Bob Blackman remarked,

“Labour Ministers are failing to face up to the dangers of MRSA and C-diff. I am very concerned that hardworking NHS staff are not getting the support they need to deliver a comprehensive strategy against hospital-acquired infections.

“The staggering increase in deaths from deadly superbugs is worrying enough. But the increasing presence of more dangerous strains of C-diff and MRSA will become an even bigger problem without an urgent and rigorous strategy now. Gordon Brown’s savage bed cuts over the past two years have allowed deaths from C-Diff and MRSA to grow to an appalling level.

“The NHS is Conservatives’ number one priority. We will give health care professionals the freedom and support they need to ensure patients receive the best care.”

Notes to Editors


Clostridium difficile (‘C-diff’) is a superbug, like the more well-known MRSA. C-diff is a bacteria present in the gut of some adults and infants; normally, it is kept in check by other ‘good’ bateria. When these ‘good’ bacteria are disturbed by certain antibiotics which are heavily used in hospital settings – C-diff multiplies rapidly and produces various toxins, causing the illness.

C-diff is spread on the hands of hospital staff and other people who come into contact with infected patients. When outside the body, the C-diff bacterium produces spores which can survive on uniforms and surfaces for very long periods.

Alcohol-based disinfectants have been heavily promoted by the Government in order to tackle rates of MRSA infection. For example, the recent ‘Cleanyourhands’ campaign made great play with the provision of near-patient alcohol hand-rubs as, ‘the cornerstone for improvement’ in infection rates.  However, the spores produced by C-diff are not killed by alcohol-based disinfectants. The US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has warned that these disinfectants are, ‘not effective’ against C-diff.

MRSA are bacteria (‘superbugs’) which have become resistant to various antibiotics, including the commonly used penicillin-related antibiotics, making treatment of a patient very difficult (‘methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus’).

Although the number of people killed by MRSA has more than quadrupled since 1997, official figures show the rise in deaths from C-diff is now outstripping even this huge rate of increase.

  • In the last year alone, the number of MRSA deaths increased by 39 per cent, while the number of C-diff deaths increased by a huge 69 per cent.
  • C-diff was mentioned on 1 in every 250 death certificates over the period 2001-2005.
  • Between 2001 and 2005, MRSA and C-diff together were responsible for 15,470 deaths in England and Wales. However, more than two-thirds of these deaths – 10,484 – were caused by C-diff.

Office of National Statistics, Deaths involving MRSA and Clostridium difficile continue to rise, 22 February 2007.


By contrast, 2,915 people were killed on roads in England and Wales in 2005.

Department for Transport, Road casualties in Great Britain, 28 September 2006.


The table below shows the total number of C-diff infections in hospitals among patients aged 65 and over from January to September 2006 (NB. these figures are for infections, not deaths). Figures are not kept for infections amongst younger patients.

Source: Health Protection Agency, January 2007.

NHS Trust

Number of infections amongst those age 65 yrs+

Aintree University Hospitals




Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals


Barking, Havering & Redbridge Hospitals


Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals


Barnsley Hospital


Barts & the London


Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals


Basingstoke and North Hampshire


Bedford Hospital


Blackpool, Fylde & Wyre Hospitals


Bolton Hospitals


Bradford Teaching Hospitals


Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals


Bromley Hospitals


Buckinghamshire Hospitals


Burton Hospitals


Calderdale & Huddersfield


Cambridge University Hospitals


Central Manchester & Manchester Children’s University Hospitals


Chelsea & Westminster Hospital


Chesterfield Royal Hospital


Christie Hospital


City Hospitals Sunderland


Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology


Countess of Chester Hospital


County Durham & Darlington Acute Hospitals



Released by: Bob Blackman