Monthly Archives: September 2014

HOSPITAL LEAGUE OF FRIENDS — or is the enemy within?

How mysterious!



In shop windows across town are posters advertising a new NHS campaign group.  Yet it’s all rather odd. The posters don’t say who printed them, there are no contact details; no email addresses, no website, no phone numbers, nothing.  [1]

The new group is calling itself “Ludlow Campaign for Fairness”. In its own words, it was “set up to campaign for and foster a fairer society“.







The posters, which were also delivered door-to-door, advertise the first event of the new group.

Promising a “stimulating and motivating” talk on “The Demise of the NHS” – How did we get into this mess and what can we do about it?  With guest speaker Professor Patrick Pietroni.  [2]

What’s not clear about this new group is whether it has anything to do with “Shropshire Defend Our NHS“, a long-running local pressure group.

An oblique mention by the Advertiser’s Adrian Kibbler, fudges that question.  Implying that, on the NHS, the two groups, and the local LibDems, are all supportive of each other, at least ideologically.  Yet with local LibDems still calling for a privatised PFI hospital for Ludlow, that union just doesn’t ring true.



Shropshire Defend Our NHS” was founded by Joyce Brand and Gill George, two veteran campaigners determined to safeguard the NHS, and retain it in public ownership for future generations; both of whom are well-respected former NHS nursing professionals.  [3]

Joyce and Gill have been commendably frank in their campaigning; no hidden agendas; always willing to clarify their position to any who ask.

By contrast, this new “Ludlow Campaign for Fairness” group remains something of an enigma.  Just who is behind it? Why are they so tight-lipped? What is their overall objective?  Any ideas, Mr Kibbler?! Councillor Huffer?!

If the background to their inaugural guest speaker, Patrick Pietroni, is anything to go by, this strangely secretive new group seems to have a very different ethos to Shropshire Defend Our NHS.

PATRICK PIETRONI: NHS sale-and-leasebacks

PATRICK PIETRONI: NHS sale-and-leaseback fixer

A brief google search for Professor Pietroni unearths his long-standing commercial background in NHS “sale-and-leaseback” deals. These notorious schemes are renowned for causing immense financial harm to the NHS.

Pietroni is an unlikely fellow, then, to invite as a guest speaker on “The Demise of the NHS” (and what we can do about it) !




Until late 2005, Pietroni was a director of Primary Health Properties plc(PHP).  [4]



PHP is a real estate investment trust (REIT) which today holds a £1 billion portfolio of healthcare properties.

PHP has acquired hundreds of GP surgeries, health centres, community hospitals, pharmacies, across Britain. Many of which were bought from the NHS at firesale prices through dodgy “sale-and-leaseback” schemes.  NHS privatisations by another name.   [5]

PHP is co-managed today by private equity firm, Nexus Group, and JOHCM, a subsidiary of Hambros.  Hambros is one of the City’s top banking dynasties which funded and “advised” Mussolini‘s corporatist government in Italy. Hambros was also a member of the powerful Rhodes-Milner Round Table Group. [6] [7]

Pietroni’s PHP was founded in 1996 by City wide-boy, Harry Hyman. In 2006 Hyman was cited for political corruption. The Mail-on-Sunday, the BBC and The Guardian all reporting that Hyman had been holding secret “breakfast meetings” with a key NHS policy wonk to Downing Street.



Cherie Booth was also fingered for facilitating those shady meetings. Meetings in which Hyman and PHP lobbied the Blair Government for more NHS “sale-and-leaseback” contracts.   Kerr-ching!

Naturally, both Booth and Downing Street denied any wrongdoing, claiming it was all a “misunderstanding“. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?! [6] [8]


Fortuitously, Professor Pietroni resigned from PHP shortly before the lobbying scandal blew up publicly.

These notorious “sale-and-leaseback” schemes work as follows:

The NHS sells its own buildings to a commercial property company (called a PropCo) like PHP.  The PropCo then leases those former NHS buildings back to the NHS, which becomes the tenant. Rental terms of 10, 15, 20, or even 30 years are not uncommon. Often with separate, yet equally lucrative contracts for buildings maintenance, e.g. charging the NHS £200 for changing a light-bulb!  The PropCo typically domiciles itself in an offshore haven to avoid corporation tax and financial scrutiny. All very seedy.

In the short term, sale-and-leasebacks appear attractive to cash-strapped NHS trusts. The sale of public buildings releasing welcome capital to spend on front-line services. However, these deals invariably turn sour. The sale-and-leaseback contracts, crafted by the PropCos themselves, are heavily skewed in their favour.  One-sided arrangements allowing the PropCo to impose onerous rent rises, fees and charges. Over the years, crippling the foolish and short-sighted trusts that originally agreed to them.

Little different to the City of London scams known as PFI and PPP, equally rotten forms of privatisation.  Many PFI (“private finance initiative”) deals signed recently are already turning toxic. Poisoned chalices that are bankrupting NHS trusts right across Britain.

The new University Hospital North Staffordshire (UHNS) is a prime example of a PFI hospital going rapidly bust. The hugely over-budget PFI-built Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham is on the same precipice to disaster.  See “The last straw: soar-away costs undermine UHNS PFI scheme“. [9]

PFI FACADE: "the new £27m Ludlow Hospital"

PFI FACADE: “the £27m Ludlow Health Village”

The proposed “Ludlow Health Village” (which thankfully never came to anything) was another dodgy £27 million PFI/NHS privatisation deal. Agreed behind closed doors with the funniest of handshakes, and promoted locally by sleazy Coalition shysters.

The City bankers behind the Ludlow PFI scam were Amber Healthcare, part of the Amber Infrastructure Group, a phoenixed protégé of the Babcock & Brown looting operation. [10]

Parasitic banksters Babcock & Brown who went belly-up in 2009 were legendary for swindling the Ozzy taxpayer in a rash of privatisation scams throughout Australia.  Creaming off billions for their bondholders from piss-poor-value PFI-privatised hospitals, schools, railways and roads, ferry- and air-ports and leisure facilities. Babcock were at the forefront of the obscene PFI feeding-frenzy, Down Under.  Exiting Oz in a cloud of controversy, Babcock were reborn as Amber Infrastructure, re-locating to low-tax Dublin, before turning their cross-hairs to privatisations in Britain.  [11]

Ludlow had a very lucky escape.  Today, we may have a shabby old hospital in desperate need of a makeover. But at least it’s all ours; all bought and paid for. 100% Debt Free.   No thanks to City banker and town MP Philip Dunne, Peter Corfield and other sockpuppets of the City, who (for the murkiest of reasons) were heavily promoting this dreadful NHS privatisation scheme for Ludlow.  With “Hospital Friends” like them, who needs enemies?!

Returning, finally, to “Ludlow Campaign for Fairness”.   Let’s hope there’s at least something noble to this new group; even if the people behind it are strangely reticent to reveal themselves.

And perhaps on October 1st, Professor Pietroni can truly illuminate us. Telling us all about those dodgy NHS sale-and-leaseback deals struck by his company in secret “breakfast meetings” with the wretched Blair Junta!   We can hope!



ROCK’S GREEN — a new shopping mecca?

County planners will shortly hear proposals for a new supermarket and petrol filling station at Rock’s Green, Ludlow.     See planning application (14/04052/SCR) at [1]

PLANNING PROPOSAL: new supermarket and petrol filling station

PLANNING PROPOSAL: new supermarket and petrol filling station

Great news for the town, is what most of us are saying.   At last some proper competition in food- and general retailing!

For more than a decade, Tesco has been the dominant retail force in Ludlow.  With that grip further tightened through Tesco‘s buyout of our two “One Stop” convenience stores.  Ludlow is now just another “Tesco Town”.   And that’s bad for consumers, and needs remedying.

But alas, the usual suspects – the local traders and the chamber of commerce – are spouting off, rallying against these exciting new plans for a retail revival in our disadvantaged rural town.

No businessman should need reminding that we live in a free market economy. Not the place for a protectionist, anti-competitive, anti-choice attitude.

Have a look at the £20 note, guys. Whose face is on it (other than the Queen’s)?  Yes, it’s Adam Smith!   Father of laissez-faire, free market economics. [2]

£20 BANKNOTE:  Adam Smith, "one of the fathers of modern economics"

£20 BANK NOTE: Adam Smith, “one of the fathers of modern economics”

Smith (1723-1790), the leading economist of his time, was famous for his economic policy of “non-interference” by government.  A policy followed, more or less, to this day.  A policy in which the market rules; with minimal taxes, subsidies and regulation.

This town is crying out for retail competition. And if this new store (my money’s on it being a Sainsbury’s) can bring competition to the non-food sector as well – with more choice in clothing and footwear, stationery, gardening, kitchenware and electricals – then all the better.

PHILIP DUNNE: free market economist, or leaden-handed statist?

PHILIP DUNNE: free market champion, or not?

Oh, and someone please have a quiet word with the town MP (and dashing City banker) Philip Dunne.  He’s jumped lately on to this anti-competitive bandwagon.

Yet when Dunne founded Ottakar’s, his own nationwide chain of stores, he knew he too would be going head-to-head against many small independent shops.  Tough, he said to them; that’s the nature of the game. And he was right.

Those businesses that won’t rise to new challenges are swept aside. That’s business.


Yet with his profits banked from selling Ottakar’s, how different Dunne’s tune is today!  Really! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Philip!



soldout1The existing 22,000 sq ft Tesco store in Ludlow has been operating at 115% capacity since it opened. With perishable goods, intended for the store-room, left, for want of space, on trolleys in the shop aisles. Quite unacceptable.soldout2

And so often those fast selling lines and special offers are all sold out.  “Sorry Out of Stock. Not available until xx date” say all the shelf notices. Tsk! How annoying!

While Thursday through Sunday, the Tesco car park is often choc-a-bloc. The number of spaces quite inadequate for all the customers using the store. We need another supermarket, pronto!

As for petrol competition, or lack of it, that’s a very sore point for local motorists, and for those passing through.

In the last 10+ years, this town has lost three petrol filling stations (Gravel Hill, Corve Street, Temeside) leaving just one on Foldgate Lane, which obviously realises its monopoly!

SORRY!:  no fuel

SORRY!: no fuel

Have we forgotten the last fuel crisis when tanker drivers were threatening strikes?

Remember the frenzied buying and rationing at the pumps?


Not just inconvenient but in this rural area, downright dangerous, too.

When the country had many more petrol filling stations (PFS), their underground storage tanks served, in times of shortage, as ‘strategic reserves’.    The closure of two thirds of our PFS has introduced further volatility to the pump price.

Previously, PFS were able to play the oil market; stockpiling fuel when the price was low, and so on.  But with so few stations left, that can’t be done. While that price volatility is great for oil speculators, it’s very bad for motorists.  [3]

South Shropshire is already one of the most expensive places in the West Midlands to fill up the car. [4]  A new filling station, operated by a supermarket giant, may well alleviate that.  More good news for Ludlow.


THE THREE STOOGES   [photo credit: Gannett Corp. 2014]

Say No!  to the bullying small traders in the high street (and harp lane!)

Thumbs Up! to a new supermarket & petrol filling station from this household!

To Mr Simon Hoare (supermarket developer) we say:   Bring It On!