NHS, Housing and Schools – solving the crises

I finally caught up with the leaders debate last night. Watching it without the hype of a live broadcast exposed the tropes that each of the main party trots out, as they have for the last 20 or so years :

  • The Tories say you can’t trust Labour because they’re tax and spend.
  • Labour says Tories are all cut, cut, cut.
  • While Nick Clegg actually said ‘we would cut less than the Tories and tax less than Labour’! You can’t make it up.

I didn’t think Leanne Woods came off as badly or Nicola Sturgeon seem as wonderful as the polls suggested, while sadly Natalie Bennett didn’t have much chance to shine, although she managed to get some key policies across.

Worst of all was Farage who, at the very least, exposed him and UKIP for what they really want – to take us out of the EU. And this, when they have 24 MEPS – the hypocrisy of a party funded by the very institution it wants to leave knows no bounds.

What I would say about UKIP is that they’re very good in defining the problems besetting the British people, while blaming the wrong causes (migrants) and suggesting poor solutions (leaving the EU).

1 Housing – UKIP says the pressure on housing is because of immigration.

NO. The strain on housing is caused by Right to Buy which has taken council houses away from the poorest in this country, and have not been replaced as promised. On top of this not enough homes have been built to meet demand, instead, this Coalition government has put house prices up by guaranteeing mortgages with their ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Plus, giving landlords tax relief on the interest on their mortgages has just helped private investors and inflated prices up while taking these properties out of the reach of first time buyers.

Solution – build council homes. Allow councils to borrow money so they buy land and properties on which to put social rented homes. Build on brown field. Stop developers riding roughshod over councils in their pursuit of profits by letting them buy their way out of providing ‘affordable homes’ within their developments. Remove the tax relief for landlords, and change tenancies from 6 months/1 year to 2/3 years, so that tenants have more security and rental costs don’t keep being put up every time the contract is renewed.

2 Schools – UKIP says the pressure on school places is because of immigration.

NO. The squeeze on school places is caused by local councils being so strapped for cash they haven’t been able to invest in the land or property that becomes available in their area so they’ve sold it off to developers instead, so creating further demand down the line. And, now under the Coalition, the Free School fiasco ensures councils have no controls over where and when schools are created, as they are reliant on Academy Trusts putting in bids to the Department for Education and then the Education Funding Agency buying a site, within its limited budget, appropriate or otherwise.

Solution – give councils back the ability to buy land and property as needed for schools and the funds to do it with. Only when local authorities can buy land or brownfield sites in their areas to do with as required, whether it’s for schools, homes or health centres will the problems our communities face over lack of infrastructure be properly dealt with.

3 NHS – UKIP says the pressure on doctor’s appointments and our NHS is because of too many migrants coming to the UK for our health service.

NO. Labour introduced market forces into the NHS, which have added been to by the Tories in the Coalition government. Plus, changes in GPs contracts under labour allowed them to stop providing out-of-hours care – while paying themselves more at the same time – which then forced more people to go to their local A&E rather than their local surgery.

Solution – keep the NHS free at the point of access, tax the top 1% wealthiest in the UK to raise around £21 billion to pay for it and reform GPs contracts so the out-of-hours care is not forced on to local hospitals instead.

You want conviction politics, well here goes

Nationalise the utilities – electricity, gas and water – so we no longer have the ridiculous situation of foreign governments and companies making profit from our natural resources. Plus it will allow us to manage our future energy needs better.

Nationalise the railways to bring ticket prices down in line with the rest of the world. Investment and costs would be covered by removing the subsidies on the cost of aeroplane fuel.

Stop Trident and invest the billions this would free up in renewable energies to replace our dwindling North Sea gas and reduce our dependency on imported gas.

Introduce the living wage so companies would have to pay their employees enough to live off. The benefits bill would be reduced as government would no longer have to top up wages.

Train people to insulate all the homes in the UK so providing jobs and reducing demand on energy required to heat our homes.

Set up a homebuilding programme to provide enough homes for the future, low-cost ones at that, while creating jobs for the unemployed. This would also help to reduce the upward spiral in rental costs.

Introduce a rent cap to stop rental costs becoming even more unaffordable.

Bring back the 50p rate of income tax.

Introduce the Robin Hood tax on financial transactions to pay for investment outlined above.

Keep the NHS as a national, free at source, provider.

Invest in rail networks to link major cities together throughout the UK, not just London to the rest of the UK.

I’m angry about austerity, why aren’t you

On 20th October I went on my first march ever, aged 43 – A Future That Works in London – to demonstrate against the cuts. Bit late you might say, well yes, but up until the financial crash of 2008, I had sort of assumed that those in power knew what they were doing. The last four years has shown this is clearly not the case, as politicians and organisations such as the Bank of England, struggle to explain and contain the credit crunch.

Their solution has been to shore up the banks – too big to fail – by buying them with taxpayers money, and print money to pump into the system – quantative easing – that just swills around in the banks and stock market rather than being passed on as lending as hoped. At the same time they’ve cut back on public jobs, public pay, government spending, investment in education, transport and infrastructure, and started to privatise the NHS. At the same time they’ve raised VAT for all, but cut taxes for the wealthy, taking the 50% top rate rate down to 45% for the highest earners.

This government inherently believes in helping the rich to stay rich because they are wealth creators who spread their money around further than the poor. In fact, the opposite is true – people on low incomes tend to spend every penny they have, because they need to. And when the spend this money it’s more likely to go into the local economy, which has a multiplying effect as it circulates locally making it worth triple its face value.

And there is more pain to come – Osborne is planning to cut a further £16billion during 2015-16. That’s on top of the £18billion in savings set in motion in 2010. The planned universal credit being introduced next year, which merges benefits and tax credits, means that 450,000 disabled people will lose up to £58 a week, meaning many such families are likely to struggle to pay for basic essentials such as food and heating. 1 in 10 of these families may well end up losing their home because of this cut.

Benefit cuts will also hit councils as the low-paid will no longer receive assistance to pay their council tax from 2013. Councils have already realised there will be no point chasing these people for money as it will cost more than they owe. So the councils will receive less money, meaning they’ll have to cut local services, which will affect the local communities. That’s a double whammy if ever I heard of one.

These are just two example of effect the coalition’s cuts are having on the weakest in society.

But, what really rubs salt into the wound of taking money from the poor, is that Osborne’s Plan A isn’t reducing the deficit or ending the recession. This cost-cutting hasn’t worked. According to the IMF, this austerity programme will have taken £76billion more out of the economy by 2015 than Osborne predicted. The Chancellor believed that for each £1 of cuts he introduced it would cut economic output by 50. Instead it is reducing output by 90p-£1.70. This is why the UK had a double-dip recession in 2012.

And what about the future of this country and its workers of tomorrow? Unemployment among graduates is at 1 in 12, with many of those in work doing ‘non-graduate’ jobs, presumably taking them from non-graduates, where unemployment among 16-24-year-olds currently stands at 957,000.

The government is not investing in this country’s future. The time has come to stop the cuts and invest in jobs, technology and education instead. One area to focus on would be the creation of climate jobs – green business grew by 4.7% from 2010-11, providing an extra £5.4bn of economic activity, but we should lso focus on manufacturing, so as a country we’re not so reliant on the financial and service sectors for our economic health.

So, if you’re angry about austerity now, here’s what you can do:

1 Join the anti-cuts protest – A Future That Works – online.

2 Support the national Coalition of Resistance, an organsation that opposes the Con-Den cuts, supported by Unite and other Trade Unions, the National Pensioners Convention, Keep our NHS Public, the Green Party People’s Charter, UK Uncut, BARAC (Black People Rising Against Cuts), DPAC (Disable People Against Cuts), Queers Against the Cuts and many others, by signing their petition.

2 Sign the petition for Fairer Tax to introduce a mansion tax for properties worth over £2million, that could potentially raise over £2billion.

3 Support 38 Degrees action campaign against NHS cuts.

It’s time to take action, not stay apathetic.