Reading the national papers today was not a task for the faint-hearted. The Tory-led coalition’s ideological cuts to local government grants, cuts to social care and a lack of investment in our local communities are now more than ever pulling our communities apart.
Cuts to vital services like “meals on wheels” for the elderly have a damaging knock on effect that is leading to a major crisis in our NHS causing bed-blocking, unacceptable waits in ambulances and critical pressure at hospital A&E departments.
Council tax and cuts to local government grants
The Independent revealed that three-quarters of county councils are set to raise council tax in the run up to the general election, defying government pleas to freeze the charge. Four-fifths of the counties that plan to increase tax are Conservative-run, revealing that many of their own party’s most senior council leaders believe the Tory ideology of long-term tax freezes is unsustainable in a climate of cuts.
In another Independent story, two churches have launched an attack on the Government for using hunger as a punishment for people claiming unemployment benefit. The Methodist and Unitarian churches have warned that using benefit sanctions to reprimand claimants who miss meetings or fail to look for jobs amounts to a policy of “deliberate destitution”.
Health and social care
In The Observer it is highlighted that social care is chronically underfunded and ministers have been warned that the NHS is facing ever-increasing bed blocking because of it. An alliance of local councils, NHS organisations and charities says more beds will be occupied by patients trapped there because the services they need after discharge are falling victim to cuts. They also state that while this remains the case, care and support for elderly and disabled people will only deteriorate.”
Doctors have warned that up to 500 patients died last year as a direct result of harm they suffered when hospitals became dangerously overcrowded. About 350 of the deaths were among patients who had not been diagnosed or given medical treatment quickly enough. The remaining 150 were not admitted because of bed shortages, even though their condition meant they would usually have been found a place on the ward.
Official figures have now revealed that just one new affordable home has been constructed for every five purchased under the right-to-buy scheme, despite the Government pledging to replace each home sold within the social housing sector. While 16,596 properties have been bought out since 2012, construction has begun on only 3,141. A representative from Shelter said that: “With millions of families struggling to meet sky-high rents in the private rented sector, the next government’s priority has to be building more affordable homes, not selling off the few we have left. The charity added that social homes being built are being let at 80% of market rents, meaning they are unaffordable to many.
Labour will build 2000,000 homes a year by 2020 and address this shortfall. We will integrate heath and social care to address the inequalities that have been caused by the Tories failed reorganistaion of the NHS. Labour will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour and scrap the hated bedroom tax, which to hurt those least able to afford it.
Until May 7th we will continue to read all about the damage being done to our society by a Tory and Lib Dem project that is failing those most in need. Hopefully on May 8th we will begin to read some positive news under a Labour government.