WHEN Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt contested the Tory leadership, both gave every indication that they would publish long-overdue policy proposals to begin to reform social care.
After all, the Government had indicated – for the previous two years – that publication of the so-called Green Paper, setting out potential policy options, was imminent.
And Johnson alluded to this on the steps of 10 Downing Street on the day he became PM: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.
“And so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”
I’m afraid the latest evidence from this week suggests that there is no “plan” – and that there has never been – despite Tory commitments to make available an extra £1bn a year for the next five years to help mask the rising costs being faced by local authorities and others.
First, the Prime Minister told Andrew Marr – when asked about the whereabouts of his now Macavity-like mystery “plan” – that his intention is to further develop the “emerging national consensus” by working with other parties in the first 100 days if he wins a majority next Thursday. However the Tories have been saying this for years.
Second, Treasury chief secretary Rishi Sunak sidestepped the issue in a TV election debate when an audience member asked senior political figures if they would co-operate on issues like social care and climate change – the Yorkshire politician’s response focused almost exclusively on the latter.
Finally Hunt – who held the health and social care brief for six years – was a bit too candid for his own good on Radio 4’s Today programme. Maintaining that the Tories would have been condemned if extra funding had not been found, he was then asked about the vanishing Green Paper and said this: “That takes time and we will come up with that plan.”
When? With Age UK now claiming that 1.5 million elderly and vulnerable adults don’t receive adequate care to meet their health needs, and that the shortage of community care had cost the NHS £587m since the last electon because of delays discharging OAPs from hospital, this lack of leadership must be called out.
There is no plan. No attempt has even been made to begin cross-party talks. And no amount of bluster can mask this dereliction of duty.
DON’T be totally fooled by the Tory party’s promise of ‘£4.2bn for local public transport’. According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, this includes ‘‘a new metro or light rail in West Yorkshire, including to Dewsbury, Pudsey and the Spen Valley’’ and ‘‘new heavy rail or tram-train services around Sheffield, including to Stocksbridge’’.
Not only have these schemes been targeted – even gerrymandered – to woo voters in marginal seats, where votes cast will be pivotal to the outcome of next week’s election, but there are a number of caveats that ministers will be reluctant to talk about.
Shapps cited nine projects in total that his fund “is expected to help fund”. Note the words “expected” and “help” – they are not guarantees.
Furthermore, the Tory blurb says “local leaders will have the final say”. In other words, blame the mayors if improvements – and money – do not materialise.
Finally, the claim that “local leaders will also be given significantly more control over existing local rail services, including fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations”.
In other words, it will be the fault of leaders here if Government-awarded rail franchises, like Northern and TransPennine Express, fail to run a basic service. You have been duly warned.
VETERAN Labour politician Barry Sheerman seems to be getting more intolerant and irascible in his advancing years – the 79-year-old, who is seeking re-election in Huddersfield, once again took umbrage on social media over letters in The Yorkshire Post expressing concerns at how a Labour government could harm small businesses.
It’s called democracy – voters are entitled to their views – and I’ve lost count of the number of moderate, sensible people who believe Sheerman is long past his sell-by date as a MP.
And they’re not alone. As a senior official at Yorkshire and the Humber Labour Party noted recently, the timing of this election “saved him from being deselected by a local Labour party that can’t stand him”.
TALKING of small businesses, it is disappointing that Jason McCartney – who is hoping to win back Colne Valley for the Tories after losing the seat in 2017 – is having some of his election literature printed by an outfit in London. I see Ranil Jayardena, up for re-election in a Hampshire seat, is, at least, having the sense to use a firm located in his county.
As for Labour’s Thelma Walker who is hoping to hold Colne Valley, her multiple leaflets have been printed, thus far, in Leeds – at least that’s Yorkshire – and Northamptonshire. Not so good.
FINALLY I’m bemused by the interest, and intrigue, from some readers over my voting intention next week. Just for the record, I’ve not changed – the country might have – and my stance remains the same.
As has always been the case, I will cast my vote for the local candidate – note the word ‘‘local’’ – who, I believe, will be the most effective advocate and representative for the constituency where I live. And that person is...