Martin Sears writes:
The ‘Coalition’s’ (irrelevant or worse?) plans for the NHS, in my book, completely miss the point. Apart from the crisis in banking, the biggest problem by far is the ageing population and its implications which will affect us all eventually; unlike ‘policing’ which happily only directly affects a small minority. IMHO social care and health care should be regarded as the two aspects of ‘well-being’. In another forum I have already submitted the question: Is the time right for social care to break free from the shackles of its Poor Law ‘heritage’? Social care and health care should be under the same umbrella and local ‘government’ should lose its social care remit. For example the £400 million spent on ‘social care’ by Leicestershire County Council should be transferred to the local NHS with the NHS taking a holistic responsibility for the well-being of all people in the area. The ‘bed blocking problem’, for example, could thus be resolved to the benefit of the users not the local ‘authorities’.
The Care Quality Commission should be accountable to the electorate in the same way as the (irrelevant?) pcc is now to be held accountable. A publicly legitimized CQC could then hold the broadened ‘National Health and Social Care Service’ to account.
This framework for the wellbeing of all people would operate within a completely restructured and greatly slimmed down system of the central and local government of the UK and a more constructive approach towards the EU as follows:-
1) Britain to become a fully committed member of the EU, a) joining the euro zone PDQ (it is the global banking system that is in the real crisis not the euro) but at the right exchange rate (not the ludicrous level that the Thatcher government thought appropriate and was clearly overstating Britain’s competitiveness at the time) b) fully adopting the financial transactions tax c) moving towards fiscal and banking union.
2) Abolition of the Monarchy and the House of Lords.
3) Adopt the Republic of Ireland ‘model’ for the duties of an elected head of state but with mandatory direct elections to the post rather than through ‘authorities’.
4) Two legislative chambers to replace the House of Commons and House of Lords. The upper chamber would have 150 elected members on a single member per constituency basis with the election as per that for the current police commissioner’s voting system (first preference with an optional second preference). The lower chamber would have 450 members (ie three ‘lower chamber’ members for every one ‘upper chamber’ member, elected on the STV principle and representing the same area as the one upper chamber member).
5) Abolish all current local councils (of every type) and create unitary councils equal in size to the central government constituencies. Within the unitary councils, area committees of local councillors could be formed to ascertain how any locally raised taxes (eg a town based precept) are to be spent, by implementing direct democracy principles. ie Mandatory direct contact with the electors in the local area four times a year* to ascertain through formally held voting processes what the money to be raised the following year is to be spent on.
There needs to be a change of culture in this country at three levels: a) free movement of labour across European boundaries is good not bad b) banks should exist only to service the real economy not to be an alternative to it. c) Intergenerational fairness needs to become a reality with, for example, older people ‘freeing up’ highly paid jobs when their financial circumstances make this possible.
A propensity of society to ‘free up’ higher paid jobs has a role to play in intergenerational fairness [Albeit it would be wrong for any political party to have a policy where older people are forced to give up their better paid jobs for other jobs that are very necessary, but lower paid]. An example is of financially secure teachers not remaining in teaching until the higher retirement age (68?) but to consider working in the care industry eg people, across the age range, with learning disabilities; mental health problems, alzheimer’s etc etc. All these aspects of care are better performed by professional, mature people not school leavers or people who ‘aren’t qualified for a better paid job’ but don‘t necessarily have the aptitude for caring – recent scandals in a ‘care‘ home in Bristol and also ‘toddler’ groups where abuse has been established, are indicative of the problems.
*wrt the ‘four times a year’ mandatory contact with the local electorate, this is entirely cost effective and practical when compared to the current bureaucracy personified by such councils as Lutterworth Town Council, Blaby Parish Council, Glen Parva Parish Council and Braunstone Town Council. I raised this with the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) a couple of years ago but they ‘couldn’t possibly comment’ because their services arm could/would have an interest in conducting ballots to ascertain the local electorate’s response on which projects etc money, raised specifically for the areas mentioned above, would be spent. My point is, for example, the 16 Lutterworth Town Councillors would be better utilized as volunteers supporting the four ‘district’ councillors in ascertaining what the electorate of Lutterworth would like the circa £360,000 a year precept to be spent on by distributing the voting forms and related information four times a year with ERS responsible for assessing the electors’ response.
Returning to the wider issues. I fully support the campaigning organisation Republic in calling for a democratic alternative to the monarchy. Forget party labels. Anyone committed to introducing real democracy to this country can not justify the continued existence of the House of Lords and the Monarchy. IMHO that issue should be addressed full on with no half hearted, pussy footing about.
There is no point in tilting at the windmill labelled ‘Capitalism’. But EU fiscal union, banking union, the euro, a ban on short selling and the abolition of all hedge funds will go a long way to solving the ‘casino’ banking/spiv culture that exists in global finance. Coupled with this it should be illegal for pension funds to be used for anything other than investing in the real economy and infrastructure (ie lending to governments at say 2% interest) for new schools, hospitals, power stations, renewable energy projects, roads, rail networks, airports and affordable housing schemes that enable first time buyers to purchase houses while they are still young. The coalition are sending mixed messages to the financial ‘services’ industry and there needs to be certainty on all those issues.
There are implications – the City would not be able to again create five of the last three genuine ‘booms’ ie financial bubbles would be a thing of the past and if you want to get rich quick it would be better to try your chance with the national lottery.