But nothing shocked myself and my Labour colleagues more than their vote against raising extra funds, just 70p per week on average per house hold, to pay for adult social care services.
Allowing local authorities to raise the council tax rates to help pay for adult social care, which the Westminster Tory government have cut to their lowest level per capita since the mid 1990s, was originally introduced by George Osborne and reworked to raise more money more quickly by Theresa May and Phillip Hammond. Our Tory Prime Minister May said in reference to Adult Social Care that services were and I quote “under threat” from under funding.
But let me make one thing clear, this Labour administration does not want to implement raises in council tax for Croydon residents, and indeed the rates are still lower than during 6 of the last 8 years of Tory administration in real terms. Council tax is punitive and does not discriminate between those that can and can’t afford to pay. Our Adult Social Care services and NHS need funds but the money should be found from those who have the ability to pay. This government has many ways in which it could raise funds without increasing general taxation for the majority, whether that is by raising VAT nationally or cutting the local government grant and forcing local councils to raise the money. Simply reversing their cut in corporation tax would be a start, or returning the top rate of tax to 50p would ensure we are bringing in much needed funds to pay for the services the general public have worked hard to build.
And to use Theresa May’s words those services are under threat. Our NHS is facing a beds crisis with targets for waiting times in Accident and Emergency spiralling out of control. The major issue for hospitals is both a spike in demand and the inability of staff to discharge patients as adult social care services are failing to keep pace. Thus leaving thousands of sick and recovering elderly citizens stranded in hospital wards and yet more thousands stranded in A&E waiting rooms. The problem is compounded when all too often patients are discharged to struggling care homes or in to underfunded care in the community schemes and are quickly re-admitted to hospital after a lack of appropriate care.
These are tax payers who have worked hard and contributed all their lives. They deserve better.
And let me be frank, what this Tory government are doing isn’t enough. Even if every council raised additional funds through the council tax precept for adult social care there would still be a £2.6bn shortfall nationally, according to independent experts. And that doesn’t take in to account the different ability of councils to raise the funds. A flat increase in council tax goes a lot further in Tory controlled Wandsworth or Westminster than it does in Croydon, meaning elderly citizens in our town are going to be comparably disadvantaged. This is a national crisis and requires a national solution from Theresa May and the Conservatives.
But at least this change is better than nothing and has given this Labour administration a fighting chance at delivering more for less for Croydon’s citizens, as we have done across the board during our time in office.
It is truly shocking then that the local Conservatives are happy to vote against raising the extra funds and are comfortable with abandoning our elderly to a lack of care in their homes and a cycle of being trapped on hospital trolleys if god forbid they should fall ill. The Croydon Conservatives have shown us all how radical they are by voting against their own government’s proposals to tackle this crisis, and against the recommendations of other Conservative councils up and down the land who have implemented the changes advocated by Labour on Monday night.
I want it to make it loud and clear on behalf of this Labour administration, whatever the opposition do, no matter how tough things get for local government we will not abandon our elderly to this crisis.
I’m therefore glad to say that on Monday we passed the Adult Social Care Precept as a key part of our budget and will work now to deliver the better level of social care our elderly citizens deserve. With or without the co-operation of the Croydon Conservative Party.
By Tony Newman,
Leader of Croydon Labour Council