St Mary’s Councillor Jane Black reviews Labour Conference 2013
Last week I attended the Labour Party Conference as a delegate from Bury South Constituency. I could not stop applauding when the Shadow Health Minister, Andy Burnham, announced that the next Labour Government if elected in 2015 would repeal the Health & Social Care Bill, in the first Queen’s Speech of the new Parliament.
The current Government brought in a massive top down reorganisation of our NHS, that nobody wanted and no-one voted for. Since April, NHS services have been forced onto the open market. Major contracts have been won by huge private firms, including some who have donated £1.5 billion to the Tory party. NHS hospitals, paid for by taxpayers, can now charge for treatments that once were free, and take up to 50% of income from private patients. Accident & Emergency figures are the worst they have been for ten years.
Prestwich Labour councilors and campaigners recently held an NHS street stall, where over 200 people signed up to support Labour’s NHS campaign. Those residents, like me, will be over the moon about Andy’s announcement.
I also welcome Labour’s plans to bring health and social care into one service, to create a ‘whole person’ approach which supports people in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Bury Council is already striving to work in this way, but can only go so far under the current system, and with the severe funding cuts we have received year on year – by 2015 around 40% of our budget.
These are just two of the exciting policy announcements made at Conference, along with the plans to freeze energy prices till 2017, the introduction of 25 hours free childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and 8am till 6pm wraparound care for primary age children. I was also pleased to hear about the ‘use it or lose it’ plans for developers to buy land, get planning permission and then sit on it for years. In Bury this is preventing the building of up to 2,000 new homes.
And those people who say that we can’t afford to do this should listen to Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, who has pledged that Labour will ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to check over all the figures in Labour’s Manifesto. This is the first time any party has done this.
Labour will be open and upfront about our policy plans, unlike this Coalition, which has brought in legislation that no-one voted for, in health, education and other areas.