|The News Line: Editorial
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Answer attacks on welfare state with a general strike
THE LOCAL Government Association (LGA) yesterday warned that the increase in council tax bills by 5% will do absolutely nothing to halt the continued cuts to local services as councils are pushed ‘perilously close to the financial edge’.
Under Tory-imposed rules, all councils may increase the tax by 1.9% in April, a further increase of 3% on top of this is ring-fenced for social care services which the LGA describe as being ‘at breaking point’.
But the LGA insists that this extra 3% will do nothing to alleviate the ongoing crisis in social care, predicting that the social care bill for local councils will hit a shortfall of £2.6 billion in three years, placing most of the blame for this shortfall on the necessity of paying a minimum wage to staff.
The LGA calls for ‘genuinely new additional government funding’, demanding a long-term solution to what is nothing less than the destruction of social care along with the destruction of all council services from libraries to bin collections.
At the same time, the Tory government is throwing back at councils the simple fact that there is no money in austerity-driven British capitalism so they will just have to get on with making all the cuts like faithful servants. The real long-term solution the Tories have was put forward this month by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care, David Mowat, who announced that it was not the responsibility of the state to care for the sick and elderly but the responsibility of their families.
If they were unfortunate enough not to have a family that could take them in and care for them – well that’s just bad luck, they would just have to die on the streets or in charity houses and preferably out of sight of the affluent. Absent from the LGA’s criticism is any mention of the deliberate policy of privatisation in health and social care, a policy it has embraced wholeheartedly ever since it was started 37 years ago under Thatcher.
In 1979, 95% of care home beds were provided by local authorities or the NHS; by 2012 this was cut to 11%. Today, almost the entire care sector has been privatised mainly by large companies with more than 50 homes.
These companies operated on a ‘quick return’ on their investment of 12%, profits that could only be achieved through sweating the workforce with excessive hours, cuts to holiday entitlements, below living wage payments and zero-hours contracts. When even this exploitation was not enough, given the funding cuts to councils, to ensure these profits they simply closed down and dumped the elderly back on the community.
380 care homes have declared themselves bankrupt and closed since 2010 while of the remaining 18,000, one third are on the brink and 13% are classified as ‘zombie operations’. Having devastated the care homes these privateers are now moving on to other areas of social services where they can make quick money from public funds.
In December, the private health care company, Virgin Care, won a contract worth £700 million of public money to run a council’s community care and health service in Bath. The contract to run more than 200 NHS health care and social care services in the area is the first time a for-profit company had taken over a social care programme for adults.
Having sucked all the profit out of care homes, the privateers have moved on and won’t be satisfied until they have sucked the NHS and the whole of the welfare state dry. All this is being consciously prepared by the Tory government, determined to smash up the welfare state and privatise everything along with the connivance of local councils who plead that there is no alternative.
For the working class there is a clear alternative. If bankrupt British capitalism can no longer afford a welfare state or NHS then capitalism must go. The unions must be forced to stop accepting privatisation and fight by organising a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers government and a socialist system that will expropriate the privateers and bankers and guarantee a decent future for everyone.
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