What has Labour got to offer besides scrapping tuition fees and nationalising the rails?
The big announcements are pretty well-known – getting rid of universal credit, nationalising the utilities, increasing corporation tax. But here is a run down of some of the finer print for all you policy wonks.
It was a Labour government that dramatically liberalised gambling back in 2005. There is now widespread political recognition that the rampant betting industry needs to be brought back to heel. Reducing the stakes on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals to £2 was a start. But it is mind-boggling to think the same rules do not hold for apps. Labour is promising a “new Gambling Act fit for the digital age”.
Labour’s plans for the railways tend to grab all the headlines. But much of the country cannot function without buses – something the Tories with their elderly voters and rural constituencies are belatedly realising.
Labour promises that local councils will take “public ownership of bus networks”. For anyone who has travelled on a rural bus, that can only be a good thing. There is nothing more infuriating than being told that one service does not coordinate with another because the 303 and the 304 are run by separate providers.
National Care Service
Hospitals are bearing the brunt of the social care crisis. Labour has promised to create a National Care Service that will deliver treatment to the elderly and the vulnerable long before they arrive in A&E as urgent patients.
“We will allocate a greater proportion of overall funding to close-to-home health services and build interdisciplinary, patient-focused services across primary care, mental health and social care.”
Public Health Approach to Addiction
Alcohol and drug abuse drive crime. Two years ago, a Ministry of Justice report with a sample size of around 130,000, showed that addiction treatment is one of the most effective ways to stop reoffending. Two years after starting treatment, 44 per cent of addicts will not offend again – a marked improvement on prison. Labour has pledged to establish a Royal Commission which will “develop a public health approach to substance misuse, focusing on harm reduction rather than criminalisation”.
Off-Rolling in Schools
Off-rolling is the practice whereby teachers pressure parents into removing their children from schools. It is a cynical way of weeding out the under-performers and climbing up the rankings tables. Labour plans to make schools “accountable for the outcomes of pupils who leave their rolls”. More ambitious but perhaps less feasible is the Labour plan to get rid of Ofsted altogether.
Legal Aid has been one of the worst victims of austerity with cuts of almost 40 per cent. Bloggers like the Secret Barrister have done much to highlight the present state of the justice system. Should people have to take on debt to prove their innocence? Labour thinks not.
“To help people enforce their rights, we will restore all early legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases.”
There are a number of social measures in the Labour manifesto designed to give the country back its feel-good factor (remember the Olympics anyone?). Labour proposes four new bank holidays in celebration of the patron saints’ days. But in terms of nation-building, a little more granular is the detail on pubs. Labour plans to “list pubs as Assets of Community Value so community groups have the first chance to buy local pubs when they are under threat”.
Breaking up the Big Four
Anyone who has picked up a copy of Private Eye in recent years will know that the Big Four accountancy firms are ripe for restructuring. From Carillion to Thomas Cook, the collapse of big British firms has almost inevitably been accompanied by the news that the one of Deloitte, EY, KPMG or PwC has blundered. Labour’s response today is pretty brusque.
“Audits are vital to corporate accountability, but the auditing industry is dominated by a few players riddled with conflicts of interest. Labour will separate audit and accounting activities in major firms and impose more robust rules on auditors.”
Changing the definition of “affordable housing”
The signature announcement on housing is that Labour will build 150,000 new council homes every year. But good architecture takes time. This year the Stirling Prize was won by the beautiful Goldsmith Street Estate in Norwich. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the architects Mikhail Riches won the original competition way back in 2008.
A more immediate solution is the scrapping of the current definition of “affordable” as 80 per cent of market rents. Labour will replace it with a “definition linked to local incomes”. A bit nebulous perhaps, but progress. It is an attempt to force the private sector, which often builds more quickly than the state, into supplying genuinely affordable homes.
What a summer of cricket we had. Just a shame there was only one occasion when the nation actually came together to enjoy it. Despite hosting the World Cup, the only match available on terrestrial TV was the nail-biting final between England and New Zealand. For those who watched it, allow yourselves to take a moment and think upon Ben Stokes’ performance once again.
Labour promises to add the Cricket World Cup to the “list of crown jewel sporting events that are broadcast free-to-air”. Sadly nothing was forthcoming on the Ashes.
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