Here's my article from Monday's Evening News
I’ve seen combat with the British Army, so Remembrance Day is always especially poignant for me. I joined the crowd for the Norwich commemorations to remember fallen friends and people everywhere suffering in wars.
But above all, my thoughts were with a generation whose sacrifice and indefatigability during the Second World War has bequeathed so much to all of us now. These people defeated fascism and with their unstinting post-war support for the welfare state created a better country for us all. A nation with the essential British values of fairness and public service at its heart.
Standing in the crowd with the widowers, children and grandchildren of the heroes bowing at the memorial, brought into focus how the current generation of political leaders is wilfully reneging on an essential covenant between generations. The understanding has always been that when we get old, those of us who aren’t yet will do whatever it takes to support the previous generation. Locally and nationally, that’s a promise that is being broken hourly by this government.
The services and support that older people brought into being – and rightly expected to be there for them – are being decimated.
Because of close to £300m central government cuts, Norfolk County Council’s social care budget is 35pc lower, in real terms, than five years ago with cuts of a further £50m (or 18pc) in the pipeline. These devastating cuts in funding for social care are taking place precisely at a time when demand for services is soaring as we live longer.
Approximately 40pc of Norfolk hospital beds are occupied by older people, many of who can’t go home because, shamefully, there is nowhere safe for them to go home to. This isn’t just disrespecting former generations by subjecting so many to this sheer, unforgiveable indignity – it’s also a complete waste of scarce resources.
A hospital bed occupied by a typical older person costs us around £3,000 per week. If they were in a nursing home instead, the cost falls to £600 per week or less. But the chances of getting into a home are increasingly slim because this government has created a profound local crisis in nursing and residential care. Right now when the need is most acute, local nursing homes are actively getting rid of beds and for every two homes that close only one is opening.
Here, the government’s scapegoat for all of this is the county council and more generally local authorities across the country.
As their funding gets slashed by 40pc, these authorities are the ones who have to make the impossible choices while the Conservatives berate them for not achieving ‘efficiency savings’ that were made years ago.
But the reality is that many Tories know exactly the impact of what they are doing. One Tory MP from the region is on record as saying that – six years into his own government’s rule – our county’s health and social care system is in the eye of a “perfect storm” of decline.
The Conservative-run Local Government Association is begging George Osborne to stop the cuts and warning that, if the cuts do go ahead, its own Tory councils will be no longer be able to provide even the basic services the law says they must.
There is, however, one Tory who really doesn’t seem to know what the consequences of his actions are.
In a leaked letter to Oxfordshire County Council, prime minister David Cameron complains about cuts in his own constituency blissfully unaware that the cuts were caused by his own policies.
Let’s make this simple for David Cameron and his political friends.
The generation of people at the memorial on Remembrance Sunday have paid into the system all of their lives and, now they need it, are entitled to expect decent treatment.
We are fortunate to live in one of the richest countries in the world.
With an economy that works for the many of us not just a few at the top, we can afford to have a properly funded NHS and to provide decent care for older people.
It’s not only perfectly possible; it’s the right, decent and respectful thing to do. That’s why my party and I are committed to stopping the cuts and to making our public services great again.