Jeremy Hunt (‘Anyone but Liz Truss’, Con, SW Surrey) is back to find more ‘efficiency savings’ in the NHS. Which of course was his line back in the Cameron Tory May days when he was Health secretary. But this time he’s the actual chancellor. From 2012 to 2018 he was known and despised as the longest serving Health Secretary in British history and inflicted the most damage on health service workers ever. Three times more people were waiting for operations when he left office than when he took office. The number of hospital beds dropped from 135,000 to 127,000 during the same period, a loss of 8000 beds. Cancer referral targets were missed every month during the Hunt period. Bridgwater Town Council Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) was unimpressed “Same old Tory, same old story.This ‘thank God we’ve got rid of that maniac Liz Truss’ candidate, not only devastated the NHS but he made false claims to Parliament to cover up his tracks. He said they had 30,000 more people working in mental health but in fact he’d inflated the figure by a factor of43. He promised 5000 new GPs by 2020. In fact, there were just 162. And he ‘LOVED’ privatisation, awarding £2 billion of contracts to virgin care and 12.5 m to a US training hospital. His published aim has always been to denationalise the health service. He increased junior doctors working hours without increasing pay and he removed safeguards, so they went on strike. Since he left things got even worse. Nurses bursaries have being scrapped which has left us a shortage of nurses, which combined with Brexit leaves us with a perilous labour and skills shortage.” But is the Tory aim to go from ‘terrible’ to just ‘dreadful’ actually a solution? Is the agenda really to run down the NHS so that private companies can buy it up? We asked other Labour figures from around Somerset what they thought of this new Tory Nit in Shining armour come to save the country from the awfulness of the previous (er, Tory) Administration now that he’s..er..Chancellor of the Exchequer..
Langport Labour Chair Cllr Sean Dromgoole says “Who else got the feeling of watching deckchairs being rearranged on the upper decks of the Titanic while listening Mr Hunt’s Budget today? They tried the dash for growth four weeks ago. All cheering and clapping. Only to discover that while they might believe in markets the markets have no faith in them. Four weeks later, with the smell of cordite still in the air, they’ve gone for austerity, again. Taxes raised in that sneaky Tory way of not raising the thresholds by inflation. Services limited, it is austerity all over again. We know it won’t work. They know it won’t work. That’s the real sadness they have completely run out of ideas. What they could have done is been brave and done what’s right. Had a proper go at financing social care. Charged at the green economy so that we build the skills and the companies that can make this country carbon neutral and can share those skills internationally. Fixed transport, energy, and water by bringing these false competitors back into communal ownership. Instead, we got what Rachel Reeves rightly called a “Bobby Ewing budget” – Please forget the last 12 years – we’ve got a new idea. Except they haven’t. This show, like Dallas, has run its time. What we need next is a Labour government built to serve the people of these islands considerably better than these awful blue chancers. Move over Tories, history is already forgetting you.”
Bridgwater Economy spokesman Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) added “ After the tax cutting mini budget the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has put the tax up on working people by freezing the pay income threshold for several years. The highlights of the Chancellor’s budget on inflation increases does not hide the fact that many people are already worse off from the Tory mess in the mini budget. The damage has already been done. The Tory plan is to borrow Labour’s plan on extending the windfall tax on energy companies, many who have not paid up already. Labour has a real plan for the future, a Green Renewable future creating thousands of new high skilled jobs, in wind, solar, wave, hydro and nuclear power, all low carbon. Non Doms are free to live in this country, but they pay there taxes elsewhere like the Prime Minister’s wife. The Autumn Statement was unfair and unequal when it came to the cost of living, working people will still struggle to pay their bills, as they along with energy have already increased. The Tories want to continually blame the global economy, when they had created the damage in the mini budget, and it will not be repaired by the Autumn Statement.”
Commenting further on the chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Yeovil Constituency Labour Party Chair Terry Ledlie said, “The Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves was right to say that the mess that we are in is the result of 12 weeks of Conservative chaos on top of 12 of Conservative economic failure. The UK is being held back by the many mistakes made by the Conservative government. We need a serious long-term plan to get our economy growing again. Yeovil and the surrounding towns and villages are all suffering because the Tories have refused to learn from their mistakes. Earlier this year, Labour submitted its plan for growth. Anybody taking a walk through Yeovil town centre can sees that we badly need a stronger, more secure economy. We will get the cost of living under control and make Britain more resilient, laying the foundations that we need for a thriving dynamic economy. That is environmentally sustainable. With the UK sliding further into the dual nightmares of economic recession and rising prices, the message could not be starker. The November Budget fell an awfully long way short of what is needed and people in Somerset will continue to suffer.”
Bridgwater Labour Transport spokesman Cllr Tim Mander (Labour, Westover) added “also, it was a hugely disappointing autumn statement and particularly an object failure to tackle climate change by way of investing in renewables and urgently tackling the need to insulate our homes”
Labours shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said “As we approach the end of 2022, we find ourselves in a worse place than where we started. The mess we are in is not just a result of 12 weeks of Conservative chaos, but 12 years of Conservative economic failure. Inflation is spiralling. Growth is plunging. Living standards are falling. And today, Jeremy Hunt delivered a fiscal statement with less for public services and more tax rises for working people. Yet again with this Tory Government, it is working people who will foot the bill. Britain is a great country, with fantastic strengths. But the Tories are holding us back. They have pick-pocketed the purses and wallets of the entire country. A double whammy of frozen tax thresholds and inflation eroding people’s wages. The stealth taxes, excuses and unfair choices announced by Jeremy Hunt make one thing very clear: the Tories do not deliver for working people. No plan to deliver economic growth, no plan to fix our crumbling public services and crucially, no plan for the future. What we need is a serious, long-term plan to get our economy growing again – powered by the talent and effort of millions of working people and thousands of businesses.”