Restarting public services must be at the heart of Labour’s offer to voters – LabourList

Earlier this month Roy Clare, an 89-year-old from Southend, suffered a suspected stroke and fell from his wheelchair, severing his head. Calling 999, her daughter was told to expect a 21 hour wait time for an ambulance. Eventually Roy was treated but had to wait outside Southend A&E Hospital for eight hours in an ambulance. This should be a shocking aberration. But this is not the case. An analysis by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has shown that more than 4,500 deaths in England in 2020-21 can be attributed to A&E delays and overcrowding.

The fact that we find ourselves in 2022 in the “Britain backlog” should be a national scandal. A serious government of the day – the government of a nation that spends about half of all GDP on public services – should focus political attention on cancer wait times, hearing delays before courts, housing placement expectations and passport queues. Instead, he fights with the Church, the United Nations and supporters of the metric system.

Prime ministers come and go, but public services are permanent. Public services may not sound sexy, but they matter a lot to citizens. Health and education have always been cited as two of the most important issues facing the country. To win back power, Labor must of course win the debate over who will deliver economic growth amid the cost of living crisis. But it must also recognize that it means showing credible leadership over the broad swaths of the economy that make up public services.

The root causes of Britain’s backlog can be traced back to 12 years of Tory mismanagement. An economically illiterate onslaught of austerity, particularly focused on local government, leading to a welfare crisis. A failed Brexit; we should strike new, extensive trade deals across the globe rather than prepare for a trade war with the EU. And financial mismanagement during Covid-19, leading to billions of dollars wasted in fraud and further strain on the public purse.

Articulating the problem is not enough. Labor is expected to come up with a five-point plan for reviving public services and a return to power.

  1. Deliver the strategy. The magic wand of improving public services is not to be rediscovered. It was created when the Labor Party was last in power. Radical improvements have been achieved through the combination of political leadership, public service agreements and the focus on execution by the Prime Minister’s Enforcement Unit. In 2010, only 2.7% of patients had to wait more than four hours to be seen in emergency. Today it is 27%. That’s the difference a consistent focus on delivery makes.
  2. Focus on the priorities that matter and justify the investment. Everything having priority means that nothing has priority. At this time, cancer wait times, educational catch-up, the Crown Court backlog and passport delays should be the focus. These priorities need to be reiterated as the backlog decreases. While significant new funds may not be needed – the UK is no exception when it comes to underspending compared to OECD peers – some will be essential to transform and improve services. (Although the figure is almost certainly lower than the £11billion lost on debt interest payments, a loss which the National Institute for Economic and Social Research says could have been avoided by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. ) Labor should not be afraid to make the case for investing in these priorities and making it clear that these are investments that generate a return; money spent on primary care saves money on A&E and surgery later.
  3. Put technology at the center. Technology cannot solve everything. But it can help a lot. Waiting times for GPs in England average 10 days. Remote consultations and an expanded 111 service – for the appropriate concerns – can play a huge role in reducing this problem, as the public accounts committee concluded. Additional tuition can be delivered cost-effectively through matching platform technologies – an enhanced national tutoring program would help here. Citizens now expect on-demand services. Utilities need to keep up, and technology is key to making that happen.
  4. Show the difference we can make. Improvements in life expectancy have stagnated and then reversed since Labor last took office, including after taking into account Covid-19 and wider demographic trends. Hospital wait times are at their highest since records began. The work’s record of improving public services must be rediscovered and re-advertised.
  5. Campaign for better. Before the next legislative elections, candidates for Parliament should have at hand the performance of local public services in their region. For example, in West Yorkshire, according to the latest figures available, more than 19,000 patients waited more than four hours in A&E in May alone. In the North West, average wait times for sex offense trials in court were 31 weeks in the last quarter. The message should be: “You deserve better. Under the work, we will fix the problem.

Work exists to transform lives for the better. Public services are essential to achieve this.

Do you appreciate our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever – but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labor politicians and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

Support LabourList