IN HER Guardian article Polly Toynbee suggested that Labour has reduced child poverty and substantially increased investment in public services, especially in health and education. The conclusion she reaches is that if we want to maintain this progress we should shut up, stop criticising the government and concentrate on fighting the Tories.
But are Toynbee's claims accurate? Labour has been relatively lucky to have presided over an economy that has grown over the last seven years. This has led to reduced unemployment, increased tax revenue and given Brown substantial sums to spend. There is no doubt Brown has had the money to tackle social inequality and deteriorating services-remember his claim last year that 'no matter the cost' money was available for the war in Iraq.
The headline claims are that there is more investment in all our services-but the truth is more complex. Last week former CBI economist Kate Barker presented the findings of a Treasury survey on housing need. It was much more critical and hard-hitting than the government expected.
She called for between 70,000 and 120,000 new homes annually on top of existing levels in order to meet demand and reduce house price inflation. She suggested just three new homes were being built in Britain each year for every 1,000 people. Building levels have fallen dramatically in recent years with, for instance, only 175,000 houses built in the UK in 2001-the lowest level since the Second World War.
Despite the dramatic need for decent homes and housing Labour refuses to expand local authority housing and initiate a house-building programme-indeed it continues with the privatising agenda set by its Tory predecessors. Investment in health and education is also exaggerated. The figures include money put into the services through PFI and other privatisation schemes. Money is also targeted to those schools and hospitals that are willing to specialise and privatise.
Finally, Toynbee repeats New Labour's claims about their success in tackling child poverty. Britain's child poverty rates are shameful. Around one quarter of our children live in poverty, one of the highest rates in the EU-as opposed to just 3 percent, for example, in Sweden.
One might think a Labour government would address this situation as a matter of urgency. The best it offers is to 'eliminate child poverty within a generation'. Last week Brown claimed Labour was 'on target'. This will be made easier by adopting an old Tory trick-from next year they have changed how child poverty will be calculated removing an estimated one million children from the figures.
There is no doubt Labour has had the money. The tragedy is that it has tied investment to a privatisation agenda and abandoned the very poorest. For a real investment in welfare not warfare, we need Respect!