Socialist Worker

Tory ‘gentleman’s agreement’ shames the nasty party that slashed social care

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2541

Tory chancellor Philip Hammond and Surrey County Council leader David Hodge (right)

Tory chancellor Philip Hammond and Surrey County Council leader David Hodge (right) (Pic: Surrey County Council)


Tory ministers made a dodgy deal to increase social care funding with the leader of a Tory-run county council that includes several top MPs’ constituencies.

Virtually every public body responsible for social care has sounded the alarm about a crisis driven by Tory cuts. So have private bodies with interests to protect.

Social care is funded through local councils, hit hard by austerity. So Theresa May hopes to buy time by giving favours to her own.

Surrey County Council’s Tory leader David Hodge had planned a referendum to increase council tax by 15 percent to fund social care.

But leaked text messages from Hodge suggest that extra funding was made available in return for calling off the vote.

He said that a “gentleman’s agreement” was reached after a call with local government minister Sajid Javid, who then conferred with chancellor Philip Hammond.

Hammond is one of several top Tories whose seats are in Surrey, along with health secretary Jeremy Hunt, transport secretary Chris Grayling and backstabbing backbencher Michael Gove.

Last week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn skewered May in parliament over the apparent “sweetheart deals” to alleviate the pressure on Tory councils.

Some 300,000 fewer people receive council-funded care than four years ago, and 1.2 million don’t get the care they need.

Problem

It’s now a year since the chairs of three Tory-dominated select committees called for action to address the “widely recognised” problem.

But the Tories’ solution is to make us pay with a 3 percent “social care precept” on council tax—well short of what is needed.

Social care cuts have fed into the NHS crisis—as a new report underlines (see box). One in ten NHS trusts say their hospitals are at unsafe levels of overcrowding.

As Corbyn argued, “A major cause of the pressure on A&Es is the £4.6 billion cuts in the social care budget since 2010.”

May claimed these were “alternative facts”.

But millionaire Tories will never have to worry about being looked after, unlike the people whose care they are cutting.

The Local Government Association has warned, “The current funding crisis risks creating an unfair, unequal, two-tiered care system where only the well-off will be able to get the care they need.”

Labour councils have been hit five times harder by cuts than Tory authorities, but their opposition to Tory austerity has been weak.

Even under Corbyn the Tories are being let off the hook.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell promised a national fight over council cuts in late 2015. But we’ve seen little beyond a “vote Labour” strategy.

People are right to ask why Labour councils aren’t fighting back much harder against attacks on workers and services.


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