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The Tories' ‘do-nothing’ manifesto means cuts and crisis for our public services

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The Conservative Party manifesto makes grim reading for our public services and those who were hoping for an end to austerity.

The Conservative Party manifesto promises yet more austerity. It is grim reading for those of us who rely on public services and those who provide them.

Promised spending on the NHS remains well below the 4 per cent annual increase needed to meet the ambitions of the Long-Term Plan.

And even with the new investment in education, 80 per cent of state schools in England will have less money per pupil in real terms next year than they had in 2015.

Outside these areas the picture looks much worse, as we see “the cuts to day-to-day budgets of the last decade baked in”, to use the words of the IFS.

Nowhere is this more true than local government, where there is little promise of a revival beyond this year’s short-term cash injection.

This is terrible news for councils that have borne the brunt of austerity.

Local authorities on the brink

Our research published this weekend shows that local authorities in England spent £7.8bn less on key services in their communities in 2018/19 in real terms than they did in 2010/11 – that’s £135m less a week, a 20 per cent cut per person.

And these cuts hit urban and deprived areas in London and cities and towns in the north of England more, much more, than Tory-led shires.

For example, Labour-led Salford Council was forced to spend £99m less on key local services last year than in 2010/11, a cut of £479 per person. In contrast Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council was able to spend £54m more last year.

This is because cuts to central government grants hit those urban, poorer and more grant-dependent councils hardest.

Those are the same councils that are less equipped to weather the storm through locally raised council tax and business rates, with inequalities set to increase as a result.

And, of course, these are the councils with the highest demand for services in their local communities.

A perfect storm inflicted by the government on our most deprived areas of the country, that makes Boris Johnson’s talk of a revival for our towns and cities sound like a sick joke.

Nothing to fix the social care crisis

This has grave implications for social care, commissioned and delivered by those local authorities.

The announcement of £1bn additional funding a year in the manifesto looks pretty meagre when social care requires over £10bn by 2023/24 just to restore services back to 2010 levels.

Remember, over 400k fewer over-65s get support for their care since then. Age UK estimate 1.2m older people currently struggle with unmet care needs – relying on loved ones to pick up the pieces.

As we have stated before, social care needs a fundamental overhaul with the way it is funded, commissioned, provided and develops its workforce.

The Conservative offer? Another review. We have had 12 green and white papers and 5 independent commissions on social care in the last 20 years.

Do-nothing manifesto

In his leadership campaign Boris Johnson pledged to solve the crisis in care “once and for all”. But it seems like the long grass is an easier option in his do-nothing manifesto.

This is a disgraceful approach to one of the biggest social policy issues of our generation.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief executive of independent think tank the Health Foundation puts it best:

The absence of any clear policy on social care in today’s manifesto is a shameful omission for a party that’s been in power for nearly a decade. After almost one thousand days since a green paper was announced and one hundred days since Boris Johnson promised to fix social care once and for all on the steps of Downing Street, this can only be described as a wasted opportunity.