Ray Jackson made a number of attacks on the Government and city council. He certainly aired some strong views, what a pity they bore little resemblance to reality.
Contrary to his opinion, the last Labour Government bears much of the responsibility for the mess we’re in. The credit crunch started in the US, but the UK economy was in a worse state to weather the storm than any of our major competitors.
Gordon Brown claimed there would be ‘no more boom and bust’. How wrong he turned out to be. His over-confidence left Britain still borrowing money at the height of the boom, before disaster struck.
Billions were thrown at the NHS by Labour, with some good effect but with incredible inefficiency. Big pay rises were given to already well-paid GPs and consultants with little or nothing asked for in return.
We’ve seen only recently the inefficiency of the MoD, with one civil servant for every two troops, millions paid in bonuses and a contract for a new aircraft carrier which would cost more to cancel than to complete.
Tony Blair has admitted he was worried about spending levels by 2005 and Alistair Darling felt the same by 2007.
The Government has had to cut back and as Mr Jackson said, ordinary people are feeling the pinch. The VAT rise isn’t welcome, but essentials like food, books and children’s clothes don’t incur VAT and the rise didn’t apply to gas and electricity. As for council tax, the Lib Dems in Sheffield have kept the annual increase down for the last two years and surely next year’s proposed freeze will be very welcome. Yes, some difficult decisions will need to be made, but with power comes responsibility.
Contrary to Mr Jackson’s views, this government is ensuring that the vulnerable will be protected. The pupil premium allocates extra money to the poorest children in their early years; mental health services will be transformed and given the same importance as physical health for the first time. Privatisation of the NHS is simply a myth. The NHS will continue to be funded out of taxation, free at the point of delivery, with increased funding in real terms. Private sector providers will be able to offer services, but perhaps Mr Jackson didn’t realise that Labour set targets to increase private sector provision and promised to pay them more than the NHS for the same work. This will stop.
It wasn’t clear whether Mr Jackson was in favour of the PFI roads scheme planned for Sheffield. It was started by the Labour council and the previous government, but this council has steered it through to completion. As for putting works out to tender, does anyone really think that you can allocate a 25 year contract for hundreds of millions of pounds of public money without making very sure that you are getting best value? I very much hope not!
As for Post Offices, perhaps Mr Jackson hasn’t heard that Sheffield is pioneering a radical new scheme. Post Offices will become an access point for local services, securing their viability, with local people ensuring they meet the needs of the community.
Labour closed 15 Sheffield Post Offices in 2008. Two are being reopened this year, and no more will be closed. With initiatives like this in our city, perhaps Mr Jackson will look out more keenly for the next Sheffield City Courier?