- Created: Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:56
- Written by FRFI
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The state provision of health and education has become a barrier to capitalism’s desperate search for new sources of profit. Why? Because health workers and teachers in a nationalised system do not produce profit – they can only do so under a privatised system. That is why Labour has continued the privatisation of state assets such as council housing and services, and especially health and education. Inevitably the working class gets poorer provision.
Labour is bad for your health
Labour used the NHS Plan in 2000 and the associated increase in NHS spending to extend private sector involvement. It forged ahead with PFI contracts, where private companies build new hospitals which the NHS leases back. Currently, PFI is funding over 100 new hospitals worth £10.9bn. The cost to the NHS by 2048 will be an enormous £62.6bn.
From 2002, Labour started to recreate the internal market through Payment by Results whereby Primary Care Trusts commission services from hospitals and pay them according to how much work they do. This requires an army of accountants, managers and management consultants. There was a 133% increase in the number of senior managers from 2001/2 to 2005/06 and a further 91% increase since; more than double the 35% increase in the numbers of doctors and nurses.
Labour has handed private companies lucrative contracts for clinical services. First were the Independent Sector Treatment Centres that carry out the simplest procedures leaving the NHS with the most complex cases, wasting £220m. Now Labour plans to privatise services worth some £15bn a year provided by 400,000 community health professionals (district nurses, speech therapists, health visitors, etc) and 200,000 support workers. Labour is also pushing the creation of hundreds of polyclinics run by the private sector, and wants to sell hospital sites worth over £20bn and lease them back.
The resultant obsession with targets has killed patients. In Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent, 269 people died from c-difficile infection; there were hundreds of deaths on filthy wards at Basildon and Thurrock University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, and an enquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust revealed 1,200 excess deaths over three years and that patients had been treated with appalling contempt.
Inevitably there was no reduction in health inequality: people living in the poorest areas will die on average seven years earlier than those in the richest areas. Labour also failed in a commitment to reduce infant mortality for the poorest from 13% above the national average to 12% over a 13-year period. In fact the gap has widened: in 2004-06 infant mortality among manual workers was 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, 17% higher than the national average of 4.8 per 1,000.
Education for sale
‘Education, education, education’, Labour’s slogan for the 1997 general election, was the call of a market stall trader. Whatever could be marketised, has been: school cleaning, dinners, pay roll services, insurance, building maintenance, teacher training, examinations, skills training, playing fields, transport, sports facilities, special needs. Where it has not been able to outsource educational provision, the government is now prepared to give away schools to anyone ‘accredited’.
The extra money that Labour has provided for education has gone into the pockets of charities, churches, city businesses, high wages for managers, inspectors and cronies in hundreds of quangos. In 1997, Labour promised to reduce infant class sizes to below 30; today over 22,000 classes still have more than 31 pupils. Average class size in British primary schools is the fourth worst in the OECD group of 30 developed nations. More pupils are being taught by non-qualified staff as the number of poorly-paid teaching assistants has increased by 200% over the last ten years compared to a 10% increase in qualified teachers. No wonder Britain was ranked 17th out of the 21 most advanced nations on educational attainment in 2009.
Educational inequality remains. By the age of 11, students receiving free school meals (FSM – an inadequate measurement that excludes the majority of the low paid) are twice as likely to miss basic literacy and numeracy standards. Just over 6% of FSM pupils take A levels, compared to about 40% overall and in 2008 a mere 176 (about 0.5%) of these students received three A grades. Today as ever, parental income remains the most significant contributor to educational success.
Alongside this, Labour strengthened the grip of centralised directives on educational institutions. Children’s records of achievement follow them throughout school life. Incidents of bad attitude to school and any action that fails to conform to state standards are permanently recorded.
In 2007, the United Nations international children’s organisation ranked Britain’s young people at the bottom of the well-being league table of all developed countries.
Vote Labour for more council house sales
In 1997 Labour planned to sell 250,000 council houses a year. As a result of its policy not to build new council housing, it is estimated that by 2011 there will be five million people on local authority waiting lists and, according to the National Housing Federation, households on the waiting list in some areas would have to wait 280 years for a home.
One in seven children grows up in poor housing. Labour broke its 2004 promise to update the 1935 overcrowding standard. In 2010 more than a million children live in overcrowded homes, while the number of households in overcrowded accommodation has risen to more than 650,000, the highest level for over 14 years. Despite the desperate housing crisis for working class people, Labour built only 375 council houses in 2009. Housing association rents are £8.96 a week higher than for equivalent council houses, and more working class people are forced into substandard private rented accommodation
More than half of social housing tenants have an annual income of less than £10,000, and 55% are unemployed. In February 2008, Housing Minister Caroline Flint suggested that unemployed people in council housing could risk losing their homes if they don’t prove that they are looking for work. Later, Labour proposed that continued council tenancy should depend on continual means testing. The principle is the same: Labour wants to means test council house tenancies and so maintain its drive to abolish council housing completely.
Contributions by: Anthony Rupert, Jane Bennett, Hannah Caller, Robert Clough, Susan Davidson, Nicki Jameson, Mark Moncada, Trevor Rayne and Cat Alison
FRFI 214 April / May 2010