The hypocrisy of Tory Andy Street

Street claims that “Caring for those who need it most is a fundamental value for me as a person, and is one of the main reasons I want to run for Mayor” but he avoids mentioning, let alone opposing, his Tory government’s savage cuts in public services.

Street claims in his hustings speech that his purpose is “to change the map of deprivation across the economy”.  It’s pure post-truth hypocrisy. It is his sponsor, Theresa May, whose ruthless austerity policies are deliberately creating more deprivation, more inequality, ranging from the rising levels of child poverty to the crises in social care and the NHS, while the rich get richer.

Street’s manifesto makes no mention at all about wanting to tackle deprivation. In its 47 pages Street makes a total of 229 – yes, 229 – pledges, but not a single one mentions tackling deprivation.  In fact in the whole manifesto the word “deprivation” appears just once, and the words “equality” and “inequality” don’t appear at all. Now he’s making a last-minute attempt to sugar-coat the Tory policies he supports, added on for the benefit of the hustings and the media. But his “caring” policies are just sticking-plasters on the open wounds of Tory cuts.

Here are some key areas of cuts in public services, and what Street has to say – or not say – about them:

Another £4billion benefit cuts

One of Street’s manifesto slogans is “Care for Those Who Need it Most”, but his Tory government have just slashed an extra £4 billion from benefits, including the main rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance and Housing Benefit, as well as Child Benefit and other working tax credits. It will hit thousands of the most disadvantaged including parents, the disabled and young people. The Child poverty Action Group says it will put another 200,00 children into poverty by 2020.

The NHS at breaking point

The BMA says the NHS is at breaking point. It needs £9.5billion upfront to secure its future. The NHS is effectively only getting an increase of 0.9% per year but there is a 4% annual increase in the demand for health care as the population changes and the total number of older people increases. These real funding cuts will result in a £22billion deficit for the NHS by 2020-21.

The South and Central CCG estimates that by 2021 the  Birmingham and Solihull STP (Sustainability and Transformation Plan) will be half a billion pounds short of the funds to enable it to balance its books while maintaining the required level of care for patients. In the Birmingham and Solihull area the overall funding position of local NHS and Adult social care services will grow to a £712m deficit by 2020/21. The new Midland Metropolitan Hospital which will replace City and Sandwell General Hospitals will open in September 2018 with 135 fewer acute beds than the current two hospitals. (See the Birmingham Keep Our NHS Public website.)

What does Street say about this in his manifesto? Just this banality: “Our National Health Service is vitally important in caring for people in the West Midlands. The Mayor’s role is to support the NHS in any way possible.” He prefers to turn a blind eye to the crisis his government is deliberately creating.

Street’s sole mention of “deprivation” in his 47 page manifesto is “The Mayor should be … tackling deprivation to address associated health problems.” Yes he should, and the most effective action would be make a start in reducing poverty, the cause of so many health problems, by insisting that all WMCA contracts with private companies should require them – and their supply chains – to pay the Living Wage o £7.50 an hour, if not the Real Living Wage of £8.45, reject zero hours contracts, and recognise trade unions. But these pledges, and the whole issue of low pay which is rife in the West Midlands, are absent from the 229 in his manifesto.

The crisis in Social Care

Street says in his manifesto “The Mayor can help improve the quality of council services such as adult social care and reduce the demands on the NHS.” It’s another empty promise. The Tory government’s year on year cuts in council budgets have had a devastating effect on children and adult social care in Birmingham.  £60million has been cut from the Council’s budget over the last five years with further reductions planned, while there are more people needing help and support. Cuts to care are contributing to older and chronically ill people being more likely to come into hospital in an emergency and when in hospital they have to wait unnecessarily before being discharged.

Disability benefits cut or removed

In 2016 nearly half of disabled people subject to “planned reviews” of their eligibility for the government’s new disability benefit had their existing award either cut or removed completely.

What does Street say about this in his manifesto? Again, not a word about this savagely unjust policy being implemented by his own Tory party. “If elected as Mayor, I will: Launch…targeted employment initiatives for …those…with disabilities.” That’s all – what these initiatives might be is left unsaid.

Tory government slashes school budgets

School budgets are facing £3billion in cuts by 2020. In Birmingham it means tens of millions of pounds, equal to around 10% reduction in funding per pupil. It means an average loss of perhaps 3 or4 teachers from each primary school and 8 to 10 teachers from each secondary school.  Already teachers’ and teaching assistants’ jobs are being cut. The result is larger classes, less individual support, and an impoverished education.

What does Street say about this in his manifesto? Nothing. Again, he ducks the issue. No mention of budget cuts, let alone of supporting campaigns against them. Instead he regurgitates Gove’s mantra of Free Schools and discredited macho policy of “a zero tolerance approach to failing schools”, when what they need is proper funding.

Andy Street as mayor would be Theresa May’s puppet in the West Midlands, obediently carrying out her endless cuts while he tries to sugar-coat the bitter pills. Make sure he doesn’t get elected!

Birmingham Against the Cuts

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