The Conservatives promised to boost health spending – now they’re slashing it

Before the General Election, David Cameron said he would not cut Tax Credits. He lied, and he cut Tax Credits. Before the General Election, David Cameron also vowed to boost NHS funding and protect our National Health Services – another pledge which has come unstuck.

Over the course of the last parliament, the Government transferred responsibility for public health from the Department of Health, to Local Government. At the time the government promised to bring public health funding in Leeds up to a “target allocation” that would meet the population needs of the city given its size and diversity. In the first year Leeds received a 10% uplift in our public health budget, but for this financial year the grant was frozen with Leeds still £6m short of the government’s own target. Then just one month after the General Election George Osborne cynically announced he was clawing back £200m from the public health services up and down the country this financial year.

He’s pretending that these are local Government cuts, but these are cuts to front line health services and Leeds will see the largest funding cut in Yorkshire.

The public health budget covers things like sexual health, school nursing, health visiting, suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, drug and alcohol treatment services and weight loss support as well as health protection services including immunisation programmes and infection control. The Government is slashing funding to all of these, while pretending that they are protecting health spending.

In fact the largest external organisation affected in Leeds, is Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust. Definitely an NHS cut.

One group affected is Skyline. Leeds Skyline provides support services for anyone living with or affected by HIV in Leeds. Next week is HIV awareness week, at the same time as the Government is withdrawing funding for vital services for HIV+ people. It is absolutely shameful.

Leeds Labour City Council is doing everything possible to save services such as Skyline, but with the Government raiding the public health budget in Leeds in year to the tune of £2.8million, on top of the existing shortfall of £6million, this is a difficult task.

Skyline demonstrates that these cuts are not just numbers on a spreadsheet, but real people and real lives.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Labour’s Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults is clear about the situation:

“The government promised to protect and enhance funding for public health in Leeds when it moved across from the NHS to Leeds City Council. The events of this year clearly show they had very different intentions. They held a sham consultation over 4 weeks in the school summer holidays and are now ploughing ahead with a raid on the frontline health services we contract predominantly from the NHS and third sector in Leeds. We knew the Government had contempt for local government but this shows complete contempt for the public as well and flies in the face of the government’s claims to be protecting health services. They are not protecting health services: they are cutting them directly through us.”

The Conservatives promised to boost health spending before the election. Their decision to now slash health spending is hitting people hard.

The Government must to stick to the pledge they were elected on, and reinstate health funding to Leeds.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward

Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Blake, writes to David Cameron following the Prime Minister’s Council Cuts hypocrisy 

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing with regards to your recent letter to Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, and the offer of a meeting with your advisers in the Number 10 policy unit in order to discuss the implementation of local government cuts in your area.

In your letter to him of 14th September you stated:

“In that context, I would be happy to initiate a further dialogue with advisers in the No10 Policy Unit and yourself – please contact Sheridan Westlake if you wish to take this up.”

Letter from David Cameron to Ian Hudspeth, 14 September 2015, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/11_11_15_cameronletter.pdf

I note from media coverage and Labour MP Jon Ashworth’s letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, that were this offer available to Oxfordshire Council only, as the local authority relevant to your own constituency, you would be in breach of the ministerial code which makes clear that your Ministerial facilities should not be used for constituency activities.

I therefore write to request a similar meeting with your Number 10 Policy Unit.

I share your concern about cuts to frontline services, including elderly day care centres, child care centres and libraries and agree that cuts to these areas would be ‘unwelcome and counter-productive’.

As a council we have borne the heavy burden of the last set of local government cuts by making all the ‘creative’ and ‘back office savings’ we can. Having made those savings, we are now faced with further budget cuts handed down by central government and we now see no other option but to consider cuts to front line services that will hit children, the elderly and the vulnerable in Leeds.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Judith Blake

Leader of Leeds City Council

Letter from Councillor Peter Gruen to the Yorkshire Evening Post on Housing 

Too many young people are unable to get onto the housing ladder to get the necessary loans for their first home or to get off the very lengthy Council registers and into a home at an affordable rent. 
The Government says it wants to encourage the building of 200000 houses per year. However I argue that words alone have never built anything; it’s actions we need. 
Councils like Leeds want to lead this housing revolution by building new Council homes for young people to rent and use our brownfield areas to build homes, so that people can afford to put down a deposit and get a decent mortgage.
The letter below points up some of the real issues, it would be great to have a debate about this.

Sir
I have followed your debate regarding the ‘Housing crisis’ over recent days. Credit where it’s due- thank you for giving ‘air time’ to what undoubtedly IS a crisis.
Simply put, we are not building enough homes for people, who are desperate to find a roof over their heads. We have not built enough homes for far too long. Why not? Certainly here in Leeds we have tried for the past five years. We have set up an ambitious multi million pound Housing Growth programme, we are leading the way with bringing back into use many hundreds of empty properties, the Little London, Beeston and Holbeck PFI project would not be happening but for our financial support, and we are moving ahead with future allocations for housing.
But your summit missed one essential truth- the elephant in the room is the Government. First they instructed the banks to exclusively concentrate on building up their monetary base and by doing so raised the barrier so that people who could afford a sensible mortgage, could not put down excessive deposits. Then we had -and still do -the distractions of blaming everything apart from building homes; so it’s the Planning system that’s too slow, not enough brown field land is being released- when Government itself sits on vast areas of non-used land, we’ve had numerous financial gimmicks on the supply side and Goodness me then we come to ‘Right to buy’! This of course totally undermines the principle of social housing as a legitimate alternative provision in the market place. So publicly funded new or improved housing has to be sold off with massive discounts and without adequate compensation to Councils to build more new affordable homes.
Let’s get real. If we want to arrest the crisis we need to invest proper money to build new homes and we want them to be in line with our ‘Leeds Standard’, which I introduced 12 months ago- adequate space, energy efficient, attractively designed and fitting the neighbourhood, environmentally friendly, life time accessibility and a mix of types to cater for families and single people. 
Surely, as we stand on the threshold of building many new homes, this is not too much to ask for ?
Councillor Peter Gruen,

Councillor for Crossgates & Whinmoor