The Labour Conference in Manchester unsurprisingly saw a noticeable change of gear given that we’re barely six months from the start of the General Election campaign, writes Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, David Ellesmere.
If there was any doubt about the importance of Ipswich in deciding who forms the next Government it was made clear by a large map on the Labour Party stand identifying Ipswich as one of six “battleground seats” in the country.
Policy announcements detailing Labour’s long term plan for Britain’s future were coming thick and fast all week.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls announced that all ministers in a Labour Government would receive an immediate 5% pay cut and then have their pay frozen until the books are balanced. It’s mainly a symbolic gesture but I think sends the right message that the whole Labour Government would be serious about bringing the nation’s finances under control - something George Osborne has clearly failed to do.
Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt promised to end the current Government’s attack on Sure Start. This is obviously of particular interest to us here in Ipswich with the Conservative-run County Council currently consulting on its plans to close Meredith and Quayside children’s centres. I also raised their plight with shadow childcare minister Lucy Powell.
Low pay is a continuing - and indeed worsening - problem in David Cameron’s Britain. I’m really proud that Labour-run Ipswich Borough Council has become an accredited Living Wage employer but this is a purely voluntary scheme, as witnessed by Suffolk County Council’s refusal to even try and become Living Wage accredited.
So I was really pleased that Ed Miliband announced that the National Minimum Wage would be raised to £8 an hour by a Labour Government.This would make a real difference to people on the current Minimum Wage of £6.50 and would save the Government money as they stopped subsidising low-paying employers through the benefits system.
The major announcement of the conference was about Labour’s plans for the NHS. There’s no doubt that the NHS is now in real trouble under this Conservative government - as it is under all Conservative governments.
David Cameron broke his promise that there would be no top down reorganisation of the NHS. He has wasted £3billion doing exactly that. As the NHS is being broken up and privatised under the Health and Social Care Act, huge amounts of money have been wasted making staff redundant, only for them to be taken back on in another part of the organisation.
The results are there for all to see:
A&E departments have missed waiting targets for over a year;
Waiting lists are now at a six-year high, with more than 3 million people waiting;
The National Cancer Target was recently missed for the first time;
Patients are have to wait longer and longer to get an appointments to see their doctor;
The number of complaints about care has shot up to an average of 480 per day
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced that a Labour Government would stop the privatisation of the NHS by repealing the Health and Social Act. It would tackle the long term pressures facing the NHS as a result of us living longer by integrating health and social care. And it would provide an extra £2.5 billion funding by cracking down on tax avoidance, introducing a Mansion Tax on houses worth over £2million and taxing tobacco companies who are responsible for putting so many people into the NHS in the first place.