I won’t be sending many Christmas cards this year because money saved is better spent through Rochdale’s Foodbank. But what a sad state our country is in after years of right-wing policies that have kicked the legs from under our national infrastructure. It’s way beyond sad that working families don’t bring home enough to put food on the table and have to use our foodbanks.
Incredible to realise that some of those are nurses and health service workers. It’s a disgrace that Health Service staff have seen their pay drop in real terms already by some 6% and now face a further cut against racing inflation. Small wonder we are short of some 50,000 nursing posts putting pressure on existing staff. It’s not just pay. I was in hospital recently to see nurses racing around looking for equipment they could use as a number of blood pressure monitors — standard kit — weren’t working. A small example of today’s NHS. A recent study shows we need to spend an extra 21% on health to catch up with the average European standard. But it’s not just health.
Social Housing has been underfunded for years yet it takes the tragic and unnecessary death of Awaab Ishak to get Conservative government ministers to act. The Coroner highlighted the “shockingly poor quality of some social housing.” This little boy’s death demands that we address both the chronic problem of mould growth and the chronic problem of underfunding in all our homes.
And our railways are in chaos. Cancelled trains and unreliable journey times are the norm. Incompetent management has definitely contributed but where is the promised spending in the North? It’s not anti-London to ask why they get investment whilst we don’t.
Those working in health or housing, on our railways or in our schools have had enough of doing more for less and with less. Small wonder this government is facing strikes across so many walks of our national life. You never hear a Tory minister taking the blame but the simple truth is it’s down to the political choices they made.
Low taxes to please the better off and low quality public services. Most people I know would cheerfully see a little more on the taxes for those who can afford it, to reinvest in our NHS. People need spending on much better public services but it won’t come from this government.
Christmas should be about hope so as I wish you all a Happy Christmas, I’ll wish our country hope for that better tomorrow.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 17 December 2022.