Category Archives: Public services
I suspect some with be writing a bit about ‘Smarter Government’ this week. Before the main document is published, here are a couple of speeches that set the context.
First, my speech to the Institute of Government last month. It has a simple message; we should optimistic about the prospects for public services in the years to come. Yes spending growth will be slower; but we have built a store-house of strength in the last decade; a country of stronger citizens; a stronger frontline and a stronger civic society. Drawing on these strengths we can radically change the shape of state for the years to come.
Second, my speech on local public services and civic society, delivered in Birmingham on November 19th. It sets outs an argument for how our public services and community action must come together in a new coalition to change our country for the better in the century ahead. (above, two professors who have helped extensively with the thinking, Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt visit my Commons office)
Today we learned that No 10 have indicated that Downing Street did not know that A4E was under investigation for fraud when David Cameron appointed Emma Harrison as Families Czar. This begs a number of questions:
1. When did David Cameron find out that A4e were being investigated for fraud?
Last week it was reported in the Guardian that “there had been signals emerging from No 10 that David Cameron was deeply uneasy about Harrison’s role as an adviser as the allegations of fraud started to emerge. He had previously described her approach as ‘inspirational’.”
Given it has now emerged that the Government knew about the fraud as early as over a year ago, before the appointment of Emma Harrison took place, last night, Liam Byrne wrote to Iain Duncan-Smith to ask whether he informed the Prime Minister that A4e were being investigated for fraud.
It is now being reported that David Cameron did not know that A4e were under investigation for fraud when he appointed Emma Harrison to be his families tsar.
David Cameron needs to come clean to explain why he failed to make the proper checks before appointing Emma Harrison to this role, exactly when he did find out that A4e was under investigation, and what action he took on learning this information.
Downing Street is trying to pin the blame on Iain Duncan Smith for failing to inform David Cameron about the allegations of fraud at A4e when Emma Harrison was appointed as ‘families tsar’.
It simply beggars belief that no proper checks were made before this high-profile appointment.
David Cameron must now explain why there was a fundamental breakdown of communication inside the Government. And he needs to reveal when he first found out about the fraud allegations. Was he told after the appointment and sat on this information for more than a year – or was he kept in the dark until two weeks ago?
2. Labour calls on Government to allow publication of providers’ Work Programme performance data
Today, we are also calling on the Government to immediately allow Work Programme providers to publish their performance data.
Up to £5 billion of public money is at stake in the Work Programme and we have constantly pressed the Government to be straight with the public on how effective it is proving to be at a time of rising unemployment and a squeeze on the public finances.
In light of the very serious allegations of fraud at A4e, we are asking them again today to allow individual providers to publish their performance data.
Under Labour’s payment by results employment programmes, providers published performance data. This Government has banned publication of this information.
The Government has failed to give straight answers on this murky affair. It now has got to come clean and tell us whether A4e’s performance is up to scratch or not. When up to five billion pounds of public money is being spent on the Government’s Work Programme, it is reasonable to ask for the Government to account for this money.
This government claimed to be the most transparent government in the world, yet they refuse to publish the providers’ performance data of their flagship unemployment policy. We need answers, and fast.
A fortnight ago, the Minister for Work was rolled around the television studios to give us his progress report on how well the government was doing in getting our country back to work
15 months after the end of the recession, the house could be forgiven for expecting that unemployment would be coming down
Yet at the very point at which unemployment should be falling, he was forced to report that unemployment was actually going up
The minister decided to choose his words carefully
The jobs market he confessed was ‘stabilising’
Well last week it was left to the chancellor to tell us that it was nothing of the sort
He did not dare spell it out, but in the fine print of the budget we learned the truth
This is not even the beginning of the end
The Chancellor’s first year of office has gone so well, that unemployment, which should be going down is now set to continue rising until the summer
It is not expected to fall below 2.5million until half way through next year
And now we face the prospect that unemployment will not fall below two million for the rest of the parliament.
What a confession of shame
Yet for those with long memories, it is a record that is all too familiar.
The last time the Tory party was in office, it took but a couple of years for unemployment to reach two million.
It then did not fall below that point for the next 18 years –
Not until the labour party was elected to office in 1997
Now the government has decided that record is worth a re-run, a repeat
Because of course there is one thing that has not changed…
Just like the 1980s, the party opposite believes that unemployment is a price worth paying
In the circumstances, I think the house was expecting to hear rather more about what this budget was going to do to get people back to work
The OBR was fully aware of the DWP’s much trumpeted work programme
It was fully aware of the tax breaks that the chancellors had on offer for business
Yet, the conclusion it drew was the cold truth: unemployment rising:
Every time this chancellor now stands up at the dispatch box to deliver a budget he revises down his forecasts for growth and revises up his estimate of the number of people to be unemployed
He is costing this country a fortune
Under labour’s plan the treasury was forecasting
- 250k fewer people on the claimant count
- And 200k fewer people on the dole by the end of the parliament
What then did the budget offer for jobs?
Incredibly, it said that unemployment by the first quarter of 2013, would be 200,000 higher than forecast just last October
What a triumph
Under the circumstances, we might have expected a major new push to get people back to work
After all, this the told the Select Committee on 14th march
Chris Grayling: if there was a very substantial change in the labour market, one way or the other, frankly, that is the kind of circumstance in which we might need to revisit some of [our] the assumptions.
Well, 200 000 more unemployed sounds like a very substantial change to me
So what was the government’s response?
£20m this year for work experience
I had a look at his department’s accounts for January this morning
Mr Speaker, his new work placement programme this year costs less than his department spends on stationery
At the very least we would have expected more resources for the work programme;
The prime minister is fond of telling us that the work programme ‘is the biggest back to work programme this country has seen since the 1930s’ [16 feb 2011]
In fact as the BBC have shown it has 250,000 less places available than the welfare to work programmes Labour had in place last year when unemployment was lower than it is today
The association of bidders for the programme has so much confidence in the govt’s plan that it says
“the design of the work programme is fraught with risks which may impact significantly on the number of unemployed people who can benefit from it”
Yet when my Honourable Friend the Member for Westminster North, asked the Secretary of State yesterday how much extra he had got from the Treasury to get people back to work, the Secretary of State refused to give the house a straight answer
I think we all know what that means – he asked for nothing – and he got nothing
With unemployment forecast to rise, the least we could expect was the Secretary of State to stand up for his department, to fight his corner and secure extra help to get this country back to work
Instead, we have the blasé meets the reckless – and the dole queues simply get longer
Yet, worst of all is the cost of this neglect for our young people
This morning I met a delegation of young people from my constituency
I asked them what they thought of the government’s plans
They said; ‘it seems the government is just stopping young people from being what they could be’
I couldn’t put it better myself
Youth unemployment is now approaching a million
The Secretary of State likes to pretend that somehow this was a problem that he inherited
He fails to remind us that in labour’s final 9 months of office, youth unemployment was falling – by some 67,000
I know that he is fondest of figures that don’t include young people in education
Let’s see what these figures tell us
Since the election what has happened?
It has risen by 60,000
And that is while the economy is growing
All the good work, completely undone
Every job lost is a tragedy for one family – yet all the jobs lost is a tragedy for our country
Not only does it mean that our performance as a country cannot match our real potential but it creates a bill that all of us have to pay
The Governor of the Bank of England has warned us of what is to come
He says it’s the biggest squeeze on living standards since the 1930s
Because this govt’s economic plan is creating so few jobs, there is little demand for workers
Now there are five people chasing every job, the growth in peoples’ wages, in peoples’ pay-packets is slow
The OBR forecasts 2.0% earnings growth this year, rising to 2.2% next year
But when prices are growing by 5.1% and 3.6% the squeeze on family budgets is all too obvious [wages don’t rise faster than prices for another 2 years]
In the circumstances, you might have thought the sos would step in to help
Not a bit of it
Starting next month, Ten Tory raids on the family budget get into full swing; tax credits cut for families earning more than £40,000; tougher criteria on families wanting to claim family support; reducing the income disregard; freezing basic rates of working tax credit; removing the baby element of child tax credit; reducing payable costs of child care; abolition of grants for pregnant mums; £500 taken away from families with more than one child; child benefit increases ruled out for another three years; and cancelling the child savings accounts.
The government is proud of some of the measures foisted upon it by the Liberal Democrats
But even once you take those into account, £1.1 billion is going to be stripped from family budgets this year
With another £305 million net coming from children
By the end of the parliament it will total £16.4 billion in total by the end of the parliament
Why isn’t the government doing more to help?
Because the cost of economic failure is soaring through the roof
In the detail of the budget book we learned just how big that bill has now become
Last week, the chancellor snuck out in the small print of his budget the fact that the social security bill – it’s there on page 126 – is to rise by £12.6 billion over the course of this parliament.
That is £500 for every household in the country
Almost as shocking is what has happened to the unemployment bill
When the chancellor came to the house last November, somehow he forgot to tell us that his higher unemployment figures would put up the dole bill by £700m
Now we learn it goes up again: up by £1.9 billion this year
In other words this government has put the unemployment bill up by £2.6bn
What an indictment of this government’s record
That £2.6 billion is the same amount he is cutting tax credits for people with children
He is cutting support for our children to pay the cost of his failure to get Britain back to work.
What does that mean for the average British family
Single earner/ one child
Well, if you’re a single earner family, with one child on £23,000/ year, you’ll lose £411/ year
Households with childcare costs get hit even harder
In fact, a family with average childcare costs is going to lose £492/year
And for some it will be even worse
A single earner on the minimum wage with two kids is going to lose over £2,091 a year – that’s 6 and half percent of their income
Even for low earners, any gains they make in income tax and child tax credit are wiped out by the vat rise
He is squeezing Britain’s families harder than ever to pay for his failure to get our country back to work
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Finally, Mr Speaker, we come to the question of what this budget means for some of the most vulnerable people in our country
For the people who need the help of the wider community
For those who need extra support in order to live out a full life in this country which still today is the world’s fifth biggest economy
I know that like me, he believes that in a country as rich as Britain is in the world, we should have high standards, not low standards of civilisation and compassion
Yet the chancellor is pressing ahead with measures that will deny people their independence
The question this house has of him, is what is he going to do to stop him;
Yesterday, the Secretary of State told the house that after his review of DLA was complete;
‘the mobility component that is required for people in care homes will exist’
Yet he cannot explain why the chancellor announced he was taking £400m more out of the mobility component than previously planned
Second, the budget confirmed his plans to press ahead with the abolition of DLA
Let me repeat what i said in the second reading debate
We support the reform – not its abolition
No matter how he tries to dress it up, his goal is to remove £2.9 billion from the budget for DLA
Cut first – reform later
Now by the final year of the parliament he expects his dla cuts to amount to £1.4billion
In an answer to me, on 7th march, his says that he expects the caseload to fall by 170,000
That would mean, 170,000 people losing £8,500/ year
Can he not understand why people are so worried
Worse are his plans to limit esa to just one year
The budget confirmed his ambition to save some £3.5 billion from the cut
Yet he knows as well as i do that if you are recovering from cancer it is quite possible that you will not have recovered within a year
Are we really saying to these people that at one of the most vulnerable points of their life, we are going to cut their family budget by [£96] a week?
Surely he should listen to those 30 cancer charities which written to the secretary of state urging him to think again
His own department’s statistics show 75% of cancer patients still need esa after one year.
The charities message was blunt;
“this proposal” they say ‘rather than creating an incentive to work, will lead to many cancer patients losing their esa simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.
Surely that can’t be right
So here we have Mr Speaker, a budget that
Puts more people out of work
That fails to deliver on the ambitions of our young people
That hits families harder than ever to pay the bills of economic failure
And which begins to endanger the contract of a proud and civilised country with the most people who need the most help
That isn’t a big society; it is a society in which the bonds which tie us are stretched to breaking point
This is a budget that is hurting and not working and this government needs to think again.
Liam Byrne will today meet with Mark Newbold, Chief Executive of Heartlands hospital, to discuss the Government proposed NHS shakeup.
The MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill is concerned that the planned shift of power from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to local GPs will affect the care patients receive.
‘In 1997 12,968 people in the West Midlands were on NHS waiting lists for 6 months or more, last year there were just 13. I don’t want to go back to the bad old days of people worrying and in pain for months.’
‘Heartlands Hospital has an excellent reputation and I want to see it stay that way. The proposed Health Bill is three times bigger than the legislation that set up the NHS in 1948. It will mean massive changes which will put unnecessary extra pressure on the NHS. I want to make sure Heartlands gets the support it needs from me.
Notes to Editors
1. ‘1997 12,968 people in the West Midlands were on NHS waiting lists for 6 months or more, last year there were just 13’ From NHS Factsheets
It was a great privilige to help launch Labour’s fight – and message – in Warwick today. Briefing the press together with the PM afterwards, my argument was simple. Only Labour is going invest in the jobs of the future with support digital technology and for low-carbon technology at firms like Jaguar Land Rover, and high speed rail which will revolutionise our regional economy. And only Labour is going to protect those public services especially schools and 16-19 training, that will giving everyone in our region a crack at getting those high skilled, better paying opportunities. The fight is on.
Scores of people from across the constituency joined me tonight at the Blue Cross Church in Hodge Hill, for the first of my three community summits on the big issues for the election campaign.
Tonight’s debate was on public services – and some very, very clear themes emerged. First, contrary to the Tory plan to cut police officers, our residents wanted police protected with equipped with more powers, especially to tackle anti-social behaviour and drugs. We talked a lot about alcohol pricing too. The majority clearly want minimum pricing of alcohol in super-markets. But a substantial minority just backed tougher action against supermarkets selling drink to minors.
Second, people liked the idea of investment in schools, but wanted to see more discipline in the class room and backed the idea of getting more youngsters involved in community service. One excellent question was how people – especially retired folk – could volunteer to share their skills and mentor young people. A lot of residents backed my campaign for more school places. And some wanted to know how parents who had lived in an area for a long time could get preferential access for their kids at local schools (this from both Asian and white residents).
Third, we had a lot of issues about protection of services for the elderly (shades of today’s social care debate) and the need for more action on litter, illegal parking and the like.
Finally, we talked a lot about immigration and human rights – as we always do. They’ll be more on this from me in the weeks to come. And indeed my third community summit will take the issue on, head on. Last night, I was in Oldham with Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, to speak at his fundraiser. I’ll be hoping to persuade him to come down and join me.
Look out for the invite to my next summit – on jobs – landing on door-mats over the next 2-3 weeks. And if you can’t make it, keep the surveys coming. Literally hundreds are pouring back into my Hodge Hill HQ.
So Alistair Darling launched the pre-Budget report today. Helping prepare the report has consumed almost all my time here at the Treasury over the last few months. Its argument is simple. This is a very careful balance; but if we make the right decisions now, we can lock in the recovery – with extra help getting young people into jobs – and then methodically take action to halve the deficit over the next four years, while protecting spending on frontline public services like Surestarts, schools, hospitals and police teams.
The report sets out upfront, in black and white, the difficult decisions we need to make on tax. And we show a fair way forward. Indeed half of our tax rises will be paid by the top 3% of so of earners. We also set out (on page 108-113) the difficult decisions we’re going to have to take on spending; indeed some £25 billion of efficiencies and cuts to lower priority programmes will be needed.
Now the Tories I hear, say pay down the debt faster. Well, to pay down the deficit by half in three years – rather than four- would mean finding £26 billion of cuts, or tax rises in 2012/13; that’s 5.5p on VAT (something Tories always raise). And what does it mean for average families? Here’s the Treasury’s breakdown.
Direct tax and benefit measures announced at PBR mean that in 2010-11:
* Households will be on average £20 a year better off
* 11 million households are better off; 1.7 million households are worse off
* Households with children will be, on average £50 a year better off
PBR and previously announced direct tax and benefit measures coming into effect in 2010-11 mean that in 2010-11, compared to 2009-10:
* Excluding the top decile, households will be on average £70 a year better off
* Across all households, 16.5 million households are better off; 1.4 million households are worse off
So, we launched our command paper today, on re-organising government to protect the frontline. The basic message is simple; its a plan for driving public service standards up, and national debt down. Our starting point is higher standards. We want to give people guaranteed rights to high quality public services – like the right to see a cancer specialist in a fortnight, if you’re suspected of having cancer. Or the right to a good neighbourhood police team. Or one to one tuition for your child if he or she is falling behind at school.
With strong rights in place, we can free up the frontline of doctors, nurses, police and teachers to innovate – which means we can cut back on overhead costs at the centre; cutting the costs of the senior civil service by 20%; cutting £500 million from quangos; halving the consultancy budget; moving 10% of civil service jobs out of London. These sorts of changes can save us an additional £3billion on top of the £9 billion per annum we’re already targetting, over the next 3-4 years. The link to the document is here. Some of the coverage in the Times is here.