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Country in Crisis

Britain Crumbling Under Conservatives

by Matt Coot

Theresa May’s leadership of the Conservative Party has led this country into disaster. Not only has this country seen a massive rise in rough sleeping for the seventh year in a row; not only has this country seen the NHS stretched so thin that patients are left in hospital corridors whilst those suffering mental health crises are left without support; but we have also seen the disintegration of the business sector with large well-known businesses collapsing and one in every 213 companies falling into liquidation during the last year. This country is facing so many crises that it risks breaking down altogether.

Industry: The Death of British Business

This last week has seen Toys R Us, Maplin, and Prezzo announcing their problems are putting 6,800 jobs at risk. Toys R Us and Maplin have both collapsed, putting their entire UK workforce at risk. Prezzo has announced the closure of 100 restaurants, putting 1,500 of their 4,500 UK workforce at risk of losing their jobs. This follows the collapse of Carillion, at the start of the year, which has already seen the loss of 1,370 jobs with more feared to be lost.

insovencyIn 2017, 17,243 companies entered insolvency, which was a rise of 4.2% on the year before. It was also the highest since 2013. We also saw a rise of 46 thousand unemployed people, resulting in a grand total of 1.47 million unemployed people in the UK by the end of 2017.

Where is this going to end? Britain’s businesses are facing an uncertain future with the unknown deals that are yet to be made with the European Union following Brexit. Not only is business with the EU uncertain, but so is business with the rest of the world, with these deals also unknown. The Conservative Party has led this country into a nightmare of uncertainty that has resulted in the breakdown of British businesses and an increase in the numbers of unemployed. Where is this going to end? The scary answer is: nobody knows.

Some of the problems that businesses faced last year, when we experienced the four year high of businesses falling into insolvency, was explained by Duncan Swift, from the R3 trade body, ““businesses faced additional headwinds in 2017 with business rates changes, an increase in the National Living Wage, and the final stages of the pensions auto-enrolment roll-out. Slower GDP growth has [also] hindered firms’ momentum”.

With the unpredictable geopolitical maelstrom that swept the world, and is continuing to swirl across the globe, and with the unknown uncertainty that Brexit brings, the boardrooms of British businesses face a complete nightmare when trying to plan and be prepared. Is it any wonder that we are seeing an unprecedented number of UK businesses crumbling under the pressure?

I fear that, unless there’s a huge shift in the political landscape, 2018 is going to face even worse for the business sector. More collapses of large businesses, more losses of thousands of jobs, and more uncertainty. We are spinning out of control into a crisis that nobody seems prepared for.

Rise of Rough Sleeping and the Housing Crisis

It almost seems like a natural transition from discussing the risks facing our businesses and rise of unemployment, to the rise of those sleeping rough. I’ve already discussed this in a previous article, but I would like to explore this a bit further here.

For the seventh year in a row, the numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets of Britain has risen. We have also seen, this week, the concern of many in the UK over the people sleeping rough in the worst weather for a decade. The Beast from the East, along with Storm Emma, is putting the lives of these thousands of rough sleepers at risk.

But, despite the rising problems of the plight of the rough sleepers, Sajid Javid (Secretary Sajid Javidfor State for Housing) has reportedly had to return £72 million of unspent funds that had been allocated for affordable housing. The reason for this? It was deemed “no longer required”. Instead, this money has now been allocated to be used to help pay for the Help to Buy scheme. This is the scheme that assists buyers with the deposit. The problem with this scheme is clear: it prioritises that of wealthier potential buyers instead of helping those in most need of affordable homes.

Not only is this country in the midst of a homelessness crisis, we are also facing a desperate need for new low-cost housing. Many areas throughout the country report this desperate need, but the government has stated that this earmarked money “has not been required”. This is clear ignoring of the housing crisis and it is obvious prioritising of the rich over the poor.

Infographic_What-is-affordable-housingThe £72 million of earmarked funds for affordable homes wasn’t the only money returned, oh no, the total was closer to £817 million. £329 million of this was the budget for the Starter Homes project. This project was to help first-time buyers to get onto the property market. However, not a single Starter Home was built and the entire budget was surrendered.

This money could house the 5,000+ people who are sleeping rough. If the government truly cared, they would use this money to end homelessness right now. Instead, they have decided to make life easier for the rich and tougher for the poor. Meanwhile, homelessness rises, unemployment rises, and the housing crisis grows worse.

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The NHS needs immediate intensive care

The NHS is struggling and is in an economic disaster. The UK has an ageing population, which means there are more people to treat for longer. Alongside this, the NHS has to deal with rising costs of services, energy, and supplies. And that isn’t even yet considering the other issues of: a society with a diverse bag of unhealthy lifestyle choices; the inability to get a GP appointment putting pressure on other services; the increase in public perception of what the NHS is for; and the pressure of rising numbers visiting A&E departments causing a massive strain for hospitals. There is also the problem of recruitment and retainment of the workforce within the NHS. All of this, and I haven’t even started to think about the political challenges that face the NHS.

As already mentioned, the NHS is – without a shadow of a doubt – an economic disaster. By 2020, if there isn’t any major significant change, the NHS will have a £30 billion funding gap. Yes, it will be short by £30 billion.

I’m going to mention the B word again, because at the moment, everything is tied to the uncertainty of Brexit. Consider the 55,000 of the NHS’ workforce who are from other EU countries. Not to forget the 80,000 who work in the adult social care sector. These hard-working people have an uncertainty hanging over their heads on whether or not they’ll be allowed to stay. Without firm confirmation that they can stay, and without the message that, of course, we want them to stay because we appreciate them, then these 135,000 workers might just decide to jump the sinking ship prematurely.

Theresa May has said that there are 13,900 more nurses on the wards of our hospitals than there were under Labour. Of course, she neglects to inform the public about the community, mental health, and specialist learning disability nurses, because all of these have fallen. The Conservative government seem very good at spouting cherry-picked statistics to support their own views, but they seem very bad at actually doing anything good to help the most at need.

I am personally finding myself a victim of this failing. I have been without a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) since early-December. Within that time, I have attended A&E due to suicidal intentions; I have had assessments telling me what I need to help me; I have been off work since 14th January; and I have not left the house in two weeks. Despite all this, I am yet to be assigned another CPN. I have been told that I have a high priority to be assigned a new CPN, due to the seriousness of my mental health issues, but I’ve been without one for three months. Without a CPN, it is easier to be ignored by the mental health team. It is easier to slip through the cracks, and it is easier to become so disillusioned that you give up all hope of ever being helped.

Official_portrait_of_Mrs_Sheryll_Murray_crop_1I contacted my local MP in 2017. I asked this Conservative MP for help. I asked if she would put aside party politics to work towards campaigning for better mental health care in South East Cornwall (her constituency). I mentioned the rising numbers of people using the Tamar Bridge as a suicide hotspot. I mentioned my own personal problems with getting the right care. Do you know what she sent in response? A standard letter with cherry-picked statistics telling me what the Tories had done (none of which was very helpful).

Of course, Brexit and the Tories are responsible for a lot more problems for the NHS than just staffing issues. Since the economic crisis of 2008, this country has had tightened spending on all services, which has hit the NHS and continues to cause issues. The NHS is facing higher costs with less money. Brexit is only going to make the money issue even worse.

We all remember the much publicised pledge of £350 million per week investment for the NHS. We were told that £350 million per week would be invested into the NHS instead of the European Union. Of course, it never will, because it was just a manipulation by a campaign that didn’t mind lying to the voters. Instead, as mentioned, the NHS is facing a funding gap of £30 billion.

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Former health minister, Norman Lamb MP, has been fighting for a stronger NHS.

A former health minister, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb MP, has said that if Brexit “undermines our economic performance, then it undermines our ability to fund our public services, including the NHS”. Anyone under the illusion that Brexit won’t cause any economic issues are living in a dreamland. Brexit will shrink the economy.

So, the prospect of Brexit is meaning that the NHS is facing losing staffing numbers and will face a funding crisis. But, more than this, Brexit will mean that the NHS is missing out on access to new products and technology. In an article published in the medical journal, The Lancet, seven experts worked together on working out what will happen to the NHS with the prospect of Brexit. In their report, they stated that “we conclude that each scenario poses substantial threats”. They also warn that “access to pharmaceuticals, technology, blood, and organs for transplant is jeopardised”.

To conclude, the NHS is already suffering. It is already in a crisis. NHS staff are pleading for change. However, after Brexit, the NHS will be facing even greater problems that may see it fail altogether. The NHS is crumbling under this Conservative government.

What needs to change?

The longer the Conservative government tries to ignore these issues, the worse they will become. We have record number of people sleeping on the streets of this country. This government has allowed thousands of people to be freezing on the streets of Britain with many of them dying alone. The Conservatives have led the business sector into disaster with a domino effect of companies collapsing. The NHS is dying slowly and painfully. The Tories are to blame.

We need change, and we need it now. Enough of the soundbites, especially when the government is anything but ‘strong and stable’. We need actual action to make sure this country doesn’t disintegrate around us. We need affordable homes, we need a fully funded NHS, we need stability for the business sector, and we need a leader we can all believe in.

Until changes are made, this country will continue to crumble.

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I’ve written a second part to this article, which can be found here.

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