This place is more like a circus than a debating chamber with Labour flailing around like manic clowns to try and avoid serious questioning and debates
On Wednesday, at the Council meeting we were supposed to have a debate about the NHS and the funding problems that the NHS has in the Liverpool City Region. Of course, we didn’t have a debate as much as a snarling match.
Labour moved a motion about the cuts to the NHS. What they moved was factually correct but incomplete. In their scathing attack on the Lib Dems (just one of the many!) they forgot to mention that the NHS spending budget for the Government between 2010 and 2014 was the one that was inherited by the Coalition Government from the Labour Government. In other words, the government spent exactly as much as its predecessor would have done. I don’t know whether Labour in Liverpool don’t know this, hope that you don’t know this or just choose to try and forget this sad contradiction to their posturings.
We agreed that the NHS needs more money but we made two points that were crucially different than Labour’s position:
Firstly, we need to spend the money on different things. I have often pointed out in this blog that we need to spend more money on illness prevention to stop people going into hospital and more money on social care to get them out of hospital. Just spending more on things that we currently spend money on will not overall improve the situation.
Secondly, we need to make decisions in a very different way. Again, as I have argued in this blog we need to look at the Manchester model where many decisions about the use of health service cash is linked to local priorities and the provision of other services through the Council and its partners. My belief that this is the way forward stems from the visits I have made to Manchester and to speeches I have heard last week from Andy Burnham and John Rouse.
Neither of these positions is a sinister Lib Dem plot to overthrow our beloved NHS. For the first position, I quoted the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens who has made clear where he thinks extra money needs to be put. For the second position, I quoted well known Lib Dems Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council; Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester Council; and Rt Hon Andy Burnham, Mayor of the Manchester City Region. Well spotted – they are not Lib Dems but leading Labour politicians who are enthusiastically implementing the locally led change process in Manchester!
All is not right within the NHS and we should not defend the status quo. Just look at what has happened to our CCG in Liverpool. In just two weeks the Chair, Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer had to stand down because of governance irregularities. Look at the money they get for those positions. We spend a fortune on poorly performing Boards of Trusts, Foundations and CCGs nationally. Money that would be better spent in the wards and clinics.
To save the NHS we need to thoroughly discuss its problems in a national dialogue to try and achieve a consensus which can bind the national in a practical and sustainable way forward. My colleagues and I in the Lib Dems both locally and nationally have tried to be in the vanguard of such rational discussion. We believe that if we are to continue what we all want – a health service which is free to all at the point of delivery – there must be change in priorities, cultures and spending patterns. The best way to achieve this is not have sterile debates on amounts of cash that is being out in or whether there should be more privatisation (we don’t think there should incidentally) but a real debate about the key issues.
In Liverpool Council Chamber on Wednesday we tried to instigate such a debate but the small minds of Labour would not respond. They had an outdated, old fashioned and incoherent line and they were going to stick to it no matter what was said by whom!
This is our amendment. It basically says go and have a look at what is happening somewhere else. In this case in Manchester which is all of 30 minutes away on a train! But learning from other Labour politicians is far beyond the capacity of Liverpool Labour. So, in Liverpool it is the Lib Dems who will try and learn from the good things that Labour is doing somewhere else and try to implement similar policies and proposals!
Here is our amendment. As always. we are keen to hear what other people think.
Funding the NHS
Council, however, also realises that money alone is not the answer. It welcomes the moves that have been made in Greater Manchester to take far greater responsibility for the NHS within that Conurbation including;
- The linking of health with public health; social care and other council responsibilities;
- The development of the England’s best Strategic Transformation plan which was arrived at over three years and involved councillors, patients and communities
- The success in joining up services within the NHS
- Increased patient outcomes;
- The granting of £450 million over 5 years to act as a transformation fund to aid changes.
Accordingly, it resolves:
- To request the Health Scrutiny Committee and Health & Wellbeing Board to visit Manchester to see for themselves what is being done;
- To ask the Mayor of Greater Manchester City Region, the Rt Hon Andy Burnham, to visit Liverpool to address councillors and other interested parties on the success to date of their work; and
- To ask the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region to immediately begin work to emulate his colleague in Greater Manchester and bring health under local, democratic control