Mansion Tax, the NHS, Universities & MPs salaries
There seems no end to the lack of vision of our political pygmies in Westminster as the Election approaches.
The mansion tax proposals paper over two issues. Council tax has not been upgraded since 1992. Upgrading it just by adding six to eight new layers at the top end is all that is required. But, this is not helpful to Labour.
Any upgrading would mean the new funds would go to the battered local councils and not to the Treasury. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, wants to use the mansion tax to pay for the additional costs of the NHS. This is laudable but bonkers.
The NHS needs radical reform not in terms of yet another restructure a la Lansley (a desperate mistake) but of funding. As we all grow older and live longer we will need more care. More care will be more expensive. It will not be possible to go on funding the NHS and that is already apparent to most of us. What we ask of our political masters is for them to stop treating us as if we have not spotted this trend. The NHS is in crisis and will be for the foreseeable future unless there is a different funding regime.
There are four ways to reform the NHS none of them politically palatable but who said governing the country was easy.
The first is to fund it properly. This means less for Education, Defence, Housing, Infrastructure et al. something has to give.
The second is to ration it. You play soccer and break your leg well your club, league or national body could take out a private insurance scheme for you to be covered. Ditto, a car accident; your car insurance could be weighted to include medical cover. You get the drift.
The third is to define what the NHS can afford and what it cannot. This is also difficult territory. Is it more important we increase investment in cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart disease? It is. You will have to take a secondary insurance scheme out for minor illnesses.
The fourth is to change habits. If you are not ill in any one tax year you receive £2000 for having good health. This will easily pay for your subscription to a health club and ensure you remain fit whatever your age. It will make you think twice about dropping into your GP, asking for that repeat prescription or going to A&E when you have a headache. It will make you more responsible about your own health. A hundred flowers will bloom.
The Labour Party is trying to hold/win a dozen or so marginal university seats. It thinks that by reducing tuition fees from £9k to £6k will do the trick despite changes to how students are registered to vote.
The real question to ask of a party wanting government is to ask what a university is for. Almost all universities charge £9k a year per student for tuition. How can this be? Are we really saying that Imperial is as good or as bad as say a Bournemouth or a Portsmouth or a Winchester? We are. This is nonsense.
If our 160+ universities all strive for excellence then some must by definition be more excellent than others and should therefore be receiving more of the public purse than others. Ergo, Imperial, LSE, UCL and King’s should be able to charge more or conversely the lesser universities should charge less. The key is to have a policy for further, continuous and higher education. What we have instead is a vacuum.
Finally, as yet another two MPs are caught in the headlights of a scam about their daily charge (who earns £5k a day for second hand advice?); please can we pay them properly.
£120,000 a year should do it with no expenses allowed and no outside earnings. Let’s put these issues to bed once and for all.