Did they fix UK social care or just kick the can down the road?

I’m not convinced that the UK social care crisis will be fixed by the rise in NIC contributions. It sounds to me that the additional tax payable from next April, will be used to drive down the NHS backlog, which was already growing pre-pandemic. The new care reforms are slated to come into effect in late 2023 but the details are sketchy. No mention of reform of the care providers, staff wages and conditions.

Boris Johnson said at PMQs today words to the effect that there will be innovative private firms that will insure you against selling your house to pay for care.

This article is by Stephen Bush, political editor of the New Statesman and is worth a read. Please note that the copyright belongs to The new Statesman.

The government will increase National Insurance from 12 per cent to 13.25 per cent next year to… do what, exactly? The headline that Boris Johnson wants (and, with a few exceptions in today’s papers, the headline he has got) is that the money is to fix the social care crisis and to reform social care.

But if you look at the rest of what he, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid are saying, then the one thing that the government has not done is provide the money to fix the crisis and to reform social care.

Instead, it has hiked taxes in order to spend more money on reducing waiting times in the National Health Service, laid out a broad set of principles about what the balance between the state and private individuals should be in paying for social care, and invented a new way to increase income tax through the so-called health and social care levy, which will come into being as a separate line on payslips from the 2023 tax year. (“So-called” because the costs of health and social care are far in excess of what the levy raises: just like National Insurance, it’s another tool for the Treasury to increase income tax without saying it is increasing income tax.)

Politically speaking, Johnson is surely right to believe that mounting NHS waiting times (which were constantly getting longer before the pandemic and are significantly worse now) are a bigger problem for the government today than the social care crisis. But that’s the biggest reason to be dubious about claims that the money for fixing social care is going to come from yesterday’s tax hike: at no point in British political history has money from the NHS been taken back out of it and redirected to elsewhere in the British state, and it seems unlikely, to put it mildly, that we are going to start in three years’ time. So the money for social care will have to come from somewhere else, whether it’s more borrowing, taxes elsewhere, or, the most likely alternative in my view, a big I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-income-tax increase to the health and social care levy.

There are a couple of risks to that approach: the first is that this plan depends on the social care system limping on in its present state, unnoticed by most people, for the next three years. It’s possible that the pressures on social care, the ongoing cuts to local authority budgets, and the ever-growing number of people of all ages in need of social care won’t cause a major crisis before 2023. But it’s equally possible that the problem becomes more acute the wrong side of the next election.

The second risk is that the broken manifesto promise and the reality that, for all the talk of ending austerity, the rest of the parliament is going to be one in which spending restraint continues, gives the government a reputation for shiftiness: for breaking its promises and failing to deliver. The comparison that Johnson’s inner circle and the Treasury have kept making is to Gordon Brown’s increase in National Insurance following the 2001 election. The equally important part of Brown’s tax increase is that he didn’t need to do the same thing in 2003, and that by 2005, the NHS was, visibly, in a better state of repair than it had been in 2001.

The big bet that Johnson is making is that, when the next election rolls around, the United Kingdom will feel and look like a country where the crisis in health and social care is being addressed, even if it isn’t really, and even if the difficult decisions are still being put off and the actual task of fixing social care has been kicked into the next parliament.

UK Government says polluters can dump sewage into rivers as Brexit disrupts water treatment

It beggars belief that the UK government is telling businesses they can dump raw sewage into our rivers because of Brexit-related issues with the supply chain. Boris Johnson’s “Sunlit Uplands” will start to stink if this carries on much longer.

This is the quote from today’s “Inside Politics” email from The Independent:

Is Brexit just a load of crap? Amid the well-documented supply chain and lorry driver shortage crises, ministers have given businesses the green light to dump the brown stuff in Britain’s rivers. Some companies have found it more difficult to get hold of water treatment chemicals because of supply chain disruption at ports blamed primarily on the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Environment Agency this week said companies struggling to get hold of such products would be allowed to “discharge effluent without meeting the conditions” of their permits, which normally require water to be treated.

The Green Party is furious. Amelia Womack, deputy leader, said: “This is a failure of their understanding on how our country’s most basic infrastructure works and using our environment as a dumping ground rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. “To prevent further Brexit chaos and undermining of environmental protections, the government must work to mend supply chains and work to cooperate rather than trying to look ‘tough’.”

The government says the measures are “strictly time-limited and there are robust conditions in place to mitigate risks to the environment”. Maybe best to avoid wild swimming for a while.

Read the full article here

Fundraising for Wiltshire Ride + Stride

I’m fundraising for Wiltshire Ride + Stride this coming Saturday. Ride + Stride raises money for Wiltshire’s Churches. Half the money donated goes to the participant’s chosen church, and the other half is used by the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust in grants to churches for repairs and preservation. Check out my @JustGiving page and please donate if you can. Thank you! 🚴‍

Album of the Week — August 23, 2021

My Album of the Week is Fever Dreams from Villagers.

Listen on Tidal

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Pictures from the car show

Twin-cylinder Morgan

close up photo of a Morgan engine

Sony a6300, Sony E 16-70 F4 ZA OSS, processed in Lightroom Classic

Car bonnet (hood) mascot

close up photo of a car bottem mascot from 1935

Sony a6300, Sony E 16-70 F4 ZA OSS, processed in Lightroom Classic

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Finished reading

Finished reading: How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Ece Temelkuran 📚

How to Lose a Country is an impassioned plea, a warning to the world that populism and nationalism don’t march fully-formed into government; they creep. There’s a lot about post-Brexit England that I recognised in the book that should concern us all.

As one of the panellists, I smiled bitterly as I thought about how all these brilliant journalists were yet to suffer the despair of realising that their tactics were akin to playing chess against a pigeon, as someone once described debating evolution with a creationist: the pigeon will just knock over all the pieces and shit on the board, then depart, proudly claiming victory and leaving the mess behind for you to clean up.

I’ve got three invites to Glass if anyone wants one 📷

Album of the Week — August 13, 2021

My Album of the Week is Pressure Machine from The Killers. Really enjoying the slightly more restrained tracks like “Runaway Horses" as well as belters such as “In The Car Outside.”

The commentary before some of the tracks adds to the overall feel of the album.

Listen on Tidal:

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Listening to the new album from Big Big Train and loving it so far. Listen to Common Ground on Spotify.

Alternatively, buy your own copy in sparkling 24bit on Bandcamp.

Here's a link to an unplugged performance of the title track on YouTube.

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Excited to read about the new Evernote features on their blog today

Currently reading: The Things You Find In Rockpools by Gregg Dunnett 📚

Get your free copy here.

Listening to a surprise new release from The Secret Sisters. Listen to Quicksand on Spotify.

Alternatively, check it out on Bandcamp.

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Happiness is a full wood store, even if it is the hottest weekend of the year. 📷

wood store

My album of the week is Nebraska from Travelyan. Well worth a listen.

Catch it on Spotify.

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Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville had a message for politicians of all stripes: “The standards of leaders in this country in the last couple years has been poor. And looking at that man there that’s everything a leader should be: respectful, humble, telling the truth”.

Here’s “Wally” the walrus that is famous around the Isles of Scilly at the moment. I spotted him chilling out on the back of the Scilly water ambulance today.

“Wally

Sony a6300, Sony E 16-70 F4 ZA OSS

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Hugh Town harbour, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly

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Sony a6300, Sony E 16-70 F4 ZA OSS

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Cycle tour of St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly.

Cycle tour of St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. It’s the best way to see the island and suits the slower pace of life here.

bikes in a bay

iPhone 11, Lightroom app, processed in Lightroom Classic

bikes

iPhone 11, Lightroom app, processed in Lightroom Classic

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View of Hugh Town harbour on St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly taken from our hotel room this morning. photo of Hugh Town harbour

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First flight for over 2 years, from Exeter to St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, on the smallest plane I’ve ever been on. small plane

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Finished reading: The Shadows of London (Joseph Bridgeman series, Book 2) by Nick Jones. I was lucky enough to have a pre-release copy📚

Listening to the new album from Hiss Golden Messenger this morning whilst doing the weekly reports...

Listen on Spotify.

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My Album of the week is .... Blue Weekend from Wolf Alice.

Listen on Spotify.

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I really liked the detail on this gnarly old tree we saw on our walk yesterday.

gnarly tree photo

iPhone 11, Lightroom app, processed in Lightroom Classic

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Finished reading: Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson 📚