Latest Public Sector News

06.08.15

Burnham pledges to scrap academies, tuition fees and social care costs

Comprehensive education will replace academies and free schools, while social care will be fully integrated into the NHS if Andy Burnham gets the chance to implement his plans as Labour leader.

The MP for Leigh is the frontrunner in the betting markets to become the party’s next leader, and has unveiled his manifesto today.

He rejects the growing role of free schools and academies and wants instead to restore the role of local education authorities in overseeing comprehensive schools.

Burnham pushed technical education to the forefront by proposing a new national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships, backed by access to student finance. He also vowed to reform the funding model for post-18 education, seeking to replace tuition fees for universities with a graduate tax.

He said: “No young person should have to start their career weighed down by a millstone of debt.”

He also pledged to abolish the lower-rate national minimum wage for younger people, extend the national living wage to all ages and ban zero-hour contracts and unpaid internships.

The NHS principle would also be extended to social care where people would be asked to “make a contribution according to their means” while still knowing their needs would be covered.

This would be made possible through a new national health and care service to tackle a “failing system of care for older, disabled and vulnerable people”, particularly by supporting people with dementia and autism.

Burnham said: “We need to do a better job at the 21st century of looking after our older people. This is the century of the ageing society, but we’re letting people lose everything they’ve worked for now if they were lucky enough to have dementia.

“Isn’t it about time the modern Labour party was as bold in this century as it was in the last and brought forward a vision to bring social care into the NHS?”

He pitched the idea of a new Beveridge-style commission to establish how these changes would be paid for, including looking into new pays to fund social care through a care levy.

It would focus primarily on the “new giants of the 21st century”, including debt, insecurity, inequality, climate change and fear of old age.

The commission would also look to rebalance the tax system and examine the case for a ‘land value tax’ to replace business rates and solidify growth and new companies.

Burnham also set forward a new approach to housing: lifting the borrowing caps that prevent councils from building social housing, as well as creating a new ‘national housing commission’ to ensure affordable rents.

Additionally he would introduce a ‘rent to own’ option of mortgages that require no deposit and a ‘home purchase plan’ to help first-time buyers escape the “rental trap”.

The Labour leadership contender also prioritised the need for nationwide devolution by making councils ‘single local commissioners’ with a combined budget for public services, including giving them oversight of all schools, trading and transport planning.

He rejected the current railway system and proposed to renationalise the network by converting Network Rail into a new National Rail body to “end the fragmentation of privatisation”, while gradually bringing the train operator franchises back into public ownership as each one ends.

Furthermore he called for a halt to fracking to determine its environmental impact and pressed the need for more female politicians and people from BME backgrounds.

The vote for the Labour leadership will begin on 14 August, with the results announced on 12 September. The other contenders are Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

(Top image c. Tim Goode)

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