Andy Burnham wants Manchester wealth tax to pay for free-to-access social care

The campaign group Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public has criticised
Andy Burnham’s recent statement to the Health Services Journal, that the Greater Manchester hospital cut-backs programme Healthier Together was “at the wrong end of the telescope” and “didn’t look at integration” of health and social care.

Manchester Keep Our NHS Public spokesperson Hugh Caffrey said:

“Andy could have shone a spotlight on the £1bn cut-backs in our local healthcare, of which ‘Healthier Together’ is one, or the £1bn shortfall in funding estimated by his Labour colleagues in the ‘devolved’ NHS structure, or the up to 25% of NHS contracts going to non-NHS bodies in some Greater Manchester boroughs.”

Instead, Andy Burnham talked up Greater Manchester’s bid to be a pilot site for “full integration” between health and social care – but the Health Services Journal noted that

“…current legislation and tax laws have prevented the type of full integration Mr Burnham would like to see.”

The Health Service Journal reports Andy Burnham as saying to the government that,

“Having raised social care in the general election campaign, you can’t just drop it now and say ‘that was too difficult we’ll forget about that’.

“Come at it in a different way by using the opportunity that Greater Manchester provides to see if we can pioneer a new way of doing things.”

He seems to be saying to the Tory government, let me introduce the wealth tax that you chickened out of during the 2017 General Election campaign

Update: Greater Manchester Combined Authority denies that they asked to pilot a wealth tax

Update 30.11.17: The Health Services Journal reported that

“Greater Manchester CA is to bid to pilot the provision of social care funded through a wealth tax “on the NHS principle” of free at the point of use , mayor Andy Burnham has said.”

But the Greater Manchester Combined Authority communications team has replied to my request for info about the success of this bid by saying:

“A ‘wealth tax’ was not part of Greater Manchester’s submission.”

They added,

“Greater Manchester did put in a proposal to the government around a social care funding pilot. Their autumn budget 2017 did not mention funding for social care at all, you can read more here.”

I asked them whether the Health Service Journal was therefore wrong to say that the GM Elected Mayor had asked the government to allow Greater Manchester Combined Authority to pilot a wealth tax.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority replied

“The Greater Manchester proposal did not involve a ‘wealth tax’. Andy Burnham has made known his views on how social care might be funded nationally in the future but this was not part of any proposed pilot in Greater Manchester.”

So Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s formal submission to the government as part of the budget process, proposing that Greater Manchester should be a pilot area for the reform of social care funding, did not include Andy Burnham’s proposal to fund it through a form of wealth tax raised by Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

I then asked Greater Manchester Combined Authority:

“Please can you tell me what the GMCA proposal did involve – ie, was the intention for a pilot that would allow provision of social care free at the point of use, in the same way as NHS services are accessed? And how was this pilot to have been funded? And what happens now that the government has ignored the GMCA proposal?”

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority replied:

“If and when things move on we will release the information. This as much as we can say at present.”

When he was Health secretary in the Brown New Labour government, Andy Burnham proposed a national tax on people’s estates after their death.

However, there are other forms of wealth tax. Robert Peston advocates an annual levy of 1% on all net assets greater than £500,000. He tells people with that amount of wealth (including himself ):

“We’ve actually got to think, maybe we should make some sacrifices and be a bit poorer. Because if we don’t make those sacrifices and become a bit poorer, so that those lower down the scale have better lives, we may end up facing utter chaos.”

Put NHS and social care on the same footing as publicly owned, funded, run and provided services

Both the NHS and social care should be fully taken back into public ownership, management and provision and adequately publicly funded through general taxation. Why is dementia or frailty any different from cancer or a broken hip? Why should care for one be treated any differently from care for the other?

Some people disagree, pointing out that the difference is that patients’ families could profit from selling or renting out their relative’s house if they lived into a care home for a long time – whereas relatives of patients who have short hospital stays can’t profit from the sale or rent of the patient’s house.

But the patient’s family would be able to profit after their relative’s death by selling the house, so what difference does it make if this happens sooner rather than later?

As for profiting from renting out the house while their relative was in a care home, maybe it would be possible for local housing associations or local authorities to let such houses to people on the housing waiting list, and to receive the rent to put into a fund to build more council houses? Or something?

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