Welsh Communists demand power in the community

Welsh Communists have issued a statement calling for new powers for the Welsh Parliament to deliver real change in communities, education, housing, health and social care. The Communist Party is running its biggest electoral campaign this year since the 1980’s across Britain, with candidates in every Welsh regional list seat.

Cleaner, safer, connected communities

We need to make sure that people can travel for work within or near their local community, comfortably and affordably. That will reduce combat carbon emissions and help our communities to survive and thrive. 

The need to end the routine whereby large numbers of commuters crowd the M4, the A55, the A48 and the A470 every morning and evening must be brought to an end. It is wasteful and unsustainable. The long commute by private car must be consigned to the history books, replaced by efficient public transport.

The Covid emergency has shown that many service jobs can be carried out from home for much of the time. We need schemes funded by the public and private sectors to make this happen, supported by the roll-out of superfast broadband to all our local communities.

Together with the transport unions, the Communist Party believes that the railways and bus services should be brought back into public ownership, where they can be properly planned, coordinated and funded.

A decade of austerity cuts must be reversed. Street lighting should be restored and extended to make our communities safer. Local police stations must open their doors to the public again. More wardens, park attendants and transport staff would make more of our open spaces safe for the public.

No locality in Wales should be without advice, support and safe accommodation nearby for women and children seeking to escape domestic violence. Can there be a more urgent and necessary priority for action by the Welsh and local government, working in partnership with voluntary sector agencies?

Health

We have all applauded the heroic work done by our health workers throughout the crisis. But the current crisis has also highlighted our reliance on precarious supply chains for medicines, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

We cannot rely on multinational corporations to produce the hospital and protective equipment, the medicines, the test-and-trace systems and the vaccines that will be so desperately needed to overcome future epidemics. 

The private companies overriding priority is the profits of a few, not the health of the many. The big pharmaceutical companies have grown fat on public money and the NHS for long enough – they should be taken into public ownership and made to serve the public good.

It is essential that Wales continues its divergent path from the British government when it comes to the involvement of the private sector in the health service. The Welsh government has helped retain the public spirit ethos of Aneurin Bevan’s original vision, but our NHS remains vulnerable to greedy elements which prey on it. We need an urgent review of those areas of the Welsh NHS exploited by private firms. 

We also face an immediate funding crisis in the NHS in Wales. But we cannot rely only on ever increasing hospital budgets, new drugs and equipment. We must shift to a much greater emphasis on social and environmental determinants of ill-health and to prevention.

Prevention is better than cure

To tackle health inequalities, we need a system that brings together communities, their GPs and the full range of public services to act on the causes of ill-health. Since the 1970s the World Health Organisation has recognised the importance of community involvement in prevention and public health policies. Government reports repeat this, yet it is not successfully embedded in Wales. 

The way GP surgeries are commissioned and run needs to change. In each area, we need a primary health service that has responsibility for that whole community’s long-term health. The chief causes of ill-health in each community must be locally assessed and targeted, whether they are poor housing, poor diet, or a lack of open spaces and free or affordable exercise facilities.

Primary health partnerships should bring together GPs, the local council and residents, housing associations, schools and public health professionals to tackle generations of ill-health.

In many areas, securing an appointment with a GP or dentist is far too difficult even in normal conditions, while in other areas GPs compete for patients. At the all-Wales level, therefore, there needs to be a planned approach to the training and recruitment of medical staff based on projected need in every locality.

A National Care Service

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated both the fragility of our care service and the dedication of its staff.

The direct delivery of personal social care must be entrusted only to well-trained, decently paid professionals. We need to tackle the poor pay and conditions in the sector and the staff shortages and under-funding which plague it. 

That’s why trade unions and the Communist Party demand a standard employment contract for care work – including sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty, including ‘sleep-ins’ and travel time – applying to workers in clients’ own homes and in residential homes.

The wholesale privatisation of elderly care has led to ‘free market’ anarchy and chaos. A lot of private companies compete for contracts from local authorities, triggering a ‘race to the bottom’ in the quality of training, pay and care. In wealthier areas, many firms compete for the custom; in other areas, care providers are scarce.

Welsh Communists call for much greater integration between health and care services. Currently, the complexity of funding is a nightmare for workers, residents and their families. Funding is allocated from separate budgets for an individual’s social care and basic or complex nursing needs. 

The complex web of local authority, NHS and private funding adds inconsistency, delay and huge bureaucratic burdens. Residential and nursing care should be free at the pint of need and planned over the long-term.

We owe it to our ageing population to plan the provision of sheltered housing, care home places and properly trained and rewarded staffing over a 25-year period. At the core must be publicly owned and accountable public sector provision; privately-owned care homes would have to help deliver the plan and its high standards or face closure.

A Charter for Housing

A good-quality, affordable and secure home is a basic human right.

The CP campaigns for a new approach to housing to meet the needs and aspirations of the people; not to feed the greed of landowners, developers, bankers and big shareholders.

The priorities must be to eradicate sub-standard housing, overcrowding, unfair rents and homelessness.

Around 8,000 new homes are required in Wales each year simply to meet growing demand. That’s 2,000 more than the annual new-build. Then there are the 67,000 households on waiting lists.

Meanwhile there are almost 30,000 residential properties in Wales — almost all in the private sector — which have been empty for more than six months.

The Communist Party has just published a Charter for Housing which puts forward the policies to achieve these aims. These include:

  • Building much more council and social housing — more than 10,000 units a year in Wales. 
  • Regenerating run-down council estates.
  • Ending sales of public land to private developers.
  • Using more Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) where necessary.
  • Taxing owners of vacant land and properties more steeply.
  • Establishing national and local savings institutions that specialise in housing finance and support national and local housing strategies.

Such a programme could be further funded from a Land Development Tax on windfall profits and by lifting the limits placed on capital borrowing by local authorities and housing associations, allowing them greater access to low-interest credits and loans from the Bank of England and National Public Works Loan Board.

All social housing should be brought back under direct and accountable local authority control, with adequate funding and the re-establishment of direct labour organisations.

Free or affordable sheltered accommodation and residential care must be available for the elderly in every part of Wales.

The provision of suitable accommodation for all homeless households should be a real statutory duty, in order to end overcrowding and rough sleeping. The Bedroom Tax should be repealed and full housing benefit restored for all under 35s.

Private sector rent rises and levels should be capped in keeping with local circumstances and subject to a national limit. In response to Covid, we call for a freeze on social housing rents and extending the Coronavirus ban on evictions for at least 12 months.

The Communist Party supports organisations at local, regional and national level that campaign for improved tenants’ rights and for housing development to be locally-controlled and based on assessed housing need.

Education

The Communist Party applauds the work done by education trade unionists to keep our children safe during the pandemic. School staff, in consultation with parents, pupils and the wider community, have shown leadership and compassion through the Covid crisis. They should lead the much-needed reforms in our schools and colleges.

We need an alternative assessment system to replace the madness of the ‘exam factory’. Frontline education professionals need to be freed from the bureaucracy of Estyn (the Welsh equivalent of Ofsted) and layers of regional management.

Only then can we design a future that values and enhances our children’s talents, rather than one designed for the production of league tables.

Education plays a vital role in supporting the Welsh language. Welsh-medium schools and nurseries must become readily available in every part of Wales. This is no small task and new measures are required to support the increasing use of Welsh in every school environment and for training many more bilingual teachers.

Fee-paying schools are a system of class discrimination that entrenches social inequality and privilege.  They have no place in a democratic society. Communists advocate the abolition of private education in Wales.

Challenge News Desk

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