Why can’t a rich country act like a rich country?

A question I am often asked by non-British friends is: when the UK is a G7 country, how can its public services be in such a shocking state? We recently received a letter from the school asking parents to make voluntary monthly financial contributions. Here is the letter I drafted to our MP on this subject, which goes some way to answering my friends’ question.

I am writing to you as my constituency MP to register my grave concern at the government’s cuts in school funding.

In April, I received the attached letter sent by the local infant school’s Chair of Governors, Head Teacher, and Business Manager. In it, they seek a voluntary contribution from each parent of between £10 and £30 a month towards the establishment of a school fund with the aim of making up a shortfall in funding of approximately £40,000. The alternative is a reduction in services with a direct negative impact on pupils.

If we can take anything for granted as citizens and taxpayers, surely it should be that the state will ensure that the nation’s five-year-olds will receive a basic education. As investments in a society’s future go, this must be one of the least controversial and most essential. And yet in the United Kingdom in 2017 we can no longer take this for granted – we see the incremental erosion of a free education for all and a transfer of responsibility from society as a whole to individual parents. It should be obvious to anyone, regardless of politics, that such a policy will lead to grave and costly problems for our society further down the road.

I am conscious of the squeeze on public finances. After many years of austerity, we seem to be no closer to closing the deficit, indeed it has increased by more than half a trillion pounds since 2010. Over the same period, we have witnessed a shocking decline in public services from schools to libraries to care for the disabled and the elderly to policing. There has been no increase in living standards to offset this, in fact wages have declined in proportion to the cost of living and there has been no alleviation of the tax burden for the vast majority of us. One has to wonder whether our government and our economy are in competent hands.

To cap it all, we now face an exit from the European Union with uncosted implications for our economy but which all serious experts seem to believe will be negative, potentially catastrophic. This comes after a deeply flawed referendum campaign challenging my confidence in our country’s democratic credentials (and making the case for greater investment in education – independent studies have shown a correlation between education levels and voting intentions in the referendum). Rather than manage the result of this disastrous referendum in a competent way to mitigate the very serious economic implications for our country’s future, the government seems determined to pursue a confrontational approach with our European friends and partners despite their relative strength and our relative weakness. We are already seeing an exodus of businesses, workers, and tax-payers. In such circumstances, how are we to believe that our already weakened public services can be funded to the level they so desperately need?

I am deeply concerned for my child’s future in this country and look to you for your assurance that you will fight, as my Member of Parliament and as a senior member of the governing party at time of writing, for a future where more emphasis is placed upon competent government in the interests of the majority with sound policies designed to grow the tax base and increase public revenues so that these can then be reinvested wisely in improving public services and safeguarding our children’s futures. A good start would be to invest in educating our children.

 

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