Brian Paddick writes…A gap has opened up and we need to exploit it

Following on from Theresa May’s promise of a free vote to lift the ban on the cruellest of hunting with hounds, allusions to country sports seems to becoming increasingly apt.  On Monday, it was alleged that she had “shot our fox” by changing the Conservative manifesto to include “consultation on an absolute limit on what people need to pay” for their own social care.  In fact Theresa May has shot herself in the foot.

If we had deliberately set an ambush for the Conservatives, we couldn’t have done a better job.  The Tories had already broken a promise in their 2015 manifesto by not implementing the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission.  Instead, what had been agreed across all political parties, to put a limit of £72,000 on what any anyone would have to contribute to their social care was deferred until 2020.  Even then, £118,000 of assets would be protected.

Instead, in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, the Tories say they would introduce a “dementia tax”, where all your assets, except the last £100,000, could be taken to fund your social care, including your home.  Those lucky enough to be amongst the 1 in 4 who need little or no social care would be able to pass all the benefits of a lifetime of work to their children, while the 1 in 10 whose social care costs exceed £100,000, could be left with little for their loved-ones to inherit.  Instead of society sharing the risk, those unlucky enough to get dementia would have to bear the whole cost of their care without limit.  In the face of mounting criticism, until yesterday, the Tories were “strong and stable” – when asked specifically whether there would be a cap on individual contributions to social care, the answer was a definite “no”.

Then on Monday Theresa May suddenly announced a u-turn on the cap, getting increasingly rattled under questioning by trying to maintain that nothing had changed.  Instead of persisting with an indefensible policy, “strong and stable” became “weak and wobbly”.  The Tories having built their whole campaign on how formidable Theresa May would be as a Brexit negotiator, she balked at the first sign of trouble with her flagship policy.

Labour rightly pointed out that the Tories have not said what the absolute limit on what people need to pay for social care would be.  But neither have they.  Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to implementing the Dilnot recommendations.

So voters now find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea.  A “weak and wobbly” Theresa May, whose pledges do not survive contact with reality, or Jeremy Corbyn in the guise of Father Christmas with gifts for everyone.  As everyone knows, if Father Christmas is over-generous, debts pile up.  Although not our strongest suit, Labour’s policy on tuition fees, for example, at £9.5bn a year is their biggest ticket item and will benefit high and middle-earning graduates the most.

Instead the Liberal Democrats are focused on protecting the benefits of the most vulnerable in society.  In addition, we are pledging to increase funding for the NHS and social care by £6bn a year, to protect spending on education in real terms and increase funding for the police.

Of course, our economy will be stronger if we remain in the European Union – the EU are not going to offer a trade deal to a non-member that is as good or better than what is available to members.  A strong economy is necessary in order to raise the taxes we need for public services and the Tories are risking that economy by pursuing a hard Brexit.

But the clear message is this: We are being realistic in what we are offering voters, unlike Jeremy Corbyn.  We are protecting older people and the vulnerable with a set of fully costed policies and we are offering a brighter future to our young people, unlike to Tories.  There is a real alternative and we need to get that message across to the electorate.

* Brian Paddick Is Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service until 2007, the Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 and 2012, and a life peer since 2013. He is joint President of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

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  • Roger Billins 26th May '17 - 12:04pm

    Brian is right and if we cant exploit the gap we have no business in politics. As Charles Kennedy said at the time of the Iraq War our foreign interventions would not make the world a safer place but to link those interventions directly to the Manchester tragedy within a few days of it happening is crass. On the other had the Tories are very vulnerable on police cuts. Time to pull no punches on this issue. Time also I think to hit very hard on the economy, which is beginning to look very bleak

  • David Evershed 26th May '17 - 12:40pm

    Both my mother and my mother-in-law needed to go into nursing homes in later life at a cost of around £50,000 per year.

    Since we had power of attorney, we were able to arrange the sale of their bungalow/flat to fund the cost.

    As a result our inheritance was very much reduced.

    However, we see the position as perfectly right and proper. Our parents wealth should be used to fund their accomodation, food and care rather than be passed on to us as unearned income.

    The NHS is only for health treatment. Why should taxpayers in general be expected to pay for our parents living expenses just because they are old?

  • Richard Underhill 26th May '17 - 12:49pm

    Some of those who go into care may want to have the possibility of returning to their home, even if others think it unlikely. Maintenance would be an issue.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th May '17 - 12:56pm

    A reasonable article , with a crass headline , words not used in the content.

    If it is to be political business as usual, too soon for the sorts of politiking we are all too familiar with, can we lead the way on language if little else please ?!

  • This policy affects the children of the elderly more than the elderly themselves, the elderly will never be forced to sell their homes, it’s their children who will lose a lot of unearned inheritance.

    Of course the children could look after their parents instead of putting them in homes and could still inherit that way. In many cultures this is actually the norm believe it or not.

    But if the children put their parents in a home because they can’t look after them or don’t want to look after them it’s a bit unfair to ask society to pay for that so that they can inherit an unearned fortune.

  • @Jayne Mansfield
    “The Dilnot cap simply protects the inheritance of those who will inherit most. It is regressive.”

    Absolutely. That was my first thought when I heard it. I haven’t heard a single politician articulate this fact though.

  • > Brian Paddick wrote:
    > We are being realistic… We are protecting older people and the vulnerable
    > with a set of fully costed policies and we are offering a brighter future to our
    > young people…

    The IFS released a comparison of tax and benefits policies today, posting a breakdown of income change by income decile on Twitter. But the breakdown in cash terms in their presentation is more striking (page 22):

    It estimates that the average loss for the poorest 3 deciles will be approximately 250 pounds per year under the Liberal Democrats, but around 850 under Labour and over 1,000 under the Tories.

    Commentators were quite fond of using similar breakdowns to critique Lib Dem policies when the Lib Dems were in government. I have to wonder why the coverage has been so muted this time round.

  • Dave Eastham 27th May '17 - 12:37am

    Dunno what some people are saying about his issue. The whole point surely, is the support for the right to care” elements of this – which the Lib Dems have always supported. Which had been effectively abolished by the John Major/Virginia Bottomley ( as Health Tory functionary) at the time. Yo – “Care in the Community. Not”. If you look at what is really behind this whole obscene apology for social policy, it is about creating a new “market opportunity” for (Won’t name ’em. Me – just look it up – all over the interweb in other places) insurance companies to sell equity release mortgages to pay for their social care costs. In a civilized caring society that is just basically obscene.

  • I hadn’t realised that the current act protected £118,000 of assets but I knew it set a limit on care costs of £72,000. The system for paying for dementia care and the use of inheritance tax should be the same. Since I think 2010 the inheritance tax free amount is £325,000 and everything over this is taxed at 40%. So why should someone with dementia have a lower limit than the inheritance limit? Dementia is an illness, a terrible illness, and I think all care costs should be paid by society and not individuals just like health care.

    Therefore being allowed to keep £118,000 before having to pay towards ones care and limiting ones care costs to £72,000 is a move in the right direction. Care costs should not be used to tax people with large amounts of wealth, an inheritance tax is. The problem with inheritance tax is that the very rich can get round it and these methods of getting round paying it need to be curtailed.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield
    “Michael may I just point out that dementia isn’t actually an illness.”

    My mother died from dementia, my recently decreased aunt had dementia, my best friend who died a few years ago had dementia. To me dementia is an illness, it is a terrible disease that kills the personally of the person while leaving a body. The Alzheimer’s Society define it as “a set of symptoms”, but to me it will always be a terrible illness.

    No matter what causes the dementia, it is still a medical condition which should be treated free of charge and people should be treated the same as with other medical conditions and not left in the position of not being able to pass on to their children their assets in the same way as someone who didn’t have dementia.

  • I meant “deceased”.

  • Andrew McCaig 27th May '17 - 9:03pm

    I don’t see how you can possibly say that dementia in the way

  • Andrew McCaig 27th May '17 - 9:16pm

    Sorry! Phone acting up!
    I don’t see how you can possibly say that dementia in the way the term is normally used is not an illness, just because people do not necessarily die from it… Norman Lamb has spent years trying to get parity for mental health with physical health, and in my mind there is no doubt at all that all forms of dementia should be classed as an illness, and if we believe in an NHS free at the point of delivery dementia should also be free at the point of delivery. One problem is the arbitrary division between the NHS and social care in which the latter has been remorselessly squeezed by successive governments.
    Of course it is a huge problem for tax payers that people are living longer and more people are getting diseases like dementia that leave them totally dependent but do not kill them quickly. For me the issue is not whether children should contribute (via inheritance) to their parents’ care costs as David Evershed has – they should. But that needs to be done fairly and the way that better off people are able to secure their children’s future by passing on unearned income, while the poor cannot, is surely the biggest injustice in today’s society. Inheritance needs to be taxed more, not less as the Tories are doing, and that could be a hypothecated tax to pay for long-term care in old age for everyone.

  • It’s the economy stupid !
    The IFS yesterday stated that nether Tory or Labour figures add up….A care crisis is looming. On Brexit May says No Deal is better than a bad deal. I know that morning press conferences appear to no longer feature in G/E campaigns, but I would like us to arrange one this week with Tim, Vince Cable, other party heavyweights/economists ….Time for some Gravitas to enter this G/E campaign …..

  • Peter Martin 29th May '17 - 7:14am

    The IFS yesterday stated that nether Tory or Labour figures add up

    The “stupidity” is to expect that it’s possible to do full costings (savings) of any proposals to increase (or decrease) Government spending.

    Say we want to employ 1000 more police officers at £30k p.a. each. That works out as £300 million right? How stupid was Diane Abbott for not being able to calculate that? As it turns out, not as stupid as those who were using that word!

    What about increased NI and tax returns? We all know we lose about a third of our pay that way. So is the cost now £200 million?

    And what about how that money will be spent and respent in the economy? Nearly every transaction will generate extra Government revenue of one kind or another. It’s called the multiplier effect.

    I’d be interested to see a how something like this can be “fully costed”. Especially if the mathematics involved is nothing more complicated than simple addition!

  • Peter Martin 29th May '17 - 7:16am

    My mental arithmetic isn’t as good as I thought either! That should be 10,000 police officers!

  • Regarding Labour’s tax plan. Labour’s robin hood tax on City without exemption for primary markets is utterly stupid, compared to EU FTT.

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