HGV and social care crises – some alternative solutions

As people queue for petrol the Government intends to reverse another of the consequences of Brexit by making it easier to recruit drivers from Europe. The promised trades deals have not materialised, and far from getting Brexit done, a solution has yet to be found for the Irish Border.

A radical reform of our governance, in which elections are won or lost on a few marginal seats and MPs speak to themselves in parliament, at great public cost, with Government seemingly taking little notice, is long overdue.

The system promotes quick fix component level solutions to whole system problems thereby creating problems for future administrations to deal with.

Do we really need more lorries on our already overcrowded roads?

In the 1950s Britain had one of the best railway networks in the world with most towns and villages having a station and goods yard. Only small lorries and vans (many electric) were required for short distance local delivery. Then in the 1960s Dr Richard Beeching closed most of the non-profitable branch lines, failing to recognise that it was they feeding into the main lines which made them profitable. Nor did he appear to take into account the impact it would have on road haulage and travel.

Then in the 1990s the privatisation of the railways separated the management of the trains from that of the track when it is clearly one system in that, unlike motor vehicles, trains cannot run without their track nor can different companies compete for punctuality on the same track as they cannot overtake!

Britain is suffering the consequences of these bad decisions decades down the track as it will that of Brexit and its impact on the economy but more particularly the union of the United Kingdom itself.

There is no quick fix to health and social care either.

The Griffiths reforms of the 1990s were fundamentally flawed. And now the Government intends throwing more money at the first aid camp at the bottom of the cliff instead of building a fence at the top. I have long advocated people paying National Insurance whilst ever they are working; not to fund more of the same but to increase pensions and reduce demand upon both health and social services. There is a correlation between pension provision and the proportion of the health budget spent on older people across Europe.

The Netherlands with the highest pension provision in Europe spends 60% of its health budget on older people: Britain with one of the lowest state pensions in Europe spends 80%. The scrapping of free TV licences was effectively a reduction in income and now the Government intends to break its promise on the “triple lock”. Not only would a higher pension improve the quality of life of older people, many of whom pre 2012 were forced into retirement and condemned to spending the rest of their lives in poverty, but reduce demand upon health and social care and those older people who do need long term care would be able to contribute more by handing over their income up to the cost of the home, less their personal allowance, as they do now but without the need to means test or take their savings and houses into account, as argued here.

This is the kind of whole systems package I put together, and delivered on, at a local level throughout my thirty-four year Local Government career. I always leave a bit of slack and if you follow my figures through you will see that I discounted the money already paid towards their long term care by people with occupational and private pensions. Nor did I cost the billions to be saved from the organisational reforms I propose.

* Chris Perry is a former Director of Social Services of South Glamorgan County Council, a former Non-Executive Director of Winchester & Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust and a former Director of Age Concern Hampshire.

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  • As a former Convenor of Social Care, I always find Chris Perry’s contributions interesting and constructive. I would urge him to get involved at a high level in the Party’s policy making. your Party needs you Chris.

  • John Marriott 27th Sep '21 - 9:14am

    Yes, Mr Perry, we need an integrated transport system. We missed the boat after WW2 and having a Transport Minister like Ernest Marples, who was close to the road haulage lobby, didn’t help. It was he who appointed Dr Beeching, an industrial chemist at ICI, I believe, whose emasculating of our railways nearly 60 years ago is still being felt today.

    If only much of the long distance freight could be switched to rail, or even our waterways, with depots around the country, where goods could be offloaded on to lorries and vans for local delivery. That way not so many drivers would have to work such unsociable hours and might be able to get home to their families at night, two factors, besides poor pay and living conditions, that are making the job so unattractive. But I suppose, as they say, that particular train has already left the station and is unlikely to return.

  • Peter Martin 27th Sep '21 - 9:51am

    “The Netherlands with the highest pension provision in Europe spends 60% of its health budget on older people: Britain with one of the lowest state pensions in Europe spends 80%”

    Do you have a reference for this? I strongly suspect there is much more to it than you’re suggesting.

    I can understand how improving the standard of living of the less affluent can decrease the demands they might, in some circumstances, make on the NHS in the short term but not in the longer term. The brutal reality is that if someone doesn’t die of hypothermia this winter they will likely need expensive care for some other condition at some future time.

    This is not to say we should let elderly people die from the cold but if we want to “save money” that’s probably what needs to happen. Putting money at the top of our priority list isn’t the right approach. Giving out free TV licences to those who don’t need them is probably not the best use of resources especially as younger people are being taxed more to pay for their social care. The focus needs to be much less on “saving money” and concentrate on where the resources, rather than the money, are going to be found.

  • @ Peter Martin “This is not to say we should let elderly people die from the cold but if we want to “save money” that’s probably what needs to happen”.

    Well, well. As two of the oldies who’ve seen it all but hopefully not quite done it all just yet, I’m sure John Marriott and I are grateful for that bit of 18th century Malthusian logic, Peter.

    Have you thought of tax incentives for assisted suicide yet ?

  • John Marriott. My grandfather was part of the railhead system, working locally for the (original) LNER. Perhaps we need one ot two models on rail and canal with one or two economists who have the wit to identify “costs” on a broader basis to that used by the industry and governments. It wouldn’t abolish containers but it could reduce their number and make more sense of what goes into them. We should aim for fewer HGVs with skilled HGV drivers becoming more of an elite within a more diverse and rational freight movement system.

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Sep '21 - 11:07am

    As I understand it, the major supermarkets get all their stuff delivered to them at a giant logistics centre somewhere near Nottingham, middle of the Motorway network, and assemble it into lorry loads for each supermarket in the chain based on what their computerised sales system tell them is needed for that day. I don’t think you can easily transfer such a system to canals or rail freight. It might be a good idea to extend the rail freight system to Felixstowe, though.

  • Kyle Harrison 27th Sep '21 - 11:13am

    If we’re all moving to electric vehicles surely issues with supply of fuel will keep cropping up since why would a young person get a job driving a fuel tanker when the industry is in decline?

    When it comes to trucks, self driving ones aren’t that far away and with the labour issues Britain faces this tech will probably develop even faster. Brexit has reduced labour supply but a potential positive side effect will be greater technological innovation to replace labour. If we have a choice of being a highly advanced tech driven country or one dependent on imported labour, I think I would choose the tech.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Sep '21 - 11:42am

    Improve housing for disabled people, and make homes for older people more user friendly.
    I have a shower tray in my bathroom I fell over the higher raised edge and just missing banging my head on the toilet.
    I’m very much for living in your own home, it does cost up to £1000 per week to be in a Care Home. But as I have had to wait nearly 5 year’s to move this has been on going. The wet room couldn’t be installed as I was going to move.
    I can remember Beeching closing down the railways. Villages have lost the ability to have contact with the outside world, other than a car or often very limited bus services.
    I agree, the railways could be better used to move many more goods.
    The damage that can be done by ill thought out plans.
    I would like to see a better planned way to provide housing, more transparent and accountable.

  • It may not be very constructive to say this in reply to Chris Perry’s article, but is there anyone out there with the intelligence to find a solution to the mess we find ourselves in on so many fronts at THIS moment in time and comments on the cost of care for older members of our country just shows how low this country has sunk over recent years.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Sep '21 - 2:06pm

    @Peter Martin
    “Giving out free TV licences to those who don’t need them is probably not the best use of resources”
    Now that over-75s don’t qualify automatically there must be far fewer people in this situation surely?

  • Peter Martin 27th Sep '21 - 8:03pm

    @ David Raw

    Again you’ve missed the point.

    Let me try to explain it another way. An elderly person who dies suddenly the day after commencing retirement is saving the rest of us the maximum amount of money possible.

    Therefore if we want people to have an enjoyable and reasonably long retirement looking at how to save on NHS costs isnt the right approach. Keeping people alive longer is going to cost more and not less as the OP seems to be suggesting.

  • @ Peter Martin “Again you’ve missed the point.”

    I’m afraid I think it’s fair to say that both John Marriott and I (over a hundred years of actual practical political experience in office between us) would refute that. As my delightful four year old granddaughter often says, “I don’t think so”.

    And…… it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what your point is. It can come across as lecturing the poor old Liberals in a superior sort of way as to their radical inadequacies (possibly deserved on occasion), but also as shooting what I take to be your own political party (the principal opposition party at Westminster) in the foot.

    Now if you really don’t want the Tories in control of Westminster indefinitely I’d gently suggest a bit more clarity of thought, judgement and expression might be advisable.

  • I don’t think it’s correct to largely blame Beeching or rail privatisation for the high proportion of freight transported by lorries. At the time of Beeching, the railways had already lost a huge amount of freight traffic to the roads – in large part, because rail can’t really offer the flexibility that a lot of freight requires. And it didn’t help that rail was a highly regulated monopoly, whereas road haulage was more of a free market with lots of competition: Competition is usually going to trump monopoly when it comes to responding to customers’ needs.

    I agree that in the long run, we do need to get more lorries off the road and replaced by trains, but it’s not going to be easy to do.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Oct '21 - 5:14pm

    Road pricing is one option. We could at least be using all these cameras for a purpose other than monitoring speeding. A national road pricing policy is worth another look. Anything that takes these huge lorries of our roads would help pollution, climate change, air quality, road safety and possibly logistics if we have sufficient capacity.

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