LibLink: Vince Cable asks “What if the vaccine isn’t enough?”

Vince Cable has written in the Independent today asking that rather worrying question.

Most of us, including the government, are assuming that if the mass vaccination goes ahead speedily we shall see relaxation of the Covid restrictions in March and be largely free of them in the summer. The economy will bounce back and we can begin to enjoy the Roaring Twenties with a good holiday in the sun. My own sense of optimism is fuelled by the fact that I am in line to get my first vaccine jab this week and I already feel safer and freer.

But maybe that is wishful thinking? What if the vaccination rollout is slower than we hope (and impeded by idiotic NHS bureaucracy, such as the requirement that volunteers should have a level 2 “safeguarding” qualification in case they encounter children)? What if another variant of the virus arrives that requires new vaccines and repeat vaccination programmes? What if there are sufficient numbers who fail to get vaccinated – because of ignorance, groundless prejudice or fear – as to keep the pandemic alive?

He says that we need to plan for these eventualities to avoid restrictions through 2021 and beyond. Several actions are required.

I am told that a big emerging problem is the large number of recovering Covid patients who are filling hospitals but should be back home or in care homes with support from physiotherapists, community nurses and care workers. There are the usual problems of staff shortage and financially stressed councils.

So why isn’t there a large-scale emergency programme to recruit, and pay generously, recently retired staff for the highly skilled tasks, and hire those who are out of work for the relatively unskilled work? Why hasn’t there been more progress to hire, or commandeer, the facilities of the private sector for bed spaces and elective medical work not requiring the specialists of the NHS? As ever, why are councils being kept in a state of suspended insolvency? (Sir Keir Starmer’s populist demand for a freeze in council tax doesn’t help.)

Other priorities are to mend the holes in the welfare system which force people to work in risky settings, to rethink the enforcement of social distancing and to update the economic response to Covid.

You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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14 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jan '21 - 11:50pm

    Vince talks sense.

    Shame in govt that he was in this rot was not met with such suggestions, but cuts.

    Sir Keir is correct on council; tax as it hurts the least well off. Those hurt by the cuts in council grants from his, Sir Vince that is govt!

  • John Marriott 16th Jan '21 - 8:22am

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    I was going to read the article but I’m damned if I’m going to pay money to do it!

    Yes, the ‘Sage of Wimbledon’ always talks sense anyway. What a pity he’s as old as me (we were contemporaries at Cambridge, although we never met until a few years ago), otherwise he could have kept going in parliament. We could do with people of his calibre and gravitas now the going is getting even tougher.

    As regards Sir Keir and his views on Council Tax, the problem is that, as far as England is concerned, it’s still generating money on property values from the early 1990s. At the risk of awakening Mr Bourke on the subject of LVT (incidentally, he’s been very quiet lately – I hope he’s OK), I have to say that this tax, cobbled together after the débâcle of the Poll Tax seemingly on the back of a fag packet, is clearly not fit for the purpose it was designed. It presupposed that most local government revenue would come in the form of a block grant from central government. Since austerity kicked in, that grant has been gradually reduced, while most councils bought into the so called ‘Council Tax Freeze Grant’ between 2011 and around 2017 and gave up millions of £s of potential revenue; but even that would not have been enough. No wonder some councils are in despair about their ability to balance their books and indulging in such things of property speculation!

    We have GOT to have a rethink on how we finance local government, especially if it is really going to regain some of the powers that governments of all colours have gradually been taking away from it, especially after WW2. Whether it’s a simplified property tax, a Local Income Tax, LVT (that’s ‘Land Value Tax’, for the uninitiated) or a combination of several of them, some needs to be done urgently!

  • As someone who has been in local government on both sides of the Border (as a Lib Dem), I agree with John Marriott.

    It’s no good Lib Dems going into rhapsodies about localism when, if they get the chance of some power at Westminster, then do their best to starve it financially and also freeze public sector workers pay (many of whom then stopped voting Lib Dem).

    As my old friend in the Calder Valley fifty years ago, Douglas Houghton MP, used to say….. ‘Money makes the mare to go’.

    For John M’s delectation here’s a full version of the traditional English nursery rhyme.

    : : : Will you lend me your mare to ride a mile?
    : : : – No, she is lame leaping over a stile.
    : : : – Alack! and I must go to the fair!
    : : : I’ll give you good money for lending your mare.
    : : : – Oh, oh! say you so?
    : : : Money will make the mare to go.

    PS. Yes, I hope Joe’s OK too.

  • We need to face reality.
    We know that the virus is one of a number which have spread in recent years. This country has held their breathe, and the spread in each case has been elsewhere. It has been widely reported that the danger of a virus was high on the nation’s risk register. It has been widely reported that a report was prepared on what steps should be taken to mitigate the risk. The report has never been published. The prime mister according to what I last read refuses to publish it.
    The report needs to be published and updated. We need to face the reality that we humans have altered all of the ecosystems on the planet. We need to manage the planet properly.
    We need to plan, rather than simply react.
    And perhaps we can then stop fantasies about the new normal.

  • David Evans 16th Jan '21 - 3:32pm

    Lorenzo, Sir Kier is not “correct on council tax as it hurts the least well off”. The least well off get Council Tax support and so have nothing to pay, unless their local council deliberately chose to reduce support for the poorest families in their area. Good Lib Dem local authorities like South Lakeland chose to maintain full subsidy when I was involved and still do. Labour authorities like Manchester chose to cut it and blame it on the Conservatives.

    I have no respect for Labour politicians who promote such policies without telling the truth about it, and Lib Dems should not repeat the lie.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jan '21 - 4:39pm

    David

    It is not accurate to call it that, many as you say pay reduced council tax, not exempt, thus an increase of a little hurts many poorest, so Sir Keir is correct !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul Barker 16th Jan '21 - 4:58pm

    On Topic, the Idea that it will all be over by the Summer is wildly optimistic, the Autumn is more likely. Then we will face the Recession really kicking in & a House Price Crash beginning. We may then get some sense of what Politics will look like in the run-up to 2024.

  • Peter Martin 16th Jan '21 - 5:41pm

    @ Paul,

    It won’t quite be “all over” by Easter, which is the beginning of April, but if we can get 25 -30 million doses of vaccine administered by then, which we are on track to do, then the worst of it will be well behind us. Schools will restart if they haven’t done already. Holidays will be possible. Even the pubs and shops should be open again pretty much as normal.

    There won’t be a recession this year or next. If anything, the economy will be too buoyant and inflation could be above target. The Govt has spent a lot of money into the economy which hasn’t been recouped as taxes so there is a lot of spending potential out there.

    Maybe a comment to bookmark? I’ll buy you a pint if I’m wrong if you’ll agree to do the same!

  • @ Paul Barker. General expert economic opinion is that the economy is in recovery mode, although clearly the success of the vacine program and the speed with which we can unlock the economy will determine the speed and strength of that recovery. There is likely to be a technical recession (negative growth for two consecutive quarters) given that we are back in lockdown, but I am not sure why you feel economic armageddon is pencilled in for the autumn.

  • Lorenzo,

    I always find it mildly amusing how some Lib Dems seem to be forced to believe that a Labour politician is somehow more correct than a fellow Lib Dem, based on nothing more substantial than a few comforting words.

    So let me give you a few facts – In Lib Dem run South Lakeland a couple on maximum Universal credit would pay No council Tax. That is 0% of their income. In Manchester which is Labour run (that’s Kier Starmer’s party) they would pay almost £4 per week, at most that is 2.8%. Unacceptable true, but that is What Kier Starmer’s Labour party has chosen to charge them.

    And you say Kier Starmer is correct!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Come back to me if you can put forward some hard, verifiable numerical facts as opposed to comforting opinions and I will consider why you choose to believe him.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Jan '21 - 11:28pm

    David

    You are correct, so with Starmer, because,

    You are right about good councils decisions

    Starmer is right if the government did not cut the council grant, those councils would give the total benefit!

  • David Evans 17th Jan '21 - 4:18pm

    Lorenzo, Many Labour councils deliberately chose not to maintain the full Council Tax benefit as a political decision and I am not aware of any of them ever even voluntarily debated going back to giving the total benefit.

    So please don’t pretend that they would do what you wish they would do.

    As I said, give me verifiable numerical facts as opposed to comforting opinions.

  • Paul Barker 18th Jan '21 - 5:36pm

    On The Economy –
    undoubtedly there will be a period of Recovery once enough of us have been vaccinated but what happens after that ?
    There are a number of factors on the down side –
    Brexit
    the number of Firms who have already gone bust
    the massive decline in demand for Retail & Office space
    the fall in the Birthrate
    the Estimated 1.3 Million people who have already left The UK as jobs dried up
    the inevitable end of the recent Housing Price Bubble

    I dont see where the Economic upsides are going to come from in the near future.

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