This article was first published in the Hackney Gazette. To read the latest edition, see here.
The Prime Minister’s announced he is axing the rail line from Birmingham to Manchester. This may seem like a long way from Hackney but it’s a symptom of a bigger problem.
Over the last 13 years we’ve seen a lack of investment in the fabric of our public services - schools, hospitals and housing alone have been neglected.
The recent furore over buildings with crumbling concrete are only the tip of the iceberg – in England there are 700,000 pupils in inadequate buildings and only around 150 of those are because of concrete problems.
Here in Hackney, we’ve been fortunate in that none of our schools were impacted by the unsafe concrete that forced other schools to shut their doors. But the homes that people live in are a monument to the lack of capital funding available. All but the newest need kitchen and bathroom renewal and some have more expensive problems with many buildings now over 100 years old.
We shouldn’t be in this position.
The unsafe concrete crisis is another one of this Government’s chickens coming home to roost. It is the symptom of long-term underinvestment and the Government’s sticking-plaster approach to major issues. Spending smarter and sooner is better value than kicking the can down the road and forcing the taxpayer to pick up an even heftier bill later.
And it’s not just bricks and mortar that’ve been a victim of delayed investment. The recent announcements on net zero show the Government is still scrambling to backfill promises it made with no clear plan for delivery. Delaying the ban on new petrol and diesel cars is undermining confidence for businesses that need to invest and in consumers who need to know that it’s worth buying an electric vehicle. It is another sign of the Government’s stop-start approach that saps business confidence, delays important decisions, and confuses everyone involved.
Making promises with no plan and cutting back on major projects when the going gets tough is no way to run the country.
Short-termism has created a creaking public realm, poverty at eye-watering levels (one-in-two children in Hackney live in poverty), and lengthy waiting lists for housing, justice and healthcare – with 25 per cent of adults in England on an NHS waiting list. And it’s not just about money. All this forces people to put their lives on hold compounding the challenges so many in Hackney face day to day.