At first glance little links the Conservatives’ social care humiliation with LGC’s revelation that elections staff were needlessly inundated with voter registration applications from people already on the electoral roll.
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But both are symptomatic of a top-down political system characterised by a complete failure to consult, listen and share power.
In the case of electoral registration, the Cabinet Office has had ample notice of the problem of ‘duplicates’ – people on the roll re-registering, heaping burden on elections staff at their busiest time. The Association of Electoral Administrators, Electoral Commission and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers were just some of those whose warnings went unheeded. We’re left with a confused electorate and overworked elections staff for no good reason.
With regards to the Tory social care fiasco, a leader seeking to build her appeal to the electorate on the claim that only she can offer “strong and stable” government has unprecedentedly been forced to rewrite a manifesto commitment mid-campaign. This is a result of Ms May concentrating too much power around herself, being deluged with responsibility and inevitably being too busy to fully understand the issue.
To Ms May’s credit she did at least find time to appreciate the broader question: the need to ensure intergenerational fairness with regards to care costs. Those whose wealth has grown as a result of soaring property values cannot expect the younger generations to fund their care. But anyone who could not spot the unfairness that the families of dementia sufferers shoulder all the burden while the offspring of some of those who die of a heart attack or cancer are in line for a huge inheritance should frankly get out more.
It appears no other ministers were involved in devising the policy; certainly no care funding experts were. The policy was duly a disaster and a U-turn inevitable. However, it is unclear how the current policy of a care costs cap, a capital floor under which assets will not be used to pay for care and councils reclaiming care costs after the recipient’s death can be made workable.
As a piece of joined up thinking the new policy defies logic. Older people are given an incentive to leave their homes empty or under-occupied at a time of a housing shortage. Councils will be at the mercy of the property market and face both a legal and financial minefield when they seek to recoup care costs. While the principle of a death tax (contrary to the Tory rhetoric) is entirely just, a back-of-a-fag-packet death tax, which offers no costed solution for the funding of the care of an ageing population amounts to pure incompetence.
The laughable element of the fiasco was that Ms May had the audacity to blame Jeremy Corbyn for the mess, rather than appreciate the drawbacks of a small invisible Downing Street clique making policy. Under a more open and devolved system, Ms May could legitimately have found other actors on whom to heap blame.
Sadly the Conservative manifesto pays no more than lip service to devolution. Should the party win the election, under a centralised system in which the PM is distracted by Brexit, we will doubtless see more policy incompetence.