Raise taxes to help nationalise care of elderly, Leonard urges

The Times, Hamish Macdonell


Labour’s leader in Scotland has called for the provision of elderly care in Scotland to be nationalised with higher taxes used to pay for free cover for all.
Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, claimed that the private sector had failed to provide proper elderly care in Scotland and it was now time to look at more radical solutions.

He wants to see local authorities take over private care homes and free elderly care for everyone — paid for by higher taxes on workers.
Mr Leonard wants to explore the possibility of a “wealth tax”, which would involve a one-off levy on those who own property or shares, to foot the multibillion-pound bill that would be necessary if the state covered care costs.

The Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish executive introduced “free care for the elderly” in 2002, which abolished care charges for people in their own homes and introduced free nursing care for people in residential homes.

What it did not do was abolish all residential home charges. Elderly people and their families still have to pay substantial amounts for accommodation.
Mr Leonard has now revealed he wants to move his party towards a completely state-funded system, free for all. Speaking on BBC Scotland, he said the current system, with private sector companies providing much of the care in Scotland, was broken.

“We don’t think that system, dependent on commercial values or even charitable values, is the right way forward. We think the time has come for a more radical approach to the provision of care for our elderly,” he said.

Mr Leonard added that the principles behind the NHS — free at the point of delivery and paid for by taxation — should be extended to social care.

“We need to do what that 1945 generation did which is to think big and act radical,” he said.

Asked whether this meant elderly care being provided by local authorities, he replied: “Absolutely, I don’t think we can simply leave it to commercial principles, the market or indeed the third sector to provide it.

“The principle of the NHS, which was based on free provision based on general taxation, is one I think we need to examine in care for the elderly and that means looking at levels of taxation in society.”

Mr Leonard has made it clear in the past he wants to see income tax rates rise in Scotland but he also wants to introduce a tax on those with accumulated assets in the form of property or stakes in companies.

“There is now an opportunity for us to look at whether the balance of taxation is right between income and wealth,” he said.

Mr Leonard added: “As a Labour Party, we want to see a more progressive form of taxation, fairer taxation, and we do think the time has come to think a bit more longer term and think about the increasing demands there will be on the National Health Service and also on local authorities’ care.”

Annie Wells, for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The only solution Labour ever offer, regardless of the topic, is a massive tax hike for anyone who has a job. It’s unimaginative and counter-productive. No one disputes there are problems in social care, and the ageing population poses great challenges, but simply whacking up tax for hardworking individuals is not the answer.”