Public Services > Central Government

Labour manifesto sets sights on Universal Credit and STPs

Neil Merrett Published 16 May 2017

Party pledges “redesign” of long delayed flagship welfare reform favoured by last two governments, regional healthcare transformation strategy also queried


Commitments to “halt and review” NHS England's ongoing Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) approach to digital transformation, as well as a redesign and reform of Universal Credit (UC) are among the headline technology commitments in Labour's General Election manifesto.

Alongside broader pledges on digital infrastructure, including the appointment of a new national ambassador and a review of investigatory powers oversight, the opposition party has specifically targeted high profile reforms of healthcare and welfare systems.

Under both the former coalition and Conservative governments, NHS England has committed to setting out 44 regional STPs to try and provide clearer strategic direction and funding plans to integrate and overhaul UK health and social care services and their management.

As part of its healthcare commitments, Labour aims to halt the implementation of the STPs to undertake a review of the strategy, which the party claims is resulting in health services across England being closed.  As a counterpoint to the present government’s commitments, the party claims it intends to ask for citizen engagement to re-scope the plans “with a focus on patient need rather than available finances.”

The manifesto document pledges to create a new quality, safety and excellence regulator for health under the name, ‘NHS Excellence’.  It also commits to revising the privatisation of the NHS undertaken by multiple government including former Labour administrations.

“Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act that puts profits before patients, and make the NHS the preferred provider. We will reinstate the powers of the secretary of state for health to have overall responsibility for the NHS,” said the document.

Another major commitment by the party is an intention to revise the current approach to the Universal Credit welfare reform project, which aims to merge employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit, and housing benefit into a single payment 

After promising at the last General Election to pause and review the project and related work to implement a new IT system to oversee the single payment, Labour has once again committed to reshape the welfare reforms.

“Labour will reform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment,” said the manifesto.

Having approved the Investigatory Powers Act through parliament last year, the party said it would maintain cross-border cooperation, while seeking to balance national security concerns with individual privacy.

The legislation, which sets out the state's ability to intercept and monitor communications and information, has faced criticism in recent years from some privacy groups, MPs and peers over concerns about transparency and the broad reach of the powers provided to law enforcement and government bodies.   Labour therefore has pledged to reconsider the role of the UK courts in weighing up the surveillance powers afforded to public bodies.

“We will reintroduce effective judicial oversight over how and when they are used, when the circumstances demand that our collective security outweighs an individual freedom,” said the manifesto document.

In education, the party said it would be opposed to committing more money to what it described as “inefficient free schools”, along with Conservative attempts to reintroduce grammar schools as part of state education.  The manifesto also rules out forcing schools to become academies.

Among broader commitments, Labour in government would look to introduce a digital ambassador to work with technology companies to promote the UK as a destination for start-ups.

The party has also pledged to invest in broadband and 4G provision with an eye to better addressing the emerging digital. Commitments were also made to support rural communities and businesses with regard to service delivery.

“Rural councils deliver public services differently, and this needs to be reflected in funding allocation mechanisms. We will consider these differences in our re-evaluation of the business rate schemes,” said the manifesto.

Related articles:

Lords committee backs ‘Office of Health and Care Sustainability’ formation

Labour eyes further amendments to government broadband commitments

Initial judicial reckoning for Investigatory Powers Act expected in New Year

Universal Credit: moving “from disaster to recovery”

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