10 public services we desperately need in a heatwave

18 July 2022

In the last ten years, the government has cut our public services to the bone, making life harder for almost everyone. Despite the rhetoric of ‘levelling up’ those cuts continued under Boris Johnson. In the Conservative leaders debate on Friday, all of the candidates gave utterly inadequate answers to the question of whether tax cuts would come at the expense of public services. 

This extreme weather this week shows us exactly how short-sighted this policy of austerity is. 

Check out the top 10 public services we really need right now and in the future.

  1. Fire service

Firefighters are on the frontline against wildfires and floods, and the climate crisis increases the risk of both. Yet since 2010, we’ve lost 11,680 firefighters because the government has cut funding for our fire service. One in five firefighter roles which existed in 2010 no longer exist. We need more firefighters, not fewer, as the climate heats up.

  1. NHS

In England there are on average 2000 heat related deaths every year. As the weather gets hotter, there’s a health risk for all of us and we need to know we can rely on the NHS in an emergency. However, this government has chosen to underfund the NHS as well as siphoning money to the private sector - as a result, ambulances, hospitals and GP surgeries are under huge pressure. Since 2010, 125 A&Es have closed. Our NHS needs to be funded properly, and reinstated as a fully public service.

  1. Care 

Older people are particularly at risk in the heat, so we need care workers who have time to check up on them. Currently care work is undervalued and care workers are underpaid. This is partly because most care homes are private and most care work is outsourced, so profit comes first. We need to value care work and make sure it works for people not profit.

  1. Water

When the weather gets hot, many people like to jump in the nearest cool stretch of water. Unfortunately, in England the privatised water companies pour raw sewage into our rivers and seas, killing fish, making children ill and making us all think twice about having a dip. Scottish Water which is publicly owned doesn’t have shareholders so it’s been able to invest £72 more per household per year in infrastructure to tackle leaks and keep rivers and seas clean.

  1. Swimming pools

If you don’t have a river or coastline nearby, you might visit your nearest swimming pool. However, many pools were under threat of being closed even before the pandemic, and they’re now struggling with soaring energy prices. We need swimming pools in every neighbourhood as our climate heats up.

  1. Parks

Parks have suffered hugely from cuts in the last ten years. Cool parks and green spaces are vital in this weather - we need more of them. 

  1. Public transport

Hot weather can cause chaos on our railway as it can be up to 20 degrees hotter than the air temperature. This means technical support is vital yet despite talk of ‘Great British Railways’, the government is forcing cuts of 34% on rail maintenance staff (one of the key reasons why the RMT has been calling strikes). Having enough rail workers means passengers can get a better service.

  1. Environment and infrastructure agencies

The organisations that look after our natural environment - like the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission - are needed now more than ever, whether that’s for building flood defences, stopping pollution or planting trees. Again though, budgets have been drastically cut. As this country is not prepared for hot weather, we probably need a new department that is tasked with upgrading our houses and buildings to keep them cooler in the heat. We need smart, collective solutions not just air conditioning as an individual solution.

  1. Energy

The quicker we can switch to 100% renewable energy, the more we can do to limit climate crisis and prepare solutions for the reality of a hotter world. Right now, energy works for a handful of shareholders - here are some ideas for changing that so it can work for people not profit.

  1. And of course, the Met Office! 

Publicly owned since it began in 1854, the Met Office pioneered the science of meteorology and is still innovating today. It’s the most accurate forecaster in the world. Whether we’ve got traditional rain or scary new heatwaves, we rely on this organisation to predict our hard-to-predict weather.

Of course, these public services work together and interact with each other. The Met Office shares NHS advice. The NHS and social care services save millions when the UK has plenty of swimming pools. High quality public transport could free up car parking space for planting trees.

What have we forgotten? Give your comments below.

There are so many ways government can support public services to be there for us - now and in the future - when the weather gets hot.

It’s time to plan for the future - and demand well funded public services, working for people not profit.

Share this article if you want politicians to pay attention to the red warning.


 

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