Acrimony sours elderly care debate

Consensus elusive for elderly care reforms
Consensus elusive for elderly care reforms

By Alex Stevenson

Prospects for cross-party talks on reforming elderly care in England and Wales diminished over the weekend as the media glare hardened negotiating positions.

Health secretary Andy Burnham and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat shadows Andrew Lansley and Norman Lamb appeared together on BBC1's The Politics Show to discuss the state of their proposals.

Mr Lansley had torpedoed previous ongoing talks by attacking 'Gordon Brown's death tax', the £20,000 compulsory inheritance tax levy at the top end of the government's proposals in their recent green paper.

"We've heard a lot of big statements from Andrew and David Cameron about new politics," Mr Burnham said yesterday. "This doesn't feel very much alike new politics to me."

On Tuesday he denied the government were considering the £20,000 compulsory charge but called for fresh talks in which all proposals would be considered.

"We're looking at the options," he added. "The choice comes down to a voluntary system... or a comprehensive compulsory system where we cover the cost of care."

Mr Lansley rejected further talks, however, as he refused to accept the principle of a compulsory insurance levy. He also disagrees with the government over whether disability benefits should be cut to pay for the national care service backed by the prime minister.

"Why do we have a debate when Andrew wants us to rule out options before we get to the table?" the health secretary asked.

"I don't think that's an honest debate about the future of care in this country."

Mr Lamb commented: "I think we should all be working together. We should debate what the options are."


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