It is both a sobering thought and a salutary warning that on the day we were setting up our first blog a tower block in London went up in flames, costing many lives and injuring others.
We are Deborah Harrington and Jessica Ormerod, former policy advisors to the National Health Action Party. The NHA is focussed on the NHS, with an expanded policy range on the social determinants of health. That is to say policy with a broad public service remit – education, housing and more – which create the bedrock of a healthy society.
From that background we have developed our interests in the inter-connectedness of many public service issues. The patterns of dis-investment and privatisation of both property and service delivery appear across all areas. As Public Matters we are continuing to research and inform on the consequences of that process; to highlight the similarities in different service areas and to add our voice to raising the alarm on the loss of the public voice and public influence in matters of public service.
We are starting as a blog and our initial main focus will remain the NHS but we are expanding our research capabilities to become information providers for decision makers across the public sector. It is a high ambition, but one thing we have learned is that there are too few organisations of any kind which champion the ethos and values of public service. It is a serious loss to the national debate.
This was simply to be our blog introducing ourselves, but Grenfell Towers highlights our objective with a terrible clarity.
- Grenfell Towers is not an anomaly, not an accident. There are terrible events happening across the public sector which should not be happening and which are the result of the withdrawal of political support for public service and regulation.
- Health and safety officers as well as residents had warned Kensington & Chelsea, their local authority, of the serious fire risks in the building. They had been ignored.
- A series of housing ministers failed to deal with a report of fire safety in tower blocks on their desks since 2013.
- Campaigners in Redditch warned that the loss of pediatric services in their local hospital would be a risk to life and earlier this year a child died who should not have died.
- 30,000 deaths have been linked to cuts in health and social care.
- Two years ago a man died from setting fire to himself after an error in his benefits calculation led him to despair.
The essential public services which should have offered support in all these cases and many more have been disabled. The very fact that lives depend on them illustrates that they are indeed essential, not optional.
We don’t believe any lives should be lost because public sevices are no longer sufficient for their purpose. We are Public Matters because we believe above all that the public matter.
Please follow us on our blog and on Twitter @ThePublicMatter.