Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1158/33409
Behind the rural idyll - the problems of everyday life
Socialist Party members in Devon
Few would disagree that Devon is a slice of heaven. A haven for tourists and retirees who flock here to enjoy the exquisite landscape. But popularity comes at a cost:
Health and social care
In the gorgeous town of Dartmouth we have lost all semblance of our once public services. Our bus services have been cut dramatically, our banks are gone, our police station in town is gone, our local recycling and waste tip was also closed. Then came the killer blow - we lost our 120-year-old hospital and all the NHS services within it, and our paramedics too.
Our nearest main hospital takes approximately three hours each way by public transport, because there is a river to cross or drive around. Our nearest minor injuries unit is even further away. It takes two buses and a ferry to get there, and none link up (despite the bus company's claim).
It has only taken a few short years for things to spiral downwards in the residents' mindset; our older residents no longer call for, nor ask for assistance. They have seen their friends and loved ones shipped out of town never to return. In echoes of Victorian England, they now die at home alone, without care or comfort, yards away from our empty hospital building.
All the while the capitalist vultures are circling the prime riverside plot and building, to satisfy their insatiable greed for profit, despite it being gifted to our community and a live charge remaining via the deeds of covenant.
I have friends who are carers and have seen them cry in despair at the hopelessness of accessing any form of public service for their very sick or disabled loved ones. For them it is a nightmare, not just because of the hospital closure, but also the continuing cuts to community services such as respite, recovery and care in the home. Some of our residents are unable to walk far so have to pay £45 each way for taxis out of meagre pensions, it's so unfair. If it costs £90 to access NHS services, it's not free!
With only eight buses a day, the chances of lining up travel times and appointments are rare. It also means a whole day traveling around the county. There is no public transport out of town after 7pm, nor all day Sunday (apart from one single midday bus), the ferries close at 10.45pm until 6am and we are miles away from healthcare provision.
If you have a late afternoon hospital appointment there is real anxiety about missing the last bus and getting home at all. We can't get out of town on weekends or evenings for family or social events. It's so restrictive; we're completely abandoned.
We have spent nightmare hours in sun, wind and rain waiting for a bus that didn't come, or is late, only to get back from a day being shuttled around the South West, to achieve a distance of 20 miles in seven to nine hours.
Buses in and out of Newton Abbot, mainly those smaller ones which go to the more rural villages outside, seem to be the ones which are getting left out when Stagecoach has driver shortages. It prioritises the bigger (probably more profitable) routes which leaves people stranded, unable to shop in town.
Some of these routes are ones which only have a handful of services each day anyway, so when one does not arrive at all it could be two to three hours before another is due. This is expected to get worse thanks to Stagecoach's low pay, resulting in drivers leaving.
Property prices have long been artificially inflated by cash buyers. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, this situation has escalated to crisis point, creating a housing market in which locals can no longer compete.
Rentals are now both rare and exorbitant, pushing rural people into poverty and homelessness. Our young people are leaving.
The wealthy have been frenziedly buying second homes in the countryside. A 'safe place' to escape to. This behaviour is aided and abetted by our government through financial subsidies, grants, and stamp duty exemption. It is time for councils and government to put an end to the erosion of rural economies, delivering instead policies for sustainable living. It is time to create an economy in which everybody can access the basic human right of a roof over their head.
The Socialist Party calls for:
- A massive building programme of council-owned housing, on an environmentally sustainable basis, to provide good quality homes with low rents as part of a democratically controlled housing plan for our communities
- Reversal of all NHS privatisation and nationalisation of the private health care sector and care homes - integrate them into the NHS
- A fully funded socialist NHS and care system free at the point of use - democratically run by elected and accountable committees including service workers and users
- Bring bus services under public ownership - services to be run in the interest of workers and local communities, not for profit, as part of an integrated environmentally sustainable transport system
- A democratic socialist planned economy to end rural isolation, poverty and inequality
In The Socialist 1 December 2021: