WHAT can a government do when they’ve been in power for fourteen years and everything is going wrong? The economy is flatlining, and public services are collapsing. Voters are desperate to hear solutions to these struggles, but the Conservatives don’t seem capable of looking beyond the symptoms to fix the underlying causes.

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak blamed the UK’s weak economic performance on too many people being off work, sick. Of course he’s right, but that's not because GPs are part of a “sick-note culture”, it's because 6.3-million people are stuck on waiting lists.

The solution is not to stop issuing sick-notes, it’s to fix the NHS! And when I say “fix the NHS”, I don’t mean promising expensive new hospitals, I mean investing in prevention and early-intervention (especially in mental health), and funding councils properly. The recruitment crisis in social care has a direct impact on the NHS as 19 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by people who shouldn’t be there.

NHS dentistry is in crisis too, and the government has just offered a token £50 payment for dentists to take on more new NHS patients. But as I pointed out at a Cornwall Council debate last week, the unfair NHS contract causes dentists to risk losing hundreds of pounds every time they take on a new patient. £50 won’t fix this: What they need is a new, fairer contract. 

In another Cornwall Council debate, the Conservatives tried to blame solar panels for farmers stopping farming, causing “food insecurity”. In fact just 0.3 per cent of Cornwall’s agricultural land has been used for solar panels, and in the most extreme projections, this is only set to increase by 0.9 per cent. The real issues threatening farming in Cornwall and the UK are unfair supermarket contracts; barriers to exports; sub-standard imports; and a lack of workers, but our Conservative government has actively made this situation worse on all fronts.

Even on something as basic as fixing potholes, the Conservatives have blamed the wet weather, hoping we won’t realise the true cause is years of neglect and underfunding. The climate is changing, and we need to upgrade our highway drainage to cope, but Cornwall Council doesn’t even know how much it would cost simply to unblock the drains we’ve already got!

So what are Labour’s solutions? They are weak on farming; tokenistic on dentistry, and have scrapped their £28-billion commitment to fund climate action.

Only the Liberal Democrats have serious policies to tackle the root causes of all these problems to build a fair, free and sustainable society where everyone has the support they need to live a happy, healthy and productive life.

Colin Martin, Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor for Lostwithiel and Lanreath