For any government today one of the big challenges is how to gain control of the health, social services and education budgets.
The NHS continues to require large sums of money to ensure it is fit for purpose.
By and large Birmingham health services are good, led by the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust which runs the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital. But overall there are massive challenges.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has been suggesting that integration of health and care provisions may be one approach to future reform. Social services eats billions and billions of pounds despite this government’s attempts get to grips with it.
And then we have education and skills. How can we fix both the deficit and the skills base?
As Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves pointed out, it is only by getting more people into work and creating better paid and more secure jobs that we will tackle rising benefits bills and ensure the system is sustainable.
Whoever wins the General Election, will have to make tough choices on spending.
But things can be done without breaking the bank. The skills gap, with Birmingham particularly hard hit, is holding individuals and our economy back. There are shocking levels of English and maths among many jobseekers, trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits. Which is why the next Labour government would introduce a new requirement for jobseekers to take training if they did not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their job search, or lose their benefits.
In return there would be a jobs guarantee scheme for young unemployed people – 18-24-year-olds out of work for a year will be offered a taxpayer-funded job for six months with compulsory training input from the employer.
Technology too must be harnessed better.
Labour has promised to maintain science levels but the cost base of universities will have to be reduced, especially if the rumours are true and Labour cuts student fees to £6,000 a year.
Better use of technology, as is happening abroad, can help address this. It is possible to do more for less if we are clever.
* Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is a Labour peer and founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group