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Labour will need “to a find different way” to pay for £111m NHS dentistry reform

Preet Gill, the shadow public health minister, said that there are no plans for the party to U-turn on the pledge.

By Harry Clarke-Ezzidio

Labour has admitted it will have to “look at different ways of trying to raise the funds” to pay for its £111m plan to reform NHS dentistry, after the Conservatives committed to scrap the non-domicile tax status in this week’s Budget.

Originally a Labour policy, getting rid of the non-dom status was originally intended to generate funding for the party’s dentistry reforms. Speaking on the morning of Jeremy Hunt’s fiscal event, Preet Gill, the shadow public health minister, told New Statesman Spotlight that Labour is fully committed to reforming NHS dentistry, but that the party “will have to wait and see what comes out of the Budget… to find different ways of actually looking to pay for this”.

When announcing its plan to “rescue NHS dentistry” last October, Labour said its reforms – which include a reworking of the contract between NHS England, independent dental practices and the government – would cost £111m a year. The plans would be funded, the party outlined, “by abolishing the non-dom tax status”. 

But the scrapping of the non-dom status to pay for a 2 per cent cut to National Insurance in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget undercut many of Labour spending commitments. “[The government has] spent a lot of time criticising Labour on the non-dom tax and now they’re finally having to do a U-turn almost, and nick some of our policies,” said Gill, in reference to Labour’s previous calls to scrap the tax status.

Gill was speaking at a dental practice in her constituency of Edgbaston, Birmingham, where she was meeting with patients and practitioners to discuss the NHS dental crisis. Last month, Labour officially scrapped its £28bn green prosperity plan, the funding pledge to finance the transition to a green economy. Spending is now expected to be half. Gill tried to stem concerns that the same would happen to the party’s dentistry plans. “I’m not looking to dilute anything at the moment,” she said. Following the Budget, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told the BBC that Labour would “go through every pound” of the government’s spending plans and assess how it will fund its future spending commitments.

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“The government crashed the economy,” said Gill, “so we have to review everything that we have stated that we will offer and look at how we will pay for it.”

Gill said that there would be no U-turn from Labour on the policy, and that money would be found to finance it. “We’ve got to really work hard with our shadow chancellor [Rachel Reeves] to find different ways of being able to pay for this because this is so important to the British public,” she said.

Read more of Spotlight’s coverage on the dentistry crisis in the full feature on this topic later this month.

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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