Corbyn: 'People are dying' as a result of austerity cuts

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at Warwick University. Credit: PA

People are "dying" as a result of the government's austerity cuts, Jeremy Corbyn has claimed, as he urged voters to use two upcoming by-elections to "send a message" to the prime minister.

Speaking at his party's local government conference in Warwick, the Labour leader accused ministers of "disgraceful neglect" saying it had led to an "emergency" in local services, including social care.

"We have a state of emergency in our social care system and the worst crisis in the history of our NHS," he said, adding the situation in social care was an "absolute scandal that leaves 1.2 million elderly people without the care they need".

Mr Corbyn's speech to Labour councillors comes ahead of by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, triggered as a result of resignations from sitting Labour MPs Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt respectively.

Mr Corbyn believes the polls will give voters a chance to say they have had enough of cutbacks to health and social care.

In his speech the Labour leader highlighted a report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, which he claimed said the crisis "was linked to 30,000 excess deaths in 2015", adding: "People are dying because of the choices made by this government."

The government criticised the study as "discredited research" that "blamed cuts that aren't happening".

The Labour leader arrives at the conference. Credit: PA

In his speech, Mr Corbyn said: "Councils are at breaking point on social care. Decent people deserve decent treatment. Our social care system has been privatised, outsourced and cut. It has dehumanised our parents, grandparents and neighbours."

He accused Mrs May of leading "a government that gives billions away in tax breaks to big business and the richest and pays for it by cutting the services to the most vulnerable".

"It is this callousness, even brutality that has put local services in a state of emergency," he said.

A government spokesperson disputed the claims, saying: "We are supporting councils with up to £7.6 billion of dedicated funding for social care over the course of this parliament, a significant investment to help care for our ageing population."

With Labour trailing in the polls, the Conservatives are hoping to pull off victory in Copeland. That would be a rare by-election gain for a governing party.

The Cumbrian constituency is heavily reliant economically on the Sellafield nuclear processing facility and Mr Corbyn's past opposition to nuclear power is viewed with suspicion by many voters.

Theresa May (left) is seen with Trudy Harrison, the Conservative's candidate for the Copeland by-election Credit: PA

Mr Corbyn claimed that health cuts in Copeland were putting the lives of mothers and babies at risk.

"In Copeland, the local council is expected to see a cut of 49% to its funding by 2020. In fact it's one of the ten hardest hit councils in the country," he said.

"West Cumberland Hospital is facing downgrading of maternity services which midwives believe will lead to mothers and babies dying.

"No wonder that when Theresa May visited this week, she refused to answer questions about cuts to maternity services."

In Stoke - which voted strongly for Brexit in last year's referendum - the main challenge to Labour is expected to come from Ukip, with the party's leader Paul Nuttall standing.

Mr Corbyn, who is due to campaign in Stoke later, said Labour would "defeat Ukip's politics of hate" with the "politics of hope and community".

"Hatred will not save children's centres. It won't build homes. It won't create jobs and it won't fund health and social care. It won't bring our people dignity or bring our communities together," he said.