South East voters react to Labour election victory

People celebrate at the Medway election count for Gillingham and Rainham
One of Labour's key target seats and where Keir Starmer launched his campaign, Gillingham and Rainham turned red [BBC]

Labour has won the election with a stonking majority and many Conservative strongholds across the South East have turned red or yellow.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer has promised that "the work of change begins - immediately".

But what does that mean to people living in Kent, Sussex and Surrey? What do you want to happen next?

Since the election was announced, South East voters have been getting in touch through Your Voice, Your Vote.

'Prioritise social care'

Emma MacLennan, from Tenterden, Kent, lost her son, Alex Wade, to motor-neurone disease (MND) at the age of 32.

She hopes the new government will "prioritise social care and recognise that it’s not just for the elderly".

Following his diagnosis, Ms MacLennan had difficulty finding Alex somewhere accessible to live and struggled to pay for the adjustments needed to his life, like increased heating and washing bills.

"There needs to be a social tariff, so that those who have conditions like MND are more able to afford to heat their homes," she said.

Emma MacLennan with her son Alex Wade who wears breathing apparatus
Emma MacLennan with her son Alex Wade, who was a Labour councillor before he was diagnosed with MND [Emma MacLennan]

Mike Belton, from Worthing, previously spoke to the BBC about facing the prospect of selling his mother's house to pay for her care.

Labour has said it will introduce an £86,000 lifetime cap on costs from October 2025 - a policy that the Conservatives introduced but was postponed for two years in 2022.

Mr Belton said his question for Keir Starmer was: "In your first 100 days are you going to actually stipulate what that £86,000 will include?"

His mother has Alzheimer's and in order to pay for her care, he may have to sell her two-bedroom bungalow - worth around £375,000.

He said a new government had an opportunity to "actually stand by what they said, do something about this now and be honest about it".

Mike Belton with his mother
Mike Belton said his family will have to sell his mother's two-bedroom bungalow to pay for her residential care [Handout]

VAT on private schools

Steve Knight from Guildford, has called on the new prime minister to "rethink" his plans to introduce a 20% tax on private schools, which will be used to resource state schools.

Mr Knight argued that a lot of people who send their children to private school are "ordinary, working class people" and "it is what they want to do with their money".

To impose an extra tax felt "unfair", he said.

He said some families would be forced to take their children out of private school if fees go up.

"You could have a massive influx that goes into the state system," he said, adding that a change of school could impact children's mental health.

Mr Knight said if Starmer wanted to introduce the 20% tax he should do so in two years time to give families time to prepare.

Healthcare and the NHS

Speaking to BBC Radio Sussex, Paul Samra described how a close friend spent 40 hours in the emergency room after a stroke and then stayed in A&E for nine days before being admitted to hospital for specialist care.

He said: "The noise surrounding the health service has never been greater."

Mr Samra called on Labour to "grasp the recruitment issues within the health service, put money in and get good, strong management".

Meanwhile, Kelvin Rivers-Simpson from near Sittingbourne in Kent said when he had problems with urinating, he could not book a GP appointment for around six weeks.

He called 111, who sent him to hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with prostrate and bladder cancer.

He said he had struggled to use the GP's appointment booking software.

"My grandson can probably work it, I can’t. Can’t we just go back to face-to-face and telephone calls?" Mr Rivers-Simpson said.

Declan Fallon, from Farnham, had a similar experience and described GP's IT processes as "wasteful".

He said they should put in "proper process", which would "save money, increase availability of doctors and the relationship between doctors and patients' health would increase".

'Worry about feeding people'

Christine Price from Chobham in Surrey said people in her area are struggling financially because "money goes further up north than it does down south".

She said: "It means a lot of people worry about what they put in their basket when they go shopping.

"It means a lot of people work two jobs, it means they worry about school uniforms, feeding people, putting petrol in the car."

She told BBC Surrey she would like to see more support for people who are working on minimum wage.

Speaking of Keir Starmer, she said: "He comes from Surrey and he knows what it's like to be poor.

"Hopefully we will see change in the country."

Christine Price on the beach
Christine Price lives in Surrey, where the cost of living is particularly high [Christine Price]

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