What are the issues Theresa May would prefer not to talk about?

On health, education and policing the government is failing


On the Andrew Marr programme yesterday, Theresa May was found out.

Having hoped to focus almost entirely on her pitch to the country as providing ‘strong and stable leadership’, the prime minister appeared more like a rabbit in the headlights as she was unable to answer basic questions about cuts to school budgets and why some nurses are having to use food banks.

With that in mind then, away from Brexit, what are the facts, figures and evidence that the Conservatives would prefer not to dominate the election campaign?

Health Service

In January, Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross spoke of the NHS facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Little wonder when the Kings Fund predicts that the number of patients waiting for operations on the NHS will soon ‘top four million — for the first time in nearly a decade.’

In March, the Kings Fund also published a sober analysis of performance in Accident and Emergency Departments, noting that in 2016/17 the NHS in England had not met its target of  seeing, treating and then admitting or discharging 95 per cent of A&E attendees within four hours. The Kings Fund noted:

“The standard has now not been met for the past 17 months. In quarter three (October to December 2016), the proportion of patients spending longer than four hours in A&E reached its highest level for this time of year in more than a decade. Only 4 out of 139 hospitals with major type 1 A&E departments  met the standard. It is now certain that 2016/17 will be the third year running that the NHS will miss the standard across the year as a whole.”

It continued:

“From 2005 to 2010 the proportion of patients spending more than four hours in A&E hovered around two per cent — in line with the 98 per cent target introduced in 2000 and first met for a full year in 2005. However, since April 2011, when the coalition government relaxed the target to 95 per cent, the proportion of patients waiting longer than four hours has increased.”

And what of the nurses, the very backbone of the NHS? In October, Unison published the results of its annual survey of health staff across the UK. Of the 21,000 people questioned, it reported that:

  • 49 per cent said that financial hardship meant that they had to seek financial help from friends and family in the past year.
  • 11 per cent had pawned possessions to ease their cashflow problems, with 10% having turned to payday loan firms to help them cope
  • One per cent said that they had to turn to food banks in the past year.

In March, the Royal College of Nurses published figures showing that 700 nurses and health care assistants had applied to them for grants worth an average of £500, awarded to staff earning a full time salary to cope with the cost of food, travel, rent and mortgage payments. It noted that ‘the RCN Foundation awarded more than a quarter of million pounds in 2016, compared to £56,000 a decade ago.’


In December 2016 the National Audit Office published a report on the financial stability of schools in England.

In a damning assessment of the Government’s performance, he noted:

“The Department of Education’s approach to managing the risks to schools’ financial sustainability cannot be judged to be effective or providing value for money until more progress is made, according to the National Audit Office.

“The Department estimates that mainstream schools will have to find savings of £3.0 billion (8.0 per cent) by 2019-20 to counteract cumulative cost pressures, such as pay rises and higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme.

It expects that schools will need to make efficiency savings through better procurement (estimated savings of £1.3 billion) and by using their staff more efficiently (the balance of £1.7 billion). However, the Department has not clearly communicated to schools the scale and pace of the savings required. While it can show, on the basis of benchmarking analysis, that schools should be able to achieve such savings without affecting educational outcomes, it does not know whether schools will achieve them in practice.”

It continued:

“The Department’s overall schools budget is protected in real terms but does not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. In the 2015 Spending Review, the government increased the schools budget by 7.7% from £39.6 billion in 2015-16 to £42.6 billion in 2019-20. While this increase protects the total budget from forecast inflation, the Department estimates that the number of pupils will rise over the same period, by 3.9 per cent (174,000) in primary schools and by 10.3 per cent (284,000) in secondary schools.

Therefore, funding per pupil will, on average, rise only from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20, a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account.”


In March, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary used a report to warn that ‘the police service is not as well equipped to stop crime happening in the first place as it has been in the past.’ It concluded, that  victims are being let down, suspects left untracked and criminal cases shelved as concerns grow over the ‘potentially perilous’ state of policing and spoke of a ‘national crisis’ as a result of a shortage of detectives and investigators.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Zoe Billingham warned:

“We are leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of British policing in this report. Over the last few years, HMIC has said consistently that police forces were managing well in increasingly difficult circumstances.

“Nonetheless, today, I’m raising a red flag to warn forces of the consequences of what is, to all intents and purposes, an unconscious form of rationing of police services.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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