And without those, how can we have a proper debate about funding for public services?by Emily Andrews / January 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
How much did the government spend on hospitals last year? What about mental health? Schools are apparently facing a squeeze right now: how much has spending changed since 2010?
Knowing the answer to those questions is an obvious pre-requisite to any meaningful debate about public sector cuts. After seven years of spending constraint in public services, we should have easy access to them, right?
Wrong. Despite mountains of financial data pumped into the public domain, it is surprisingly difficult to work out exactly how much spending on key public services has changed since the years of austerity began.
Police cuts have become a favourite topic of the opposition—but the Home Office accounts won’t tell you how large these have been. For a consistent measure, you’ll have to go to local government financial returns. Spending on our immigration services is a similarly hot topic, but we don’t know how much it changed between 2010 and now: organisational changes make a comparison between the earlier and later years impossible.
The Department of Health accounts are not segmented in a way that permits a simple reading of the numbers. They won’t tell us, for example, how much is spent specifically on hospitals, or how much on mental health. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, told MPs that spending on mental health went up 5.7 per cent last year. When fact-checkers at Full Fact asked the Department for the provenance of these numbers, they told them that Stevens’s statement itself was the best source.