Blaise Tapp: When the austerity cuts really start to hit

REALITY CHECK: Police budgets have shrunk 22 per cent in five years.REALITY CHECK: Police budgets have shrunk 22 per cent in five years.
REALITY CHECK: Police budgets have shrunk 22 per cent in five years.
The phrase '˜you get what you pay for' is one of those gems of the English language which is passed down from each generation to the next.

It is advice issued to anybody who has ever bought anything in a pub or from a pound shop and is usually followed by a knowing wink or tap on the side of that particular sage’s nose.

It is as obvious as being told not to eat yellow snow. We have long accepted that sometimes you have to dig deep into your pockets if you want real value for money, although, as far as the British taxpayer is concerned, this age old maxim has recently been stretched to the limits of all credibility.

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For a nation used to its public services being the envy of the rest of the world, we are enduring something of a reality check. It has been a bad week or so for the public sector after it was revealed that police budgets have shrunk an incredible 22 per cent in just five years with 32,000 staff leaving the 43 forces in England and Wales. This coincided with a report from the police watchdog that some forces are “downgrading” 999 calls in a bid to meet targets, which, it is argued, is putting some victims of crime at risk.

This came after the rumpus caused by a chief constable who repeated his long-held view that some paedophiles, the ones deemed not to be a ‘physical’ risk to children, should not be prosecuted.

Simon Bailey is experienced enough to know that he would come under fire for this point of view, one that he has established during a lengthy career dealing with perverts.

He countered arguments that he was going soft on sex offenders by arguing that in this country we launch more prosecutions against such offenders than anywhere else. The question many have asked is whether he would be making such a suggestion if there wasn’t quite so much pressure on budgets. At the same time the chief inspector of hospitals described the NHS as “standing on a burning platform” and that the service provided to patients is not good enough. In many of our hospitals bed occupancy regularly rises above recommended levels while the report found that we wait too long from some operations.We knew this already but the intentionally stark language used by the inspector still made everybody sit up and take notice. Then we have the funding crisis which is hampering schools and local education authorities. Despite the fact that ministers say they have never pumped so much cash into schools, some headteachers are now writing to parents to ask them to contribute to covering their coffers. The going rate is roughly £3 a day or £600 when spread out across a school year. If you have two more kids, the average household is really going to feel it.

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It has taken a long time in coming but seven years of austerity cuts are now hitting us all, which is especially hard to take when our council tax bills will increase again next month. While none of us object to paying for good services, it does feel like we are being short changed.

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