The real Border Agency scandal is not whether Theresa May or Brodie Clark authorised the relaxation of checks on millions of visitors over the summer, but rather that job cuts and expenditure squeezes are cutting swathes through the immigration rules. In the last fortnight it has been disclosed (and one wonders how much else has not yet been uncovered) that the Agency lost track of 124,000 asylum seekers and migrants – an eighth of a million – and that the number of these ‘lost’ cases has tripled in just 6 months. Once again, like 5 years ago, the Home Office is not fit for purpose. Nevertheless the Government is still going ahead with 5,000 job cuts at the Agency even though it is plain that it simply can’t cope with the scale of illegal immigration. But this is only one of a growing number of examples where the standards of public service are remorselessly declining under the wright of the cuts.
In the NHS the toll of cuts is seeping through everywhere. The evidence is accumulating that patients with diabetes and leg ulcers are now afforded less care by district nurses, new mothers receive fewer visits from health visitors, support for problem drinkers is being reduced, birth centres are closing, patients are being denied pain-relieving drugs, advice to parents on how to prevent cot deaths has been scrapped, families are no longer an NHS advice book on bringing up their baby, specialists delivering psychological therapies are under threat, and more and more hospitals are being forced to cut their nurses and midwives to make ends meet.
Plans to reform no-win no-fee agreements will prevent ordinary families from obtaining justice or even defending themselves in court. Repeated fee-squeezing has already pushed some legal aid providers out of business – precisely those on whom the most vulnerable victims mainly rely.
No less than 34,000 police, half of them front-line officers and half of them support staff, are being cut – a level of redundancy which must make an increase in crime inevitable. HMRC staff are being cut by a third which, given they recover tax from 30-180 times their salary, is absurdly counter-productive and can only increase tax evasion particularly by the big corporations and the super-rich. The Government’s editing down more than a thousand pages of planning legislation to just 52 will scrap target for social housing, already at the lowest ebb for a century, whilst at the same time opening up the green belt to greedy developers. Report after report is now pinpointing repeated examples of how the quality and range of social care for the elderly and disabled is deteriorating , with 20 hospitals recently found to be breaking the law by offering unsafe or inappropriate care.
The price of the cuts, wherever one looks, is Britain in slow-motion breakdown.