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Friday, 31 March 2017

The latest British news

It is just seven-thirty [am] and the bad news has piled up.

The British military is warning that inadequate provision means that the already depleted-armed forces are to be further hollowed-out: including a major reduction of the number and effectiveness of the Royal Marines.

Care homes are increasing the 'tax' they impose on patients who have sufficient income to pay high fees, so that they can subsidise the larger number of people paid-for by local authorities. So those who have been provident [and, perhaps, lucky] pay through the nose for identical services to people funded by the state.

The NHS is going to make up a small proportion of the shortfall in Accident and Emergency departments and in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer by cutting funding [= lengthening waiting lists] for 'non-urgent' treatments, including joint replacements which relieve people from years of agony. A couple of days ago the NHS announced cuts in what the sick can get on free prescription; and calls are getting louder for extra taxes to fund the Health Service: regardless of the fact that National Insurance has been levied for that purpose [but appropriated elsewhere] since 1947.

And the National Living Wage is being increased. This means that employers must pay more per hour for labour on the statutory minimum pay; and it is expected that many firms will reduce the number of hours for which they employ people so that the total wages bill stays the same [or may even be reduced]; with extra burdens falling on the remaining workforce. It is noted that this increase in wage costs, combined with announced increases in business rates, will drive a significant number of businesses into bankruptcy.

Ministers are insisting that state funding of many activities is being increased: they know the increases are insignificant. They won't have the stamina to do this indefinitely; especially as the nation becomes bored and irritated in equal measure as the Brexit negotiations drag on towards unsatisfactory conclusions. At least, they chose to stand for parliament and accepted the Prime Minister's job offer: they deserve all that they will get!

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