Tory education and health spending plans may 'not be enough'

18 May 17

Trade unions have said the health and education spending plans revealed in the Conservative manifesto today may not be enough to cope with the rising demand for services. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the ‘extra’ money for education was in effect just more than £1bn.

This was “not enough to counteract the rising costs which are hitting schools,” Barton said.

“The schools budget would have to increase by about £2.8bn in any case because the pupil population will rise by 490,000 by 2022,” he added.

Barton said up to £7bn extra funding would be required to counter the impact of rising costs and implement the planned National Funding Formula in a way which is “truly” equitable.

The Conservatives promised an extra £4bn for schools in England by 2022 in their Forward, Together commitment today.

The University and College Union (UCU) – for higher and education staff - objected to proposals to count international students among the net migration figures. The Conservatives look to slash immigrations to the tens of thousands.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the government’s stance on reducing net migration and toughening student visa rules sends a negative message that overseas talent is not welcome in the UK.

“Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, the next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world,” she explained.

Civil service union Prospect said the Conservative proposals contained a “glaring omission” for failing to address the issue of pay and staff retention in the civil service.

Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Uncompetitive pay and long hours working is now a hallmark of working in the civil service.”

He added: “Failing to ensure that the civil service is able to recruit, retain and motivate the skilled professionals it needs is ill-founded and bordering on recklessness.”

But Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, called the manifesto a “significant step forward in putting public services on a more sustainable footing”.

He said CIPFA was “delighted that there is a commitment to abandoning the triple lock on pensions".

The Conservatives want to replace the triple lock on pensions with double lock in 2020 – meaning pensions will rise in line with the earnings that pay for them, or in line with inflation – whichever is the highest.  

Although, he warned: “Whilst many commitments in the manifesto are financially viable, a Conservative government would need to ensure simple and cost effective systems of means testing fuel payments to maximise yield." 

The Conservatives said fuel payments for pensioners would be means-tested and people would pay more towards home care visits to plug the £2.8bn social care funding gap.

The Nuffield Trust think-tank said it was unclear how much of the £8bn for health and social care by 2022/23 was ‘new’ money or when it would be available.

“We do not yet know whether promises of upgrades for buildings and IT will be backed by new spending,” added Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards.

The Conservative's manifesto comes after the release of Labour’s on Tuesday and the Liberal Democrats yesterday.

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