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- Prime Minister Theresa May’s government slips out trove of embarrassing and inconvenient reports and statistics as MPs leave Westminster. Scale of police and army cuts revealed. School exclusions soar. Thousands of soldiers referred for help for drinking problems.
LONDON – A rather cynical tradition has developed in recent years in which, in the final days and hours before MPs leave Parliament for their summer break, the government releases a deluge of embarrassing reports, statistics, and statements in an apparently deliberate attempt to bury them.
This year was no different. Here are some of the worst stories Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has tried to bury this week.
Crime is up
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Recorded crime in England and Wales is at a 10-year high, according to figures slipped out by the Home Office on Thursday. Five million crimes were recorded in 2016-2017, a million more than in 2013-2014 and the highest level since 2006-2007. It was also the largest annual increase in crime rates for a decade.
Police numbers are down
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The number of police officers in England and Wales has also plummeted to its lowest level since 1985 and now stands at just 123,000. The Police Federation on Thursday blamed the decline on funding cuts, saying the police service was “on its knees.”
Alcohol abuse is endemic in the army
Among the reports buried Thursday afternoon was a one-off study into alcohol problems in the army. The report reveals that six in 10 soldiers have been warned they risk harm because of how much alcohol they consume. Thousands of the heaviest drinkers in the army (about 2% of those surveyed) were referred for medical attention because of their high levels of drinking.
Number of patients forced into mixed sex wards has surged
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NHS trusts are failing to meet official guidelines prohibiting mixed sex wards. The latest figures, published Thursday, reveal that there were 687 breaches of the guidelines last month alone, up from 412 incidents at the same time last year. Overall the number of patients forced to endure mixed wards has more than trebled over recent years.
Rail-electrification plans have been scrapped
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The government’s plans to electrify large parts of the rail network have been ditched. Routes between Cardiff and Swansea, and Kettering, Nottingham, and Sheffield, and between Windermere and Oxenholme are affected. Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, accused the government of “taking people for a ride.”
School exclusions are up
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After years in which the number of children being excluded from schools declined, the latest figures that slipped out Thursday reveal that the number is starting to rise again. The figures reveal that the number of fixed-period exclusions rose by 12% last year, with permanent exclusions up 15% year-on-year.
The British army has shrunk
Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised to restore cuts to the size of Britain’s armed forces seen under Labour. “We will never be able to really improve the welfare of our forces unless we also look at expanding our Army,” he said when he became leader, adding that it was his “priority” to restore “those cuts to the Army.” In fact, as figures slipped out Thursday reveal, both Cameron and his successor, May, continued to cut the size of the army.
“It is deeply concerning that the size of the Army has fallen yet again on this Government’s watch,” Nia Griffith, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, said on Thursday.
“Since Michael Fallon became Defence Secretary in 2014, the number of fully trained soldiers has fallen by over 7,000. That trend is simply not sustainable and it has very real consequences for the UK’s defence capabilities.”