We all think we know the story. While the current Coalition wants to slash and burn everything in sight, the last kindly Labour Government showered our public services with investment. That’s what Labour would have you believe anyway, but the problem with that are some small things called facts.
Take the number of teachers. Over the last Parliament, official figures show that between 2005 and 2010, the number of primary school teachers in the Plymouth Moor View parliamentary seat (where I went to primary school, at Manadon Vale) fell from 380 to 370. In the other main city constituency, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, the number stayed the same, at 290.
What about the number of teachers in the city’s secondary schools? Well, in Moor View, it was down again, from 470 to 450. It was better news in Sutton and Devonport (where I went to secondary school, at Devonport High School for Boys), with the number edging up from 340 to 350.
So, Plymouth’s schoolchildren didn’t get much of a boost from all that extra borrowed money that Labour spent.
What about another important public service: the police? I declare an interest; my father is a retired police officer who served around a quarter of a century in the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, with 18 years in Plymouth.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I just got my hands on police officer numbers for Plymouth going back to 2005. Back then, there were the equivalent of 557 full-time officers in the city; by 2010, this had dropped to 550.
So, during the last Parliament, with Labour in charge, the number of teachers in Plymouth fell, and so did the number of police officers. Oh, and the country borrowed so much money to pay for it that the new Government has been left with the job of sorting out the £120 million-per-day price tag merely of paying the interest on all the debt we have built up.