Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on gay rights, older voters and Osborne's tax dodge.

1. Cameron fails to say he's for "gay or straight"

Over at Left Foot Forward, Shamik Das notes that despite the Tories briefing that David Cameron would declare that he was for "gay or straight" in his speech today, the line didn't make it in.

2. Will it be older voters that finally do for Mr Brown?

PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson reports on a new poll that gives the Tories a 22 per cent lead among the over-55s.

3. Has Osborne kept open the "Geoffrey Howe dodge" on VAT?

The Tory shadow chancellor may have said that he has "no plans" to raise VAT but, says Sunder Katwala, history teaches us to be wary of Tory tax pledges.

4. What happens in wash-up -- and what will happen to the Digital Economy Bill?

Liberal Democrat Voice's Mark Pack looks at the bills that are likely to emerge intact from the "wash-up" period.

5. "The worst government in history"

The Public and Commercial Services union leader Mark Serwotka's description of the Labour government as "the worst in history" deserves a prize for "bone-headed madness", writes John Rentoul.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.