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Archbishop of York protests against cuts to BBC World Service

Dr. John Sentamu has voiced concern that cuts will damage this valuable service.

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu has spoken up in defence of the BBC World Service, calling it a "gold standard for international affairs coverage overseas".

On Wednesday, Sentamu told the House of Lords that cuts to the World Service risk leading to a "significant reduction" in coverage of global events.

"Just look at the way the World Service has been covering the protests in Egypt, or the way it reports natural disasters or war," he said.

"There is no one else providing the same level of insight for a global audience."

"[The World Service] has a unique ability to reach into a variety of situations overseas - often where democratic values and basic human rights are not being upheld," Sentamu said.

After a 16 per cent cut in funding from the government, the BBC is having to save £46m from its annual World Service budget of £253m.

More than 25 per cent of World Service staff are set to lose their jobs.

Five language services are to be axed and short-wave broadcasts will be curtailed.

According to Broadcast magazine, the BBC needs to find an extra £20m to pay for World Service restructuring and redundancy costs.

"My concern is that these cuts will not only mean redundancies for those living at home, but a significant reduction in service for those living overseas. We have a responsibility to reach out to others and ensure that the message of hope the BBC World Service can bring rings out as widely as possible."

The archbishop said he would raise his concerns with government ministers. "With the closure of language services in Azeri, Mandarin for China, Russian, Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese and Ukrainian, I wonder if we can really call it the 'World Service' any more," said Sentamu.

Six assistant editors at the World Service have written to Ariel, the BBC's in-house magazine, expressing their "dismay" at the way the institution had been "shabbily treated".

BBC director general Mark Thompson has replied in Ariel, defending the World Service cuts, saying that they were "deeply regrettable".

"We would like to express our dismay at the savage cuts to the World Service and the closure or part closure of important language services which appear to have been sacrificed for political expediency and we find it particularly ironic that you should call the process of cuts in the BBC 'Delivering Quality First'," wrote Thompson.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.