FSA chief Hector Sants quits

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has been thrown into confusion with the unexpected resignatio

The resignation has surprised many and cast doubts over the future of the FSA. The Conservative Party has announced it will disband the FSA and hand over its banking supervisory powers to the Bank of England. Many expect the Tories to win the election, and have reportedly spoken to Sants about taking on the role of deputy governor at the Bank.

The former investment banker joined the financial watchdog from Credit Suisse in 2004, becoming chief executive in July 2007. He is credited with steering the FSA through the credit crisis.

Political leaders as well as City analysts say Sants' resignation has come at a crucial time for the Authority. FSA chairman Lord Turner admitted in a memo to staff that the development was unsettling, "particularly in the run-up to the general election". There are now concerns if Lord Turner would wish to continue remaining in his position at the regulator.

The FSA said Sants had long stated his intention of holding the job for only three years, but it did not outline a succession plan. A spokeswoman said a successor would be selected by the FSA's board and the Treasury, in due course.

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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.