This England


Sergeant Peter Randall, who has died aged 76, was awarded the George Medal for rescuing a soldier from a blazing vehicle in Kenya in 1954. As Randall, ablaze himself, pulled the soldier out of the cab, he remembered a dog was chained up inside. Tearing off his clothes, he re-entered the burning truck to save the animal. Then, with his skin hanging off his body, he staggered 500 yards to seek help. The next month he was told the RSPCA was presenting him with the Margaret Wheatley Cross. He was a devoted dog man for the rest of his life.

Daily Telegraph (T A Dyer)

Blooming disgrace

In April, Torbay Council apologised after a large strip of rare wildflower meadow in the grounds of St Andrews Church was destroyed by its gardeners. It assured the volunteers, including local children who had raised £300 to plant the meadow, that it would not happen again. This week council gardeners returned to finish the job. The meadow was part of Torbay's entry for a Britain in Bloom award.

Times (David Harling)

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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.