After a decade of cuts, a third of police forces struggle to respond to 999 calls in time

The spending restraint of the last ten years is becoming obvious  and Labour think it may win them May’s local elections.

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Let’s get ready to rumble! Labour are kicking off their local election campaign today with a speech by Jeremy Corbyn in Trafford, a borough that is one of the party’s biggest targets in May.

One of the things in Corbyn and Labour's favour is that the repercussions of a near decade of spending restraint are starting to be widely felt. One consequence of that is today's big story about the number of police forces (a third across the United Kingdom) which are struggling to respond to 999 calls in time. Another is the latest batch of ONS data revealing the number of people who are homeless or living in poverty.

All of which contributes to the Labour leadership's sense that they have the wind at their backs and that they are on course for big wins not only in May, but at the next election. Are they right? Well, again, who knows. My Magic 8-Ball says: ask again later, or at least nearer 2022.

But there's an alternative theory in Tory circles that the problem isn't public services or the cuts in general, but the pressure on wages in particular. Today's other big story is that the government has reached an accord with Unison, securing an above-inflation pay rise for health workers for the first time since the public sector pay freeze came into being in 2010. More than a million NHS workers will receive pay increases if the deal is approved by Unison members.

Of course, the answer as to whether it is the wear and tear on the public realm or what's going on in people's pay packets that is driving Tory woe is “a bit of both”. (Plus Brexit, of course.) The question that might just settle the next election is which of the two turns out to be more important.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.