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Damian Hinds: He has been Education Secretary for less than a year but has managed to be rebuked four times for lying to the public.

There was a time when the Conservatives could expect to broadcast any old rubbish and expect it to be swallowed wholesale by a complicit media and a gullible public.

That time has passed.

The UK Statistics Authority has mauled Education Secretary Damian Hinds after he tried to lie to us about Tory cuts to school budgets. Here‘s the Mirror:

“Sir David Norgrove said he had “serious concerns about the Department for Education’s presentation and use of statistics”.

“Sir David highlighted four occasions that had caused the authority concern but stressed that there was no sign that ministers had learned from their mistakes.

“Ministers downplayed concerns from headteachers who marched on Parliament to protest school funding by insisting that the UK was “the third highest spender on education in the world”. Sir David [said] the original way it was presented used “a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools” to “give a more favourable picture”.

“The Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gobb wrote that, in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England “leapfrogged up the rankings last year, after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th.” Sir David said in this letter: “This is not correct. Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016.”

“[Sir David] also highlighted a recent tweet and blog from the department in which he said “figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding.” He explained that spending was “exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend”.

“In his speech to Tory party conference, Mr Hinds said that 1.9 million more kids are “studying in good or outstanding schools” under the Conservatives, prompting the Labour frontbencher to demand an investigation… Sir David said that while the claim was “accurate as far as it goes,” it had failed to “give a full picture” and should have been put in context with an overall rise in pupil numbers as well as changes to the way inspections are carried out.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner responded to the letter as follows: “This is a humiliating rebuke for Tory ministers. The Education Secretary has not even been in office for a year, yet this is the fourth time he has been caught by the government’s own watchdog making a claim that is wildly misleading or blatantly false.

“They need to come clean and stop deceiving the public in a desperate attempt to cover up their shocking record.

“They have used misleading figures on school funding to hide the fact that they have cut billions of pounds from school budgets, leaving head-teachers forced to beg for donations from parents to pay for books and stationary.

“And their claims on school standards are now in tatters. Instead of relying on discredited statistics they should use the Budget to invest in schools and genuinely improve standards.”

“The next Labour government will fairly fund all schools, as part of a National Education Service for the many, not the few.”

It does seem strange – doesn’t it? – that Mr Hinds should claim an increase in education budgets when schools are begging parents to pay for pupils’ pens, and head teachers are forced to choose between laying off staff and paying them for fewer hours in order to service a pay rise Mr Hinds announced but failed to properly fund.

On October 1, Treasury Minister Liz Truss told the BBC’s Newsnight that the Conservative government was not cutting funding to local government.

She said: “What we have done with local authorities is that they are able to raise much more money locally than they were before.

“We are not making cuts to local authorities. What we have done is give them more revenue raising powers so that decisions can be taken locally.

“It’s really important that local councillors are responsible for the decisions they make.”

She was saying the Tories have turned council funding into a postcode lottery, with services dependent on the property wealth of local residents.

And the Local Government Association spelled out the facts that Ms Truss was trying to hide:

“Main government grant funding for local services will be cut by a further £1.3 billion (36 per cent) in 2019/20 despite many councils already struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts.

“Almost half of all councils – 168 councils – will no longer receive any Revenue Support Grant [the primary source of central government funding] next year.

“Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services.

“The financial viability of some councils is now under threat and many others are increasingly unable to provide dignified care for our elderly and disabled, protect children, boost economic growth, fill potholes, build homes and much more.

Funding pressures and rising demand for services, such as adult and children’s social care and homelessness support, will leave local services in England facing a £3.9 billion funding black hole next year.

Still, it isn’t all bad.

If the Tories are lying about the amount of funding they are providing to services, they may also be lying about this:

How about it, Brandon Lewis? Let’s see your membership figures!