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No pain, no gain

with 2 comments

The “cuts” argument moves into more comfortable areas.

I’m a little dismayed today, some ministers are now openly admitting that spending reductions are on the way, the comprehensive spending reviews has not been shelved just pushed back a bit, but there is still an argument going on in Brown’s cabinet with the likes of Lord High Everything Mandelson refusing to be seen dead in the sane room as ex Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward, but at least the issue of cuts is on the agenda.

Trouble is, both major parties are now looking for areas where spending reductions (not just smaller increases) will cause the least electoral pain, and both seem determined to protect the health and education budgets, I’m not convinced that this is either healthy or learned. As prepares the way to trim off all of the fat cooking on ID Cards, police, and defence, the Tories are planning an assault on quangos, nothing wrong in that, many of them are wasteful, but in the bigger scheme of things they won’t generate the type of savings that are going to delay our impending bankruptcy or even help service the debt charges that Gordon Brown has generated. Yes, it may even be popular with the voters too, but being popular isn’t necessarily the right thing to do when faced with an economic crisis, and both Brown and Cameron seem determined to find the patch ground in the middle of the road which enjoys the most support, however, as I’ve said many times before, the middle of the road is the most dangerous place to stand in politics.

The Conservatives ought to be prepared to look at every departmental budget including the nation’s biggest cash cows, the NHS and education, there should be nowhere for ministers or civil servants to hide when inevitable savings need to be secured. Since Blair brought NuLabour to Downing Street back in 1997, public spending on the NHS has tripled, one needs to ask if we have managed to improve patient services three times over in that period, or improved “customer satisfaction” by three times to match the spending.

Much the same can be said of education, despite throwing mountainous amounts of cash at schools, colleges, and universities, future employers and international institutions appear to be agreed that academic standards have hardly improved in twelve years, despite creating thousands of additional university places. Examination systems and student evaluations seem in permanent disarray and subject to continual inspection and criticism.

What has “improved” in both of these areas of public spending is the growth in the numbers employed and the explosion of functionaries and administrators as well as costly computerised databases which are now proposed to be handed over to companies such as Microsoft or Google, (cue more privacy disasters).

The Conservatives ought to be praised for showing some honesty for their candour in being able to talk about “cuts” where Labour dares not, but their credibility would be much improved if the largest sectors of public spending were brought into the equation, By committing to “protect” health and education both the Tories and Labour will condemn other public services to disproportional budgetary constraints as they perversely try to achieve a balance between financial rectitude and voter popularity, this is a trick which the most accomplished magician would find difficult to pull off.

If we are to to begin the process of managing the debt levels inherited by Brown’s reckless borrowing and bring down the costs of servicing those debts, then any responsible political party ought to be prepared to thoroughly inspect every government department and propose trimming away every area of fat without cutting into the flesh.

There is no real added value in looking for the easy or comfortable options, the commitment to protecting two major departments must be dropped, there will be no gain achieved without experiencing some pain, tough decisions are there to be made and we will all lose out if our politicians shy away from these responsibilities.

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Written by curly

July 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is from 2008 –

    That ‘Social Protection’ slice at £169bn looks very inviting.

    Health – £111bn
    Education – £82bn
    Personal social services – £27bn

    So ‘social agenda’ content is £196bn, ie 32% of all spending.

    “£10,100 spent for every man, woman and child in the UK” – staggering.


    July 6, 2009 at 1:17 pm

  2. Cameron wants to bin the quango? Next he’ll be suggesting he’ll bin that other Tory relic PFI.


    July 6, 2009 at 8:37 pm

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