Monday, April 20, 2009

See-Nothing Slasher Flick

Don't get your hopes up

According to Wiki, "the slasher flick is a sub-genre of horror film, typically involving a psychopathic killer stalking and killing a sequence of victims in a graphically violent manner."

Sounds great, and based on the spin, you must be looking forward to a screening this coming Wednesday."Alistair Darling's Budget to demand £15bn cut in public spending", promises the Times. "Darling '£15bn spending cuts due', agrees the BBC.

Let the slashing commence.


First, in the context of our fiscal black hole, £15bn isn't nearly enough. It's only just over 2% of public spending, whereas we need to find a cut of more like 10%.

Second, it turns out that the leaked £15bn headline number includes £5bn of cuts already announced last November - it's another classic Gordo double-count.

Third, this entire slashfest will be nothing more than a re-run of the old Marx Bros comedy "Gershon Soup" (see many previous posts gathered here). As you will recall, the National Audit Office found that the bulk of the Gershon "efficiency savings" were in fact bogus. Indeed, some actually increased spending because of their unintended and unforeseen consequences (eg an increase in hospital emergency re-admissions following a move to shorter in-patient stays).

So if you were hoping to see some serious gore on Wednesday, prepare to be disappointed. It will be see-nothing.

Other than a gigantic sea of red ink:

Of course, simply because no slashing is shown on screen, doesn't mean it won't take place out in the real world.

Now that the money's run out, out in the real world, Gershon "efficiency savings" will bite. The days of cosmetic funny money savings being well and truly over, departments ordered to make Gershon savings will somehow have to cut real actual spending.

As Tony Travers puts it:

"This [£15bn] reduction will be achieved by "efficiency savings" across Whitehall. In other words, Alistair Darling is to announce a spending cut with no service cuts, the best possible outcome for any minister.

Magic. At a stroke Darling sounds tough while not requiring any frontline services to reduce their spending...

...Having seen a growth in popularity of "stealth taxes", we are now going to witness politicians attempting to deliver "stealth service cuts".

Sounds about right.

No slashing on the screen, but plenty going on away from the cameras. And well away from those responsible.

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