Saturday, September 12, 2009

So What Would They Cut?

They cannot be serious

The Labour movement is founded on the belief that, whatever the fiscal weather, government spending more of your money is always A Good Thing.

We can see that very clearly in some of Labour's knee-jerk responses to yesterday's TPA/IOD paper on cutting public expenditure.

Take top Labour journo Kevin Maguire. He says he'd only support two of the 34 proposed cuts - "abolishing ID cards and grounding [the] Eurofighter".

Fine. But those two account for just £0.8bn of the total £50bn proposed. So how would he make up the other £49.2bn? What else would he cut?

Or would he increase our taxes to fill the gap?

Needless to say, he doesn't tell us. Instead, pausing only to dismiss the TPA as foam flecked and the IOD as frothing (this is top flight journalism), he links through to Straw Jnr's blog Left Foot Forward, where Maguire reckons we can find a "useful deconstruction of the cuts".

So what does Mr Straw have to say?

It turns out his useful deconstruction only extends to five out of the 34 proposals, so he may have overlooked the other 29. No matter, he's probably got a lot of more important things on his mind, and here's what he says on the five he does deconstruct:
  • Two year public sector pay freeze, saving £12.4bn pa - Straw says "the cut would impact the quarter of public sector levels working in poverty wages". We say OK, so the public sector is a rubbish employer... but how does that deconstruct the TPA's proposal exactly? Maybe Straw thinks the TPA/IOD should have recommended moving more public employees into the private sector. He also quotes an old pre-crash IFS report pointing out that a public sector pay squeeze "is likely to lead to recruitment and retention difficulties and/or reductions in the quality of staff willing to work in the public sector". We say hmm... wonder what the IFS think about that in our jobless joyless post-crash world.
  • Cut non-frontline staff in schools and hospitals by 10%, saving £2.2bn pa - Straw says "these figures fail to take into account any of the efficiency savings already announced by the Government". We say he's talking about the utterly discredited Gershon "efficiency" programme - the one that actually only delivered a quarter of the savings claimed by Labour (see many previous posts eg here).
  • Cut 10% from the budgets of non-ministerial departments, saving £1.7bn pa - Straw says "[cutting] the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office... could mean 10 per cent fewer serious crimes ever coming to justice". We say er, yes, it could mean that. But since the CPS is one of the most ineffective quangos known to man (see this blog), and since the SFO has a bungling record as long as your arm, we don't think we need lose any sleep.
  • Abolish Sure Start, saving £1.5bn pa - Straw says Sure Start works and should be kept. We say Sure Start has been a dismal failure in reaching the bottom tier children it was aimed at, as even Blair finally admitted (see previous posts eg here).
  • Abolish Educational Maintenance Allowances, saving £0.5bn pa - Straw says it's increased education participation rates. We say it's been a hugely expensive fiasco (see this post).

And beyond all that, the question for Straw is the same - if you don't like the TPA's cuts, what are you going to cut instead?

Or are you going to increase our taxes still further?

But hey, let's not be too hard on Straw. He's young and has seen little of the world outside student and Labour politics.

Unlike the Labour movement, he may yet grow out of it.

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