Here we are again
As we've blogged many times, back during the 2005 election you couldn't sell the proposition that public spending needed to be cut. You couldn't even give it away - and Tyler knows because he tried.
How the world has changed. According to the latest polls, there is now a huge majority for cutting - by three-to-one in the Sunday Times poll.
And as the political wind has shifted, so have all three major parties. All now promise cuts, even if - like St Vince* - they have so far been rather better at arm waving than spelling out precisely where all their cuts would actually fall.
Which is where the Big Government left now see their salvation. As we blogged here, the left believe that once voters see what cuts would mean in terms of actual public services, they will recoil in horror. In other words, the cuts can still be stopped via the left's traditional "babies dying in the gutter" scare tactics.
Well, that theory is now being tested. Because although the main parties have been reluctant to come out with specific cuts, others have been less reticent.
In particular, last week's joint report by the TaxPayers' Alliance and the IOD (see this blog) proposed 34 specific spending cuts, many of them contentious. And the report has attracted some very interesting public responses.
Take this item from the Scunthorpe Telegraph. It approvingly reports the unanimous rejection of the plan by Labour, Tory, and LibDem councillors, quoting the Deputy Leader of North Lincolnshire Council (NLC) as saying:
"The proposals are a nasty, savage attack on the elderly, disabled and the young. Vulnerable members of society would be worst hit under these vicious plans. On top of that, 600 council staff would lose their jobs in an instant, increasing hardship on local families... these vicious cuts would affect the most hard-pressed residents."
But judging from the comments posted under the article, local residents have a very different view:
"So councillor Foster, when are NLC going to give us value for money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why not start by getting rid of the high paid deadwood at the top." bartonion, barton
"Good riddance... I really hope it happens... START AT THE VERY TOP AND WORK DOWNWARDS... Let's see how the powermad jobsworths survive in the real world next to the very same people they use to offend despise and treat with utter contempt... can't wait"
"Cut back on staff. Hope they sack these planners with their silly ideas for bus lanes and road closures. Bet the ones at the top dont take cut in wages - if they stopped wasting money there would be no problem." englander, scunthorpe
"This is fantastic news, really made my morning when I read it in the paper. Do hope its true." Simon, Mendip Rd
Or what about the reader comments posted under this article in the Grun which sought to defend Sure Start against the TPA/IOD's proposal to scrap it (saving £1.5bn pa). The clear majority are highly critical of Sure Start, including this from someone called tangerinedream who, unlike the politicos and the commentariat, has actually worked on the programme:
"I spent over a year working as a temp at a sure start centre. Whilst I can't speak for any other centres, there were a host of issues at mine [this is just a summary - see here for full version]:
1. Massive overspend on building costs... £500,000 over budget and several months late...
2. Complete bureaucratic confusion.
3. Utterly ridiculous private public partnership... local social services department was tied into a £12,000 a year contract for nursery places even though these were never used.
4. Massive top-heavy management structure without investment in front-line services... the total spend on people who would actually come face-to-face with members of the public was less than £10,000 per year.
5. A confusion of aims... comfortably well off middle-class women [were] our most frequent users.
6. A Council mentality of building buildings rather than investing in them.
7. The needless waste of resources... a £50,000 shopping binge at the end of March in order to clear the budget surplus.
8. The obsession with data collection and targets."
It sounds all too real, and entirely accords with what BOM readers will have heard before (eg see this post). Other comments are blunter:
"... SureStart is somewhere between an expensive failure and an outright fraud and ought to be shut down forthwith. I'm sorry to be brutal but the most effective way to reduce the number of 'disadvantaged' kids isn't to throw taxpayers' money at them but to prevent their parents breeding."
And that's in the Grun.
As are these comments under an article written by Ann Robinson, a practicing GP, which attempts to explain why Andy Burnham's plan to extend patients' choice of GP is wrong (HTP HJ). As far as Robinson is concerned, GPs, the GMC, and the NHS Primary Care Trusts are already doing a splendid job of delivering great services, and allowing ignorant patients more choice will only screw things up. Here are one or two of the comments:
"So rather than sorting out the incompetence and poor professional standards of some GPs... you blame the patients for making poor choices!" toonbasedmanc
"More arrogant nonsense from an overpaid and underworked profession. I realise that doctors have a good union but they are still there for the benefit of their patients... Not only are doctors taking the mickey with the salaries and the opening hours and the refusal to visit patients but they want to control us like serf of their particular manor." likedthe 80s
"In any other country it would be taken as completely normal that you could choose which doctor to go to, but somehow Ann Robinson says that people here aren't competent to choose and that the decision should be made for them... If people agree with her arguments for using the GP nearest to their home, then fine, let them. But if they don't who the hell is she to say that they shouldn't have a choice?" HJHJ
What all of these various comments say is that we've had enough. We've had enough of paying through the nose for "public services" where serving the public comes a poor second to serving the producers.
And it's no longer any good the politicos and public sector promoters spinning us the same old line about how cutting spending will necessarily entail cutting vital services. And how the experts know best. And how, apart from the odd few pence here and there, we get jolly good value for our taxes.
Because the fat years are over. And unlike in 2005, our minds have been throughly concentrated. We can now see - yes - a bloated public sector that costs a fortune to run, but serves up a whole raft of stuff that is of no use to us whatsoever.
*Footnote Interestingly, this morning's BBC R4 Today prog picked up St Vince on his cuts - ie that he talks boldly about needing £80bn of cuts, but has only come out and specified £14bn's worth (see this blog). Vince sounded highly uncomfortable, and could only mumble about "first steps" and "timing". Shame really, because as Britain's most trusted politician he could do us all a huge service by plucking up a bit more courage.