The "Cuts" - how real are they?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Auld-Yin, Sep 10, 2010.

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  1. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    This is to open a discussion, hopefully not a heated one. I am genuinely worried about controls over local authorities and other government bodies.

    For the past couple of months, all we have heard on the news is cuts, cuts, cuts. OK, they are needed, badly and now.

    My question is "Is anyone doing the sums?"

    What I mean by that is everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and saying they are going to have to cut 1000 policemen here, 50,000 local council workers there, x number of teachers, Y number of soldiers/ships/aircraft from MOD. Everyone is putting up their worst case scenarios in the hope that Osbourne will take pity on them and not be so tough.

    GO has asked for 20-40% cuts across the board with ring fencing for some areas such as NHS (which may not be so ring fenced after all). Each and every authority - regardless of political colour - is using this to cut areas from their budget that they did not have the courage to do before, saying it is not their fault.

    Is any body checking the 'poor-me' statements from authorities who infer huge cuts and reductions in services to ensure that
    a: essential services continue
    b: that authorities are properly looking at their budgets and not doing the sums on the back of an envelope?

    While a huge reduction in public services is required to reduce the amount government pays out at the moment, what checks are in place to ensure that local authorities do not overstretch their cuts and actually become failing authorities?

    If councils get their sums wrong and the cuts in their central government allocation are mis-handled then that will only mean that your council tax will rise.

    Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Opinions rather than rants would be appreciated.
  2. I don't understand why the NHS is to be ring-fenced (apart from craven political cowardice); if the colossal monster in the budget is untouched, transferring the necessary cuts to relatively small budgets is going to be extremely damaging.
  3. I agree, there is a real need for scrutiny to ensure that cuts are not taken in "front line" services, leaving bloated management structures sitting pretty.
  4. Again I agree. The NHS needs a total reform to ensure that service is the same regardless of where you are. In order to achieve a good core service, decisions will have to be made as to what is and is not available on the NHS.

    Emotive but expensive and arguably "elective" items must go. Examples up for agressive consideration might include (for example) gender reassignment and IVF treatment. Also such things as liver transplants for alcoholics and suicide-attempt-by-paracetamol.
  5. A whole question around what constitutes essential services needs to be asked as well.

    I notice the Police Federation is kicking off today, but reading most Police blogs it seems that there are a number of shiny arsed buggers who could be lost or redeployed to the street, where coppers hould spend most of their lives.

  6. Turkey's and Christmass spring to mind. Whilst Councillors consistently vote silly expensive claims increases there's f**k all chance they'll have the balls to chop the management structure that panders to their delusions.
  7. It's a general rule of bureaucracy that any increase in spending will be spent in empire building in the back offices, whereas any cut will hit the front line to generate maximum "poor me" publicity to attempt to embarrass the government into not cutting.

    Hence cuts being expressed in terms of "doctors, teachers, policemen" instead of "managers, consultants, coordinators, blue sky thinkers".
  8. I think the "ring-fence" for NHS may be a smoke screen. I doubt we will see any of the multi-layered management being given marching orders but cuts are being brought in on projects (that may or may not be useful), systems and on the teaching side. Whilst not exactly front-line, this could be a slow-burn reduction that impacts in future years when we see a falling off of suitably qualified specialty doctors.

    Working in one of the Royal Colleges we are certainly seeing and feeling the belts starting to tighten. Fortunately, we are not directly financed so will not be hit too hard.
  9. Local councils provide all sorts of 'services' that are way out of their remit.

    One example ~ I saw the job advertised with West Lothian council for a 'walking development officer'. These are people who take people on walks around the streets (28 grand a year btw). Now we're not talking about climbing the Cairngorms here, it's round schemes and country parks. Apparently the aims of the walking development department are to improve peoples fitness and to 'promote the benefits of walking'.

    Now I don't find walking too difficult, put one foot in front of the other and move off (smirnoff moments aside), and generally, if people are big and fat and lazy to bother their arrse walking, I can't see how an appartchik with a clip board is going to change them....if the thought of heart attacks and diabetes by the time you're 40 isn't enough of an incentive to keep some level of fitness, what is?

    Most councils in the UK have walking development departments, with walking development managers too. And that's just one example. I'm getting right hacked off that when any mention is made of cuts, we get all sorts of people talking about nurses and teachers being thrown to the wolves, when in reality there are all sorts of frankly ridiculous jobs which are ripe for getting rid of.....I'm just not all that sure that the axe will fall in the right places, but here's hoping anyway.
  10. As John Redwood spelled out on Newsnight recently,


    Government spending, as well as debt, is scheduled to increase right up until the next general election.

    What Georgie Boy is attempting to do is:-

    i) Stop the suicidal increase in the rate of spending
    ii) Redefine the meaning of the phrase "essential public service" and shift money away from non-essential services

    It's said that the only reason that Gordon Brown could borrow money the way he did during the last few years is because the City was confident that he'd lose the election and the Tories would arrive to clean up the mess. In February alone, he spent more on global warming than the Royal Navy will spend on the Trident replacement. I heard one of his ministers on TV explaining that record breaking levels of debt were not a problem because "you don't necessarily have to repay what you've borrowed". No idea whatsoever about the consequences of sovereign default or of printing money to fund the world's most generous welfare system.

    Part ii of George's task is going to be very difficult. For 13 years, public sector managers have ascended the greasy pole on the basis of their political credentials rather than their competence. For example, my local hospital sacked over 25% of its nursing staff while continuing to pay for "holistic healers" to wave magic crystals over the bodies of cancer patients. I doubt that such people can be made to see the light and there's going to have to be a night of the long knives among senior managers in the public sector.

    The worst problems will be with councils. If Dave doesn't make good on his promise to force councils to hold a referendum to approve above inflation council tax rises, councils will just start soaking their constituents. I remember the 80s when rates bills arrived with "25% increase thanks to Maggie" emblazoned on the envelope. This was a particular problem in places where most of the population didn't pay tax and it led to the poll tax.

    Dave's going to have a hard time forcing hard left councils to rein in their spending. Places like Haringey will not give up their diversity consultants and totem pole artists (I kid ye not) without a fight. They'll be quite happy to shut down old folks' homes and stop collecting rubbish if the consequent typhoid outbreak embarrasses the Tories. Dave will need a raft of legislation if he's to stop this and avoid the rise of a new Militant Tendency. Maggie didn't have the cojones to take over control of loony left councils, and Dave's are much smaller than Maggies.
  11. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    Perhaps there should be 'means testing' for those services that local authorities and councils provide. IE: They are required to cut x amount from their budgets, are they going to triage the services so only the least required/useful services take the hit.

    As you say, there's alsorts of worst-case scenarios being bandied about to garner sympathy, but as this won't garner **** all, will these councils cut their noses off regardless?
  12. The really frightening thing is the sheer extent of denial in the general public, meeja and public administration. Watching programmes like BBC's (rather manipulated) "The Spending Review Debate" and others like it, its clear that a decade or so of socialist propaganda has firmly implanted the idea that there is in fact plenty of cash (and more to be had from "the rich"), and that the current cuts are simply a nasty traditional Tory ideology rather than an economic imperative....

    A major problem with UK is not just the 8m or so economically inactive adults that have to be supported now, but that the rot of mediocrity and incompetence suffuses every aspect of Government at every level - from the abysmal HMRC, UKBA et al, down to supposedly "good" local councils. The culture of tax/fine/penalty charge the citizen now substitutes for any attempt at efficient financial management*, probably because the quality of public service managers is now so poor.

    (*Example: my fairly "good" council had to deal with the problem of a perpetually overflowing small litter bin at a local beauty spot car park. An Arrser's DS solution might be (a) bigger bin (b) empty it more often; Council's solution is to pay a contractor (presumably a lot of money) to erect a large sign warning about severe penalties for littering.....)
  13. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    OK 4T, assuming that all the Tories have said is kosher and that the cuts being bandied about by all and sundry are necessary - who is going to ensure that the cuts are made where necessary?

    A lot of the cuts will come from councils and other authorities getting rid of bits that they did not like but were scared to touch because of the unions (and this is from all parties). They see this as a method for cutting out things that have been imposed on them - what it does not do is force councils/authorities to get rid of the areas that need to be got rid of. So anything that is the Provost/Mayor's pet subject will be kept and possibly essential front line services cut and the councils then braying that it is not down to them - its is the Gubment!!!

    It is easy to say the public will hold them to account, but we all know that that is not going to happen. It would take a civil war for that to happen.

    So, back to the original question - who is going to ensure that cuts are made properly and for the right reason?