Saturday, June 26, 2010

To my Labour-supporting friends....

I have had a hard time at your hands this week. Love you though I do - you're mostly in the caring professions - you've been, how can I say it, annoying in your naivete...since Tuesday's Emergency Budget announcement.

All of you, to a person, have conveniently forgotten that Darling set out cut of 20% next to the Coalition's 25%. Some of you are telling me this is "so un-necessary", as if the deficit didn't exist and all was well. You are forgetting that public spending is still going to rise to 750 billion by 2015 (today it is about 625), much of it paying-back 2001-09 debt). Provocatively of you talk about Lib Dem betrayal as though we had some other alternative than create a Coalition. And then you get onto the banks and how it's all their fault etc.

Which of course it partly is...but let's get real here. About three years ago I shared a platform with Carl Emmerson who is Robert Chote's deputy at the Institute of Fiscal Studies. This was well before the crisis and Carl's mission that day was to tell an un-witting third sector audience that all was not well. That the public sector was being pumped up unsustainably and that by 2011 we'd be looking at cuts, quite severe ones. And this was before the banking crisis.

The truth about the last Government is that it was held together was an ideology which says that clever, enlightened people can manage society through a large state which consumes 45-50% of the nation's resources. You get this view wherever you go in the Labour Party - except, possibly the uber-Blairites (who are now long-gone).

This model has been discredited. And while it was fine to turn the taps up when the receipts were there to cover it, to keep this going for so long when the money wasn't there is, in my mind, neglectful.

My party - the Liberal Democrats - will no doubt pay a heavy price in future elections. But whatever happens, I will be proud that we didn't join in the chorus of opposition to cuts. Don't get me wrong, I am worried. I have kids in (pre)school and depend on the NHS like everyone else. It won't be easy. But I have seen the public sector at close quarters for 20 years and there is massive scope for savings and, with it, long overdue reform.

Which gets me to where I am going with this piece. I am firmly convinced that the implementation of cuts by the Coalition will be executed a lot more effectively than would have happened under Labour. Reform of the public sector was stopped by Gordon Brown. This was over the head of a deeply frustrated Blair. Foundation hospitals, divesity of suppliers in the NHS, academies, you name it. Brown and Labour found ways to stop these things because they weren't part of the Master-Plan.Labour is the part of producers and has paid them more and put them before the user of public services for a very long time.

Neither Liberals or Conservatives think like this. Reform will be immediate and comprehensive. Neither party is funded by or owes anything to Unison, Unite or any of the other blockers. Bureaucracy will be hit a lot harder as will public sector pay and pensions - rightly too in my view. Only the Coalition can do this.
The alternative under Labour may have been a slightly lower level of cuts - but you can bet the cuts would have hurt me and you before they touched a public sector worker. Cuts under Coalition, though more severe, will, I believe, hit the producers much harder than me and you - which is how it should be.

So, my friends from the other side, I hope you do, eventually, smell the coffee on cuts. Labour people are, I tend to find, a heck of a lot nicer than Tories, the majority of whom are not people I would chose to hang out with. But I hope I don't have to spend the next five years listening to moaning about the nasty coalition. That would be no fun at all!


Rob 'Arris said...

Mmmm, nice to change sides mid life then start throwing pot shots isnt it?! I agree with your analysis of the economic thrift required, however..... The previous government made plenty of mistakes, and the rivers of cash dried up in the public sector. However its not all their fault - the investments they made in public sector services (and the third sector including providing a platform for social entrepeneurs.........) would not in my view have been made by a Tory government; my analysis of those services is that they are in fact better on the front line than they were before (forget the odd tragic media hogging mistake, unfortunately they will always occur). Failure has been contributed to by some of the people employed at senior levels in public service nhs and local authorities, and in their haste to hog cash, they forgot about simple sustainability; they let the government down as much as the government let us down. The state we find ourselves in has been contributed to significantly by the last 2 administrations. This Government will make mistakes too i have no doubt, and they as others before them have done will blame the previous government ad infinitum. Its pretty tiresome isnt it?

Andrew said...

Craig, I thought this your best post in ages. I just hope the coalition really do cut public sector 'infrastructure' more effectively than Labour might have.

What I would like to see in your defence is loads of good solid practical examples of waste that would get popular support. For what it's worth, I've given one below that I've had some contact with.

There was also a piece in the Telegraph on Saturday June 19 (a comment piece) quoting a teacher who said how her budget had increased dramatically with layer after layer of initiatives. Get rid of these she said, and let her get back to work.

Then there was the former police officer who on 5 Live some weeks ago said how much a waste of time, energy and money was the 'implementation and monitoring' of initiatives from the National Policing Improvement Agency - not to mention the initiatives....

I've worked in the voluntary sector for the past 10 years and I'll now put my money where my mouth is....

The DoH in wisdom has spent millions on an accreditation scheme for providers of health information. I had to help implement it. To start with, participating (mainly) charities had to guide the outsourced evaluation companies to develop suitable criteria. Detailed policies and adherence documentation then had to be developed, all at out time and expense. Evaluators came to evaluate us, and then a further inspection happened where government people came to inspect the inspectors who were inspecting us.

I know you once complained of a similar process in a post.

Oh, and one public sector example: when briefly working for the DoH’s 5 a day scheme, two of the four London coordinators were perfectly good experienced teachers drawn away because of a better package than on offer in the classroom.

So let's publicise details, and more details of waste. If ACEVO's Cuts Watch website consider this beyond their remit, then a website would do the job.