Colin Talbot’s assessment of the ‘radical’ cuts (Vince Cable’s words) outlined today is particularly interesting:
“The most obvious thing about today’s £6.2bn worth of cuts is the degree to which Whitehall departments have successfully ‘passed the parcel’ onto other parts of public services: local and devolved government, quangos, universities, private sector contractors and suppliers, and others will take the bulk of the pain.”
Even more interesting is his approximation of the job loses that will result from the cuts:
“almost 100,000 public and private sector posts to be eliminated in this financial year as a direct result of these cuts.”
This basically falsifies Cable’s argument:
“[It] shouldn’t necessarily increase the level of unemployment at all… if we are successful in encouraging the growth of the private sector then there need be no growth in unemployment at all.”
Nevertheless, part of Cable’s argument is correct. It is clear that these cuts are an essential part of the ‘Big Society’ (‘big efficiency?) drive, and that cuts to the public sector specifically are essential for the ‘Big Society’s’ sucess. The government wants to pass the responsibility of providing essential services to unreliable and often interest driven sectors. This is a particular concern when considering that a substantial amount of the cuts are to hit the local government, as it will suffer from around 2bn cuts.
With the promotion of the ‘Big Society’ and the paralleling cuts in local government, there will be a substantial reinforcement of the postcode lottery. This is something Osborne, a few months back, said was an inevitable consequence of the ‘Big Society’ – but then there seemed to be some confusion over these claims. But the postcode lottery is damaging and helps create a lot of inequality. It is unfair that the most wealthiest in society also often have best access to services when they are also the least likely to need them and they often use their own money to pay for ‘better’ services anyway. This is one of the reasons for why there is a such a forceful argument against furthering privatisation, as there needs to be an equalising of the state provision so everyone has basic access to adequate and competent services.
The cuts and the ‘Big Society’ – whilst some cuts are going to hit the private sector – taking into account comments by Cable, Osborne and Laws, seem to be with the aim of promoting the private sector as the stimulus for economic growth. All this talk of local and community power seems to amount to nothing more than an increase in private interest power – there will be no true local democracy. This only makes you doubt the true nature of the government’s promise of cooperatives – will they really be opened up as real areas of true local democracy, or will it just be another way for private companies to gain more control over the ‘localist’ agenda?
And what’s worse, this is only a small snippet of the cuts to come with an emergency budget yet in sight!