The Culture of Cuts

Sunday 18th June

We have lived through seven years of cuts.  I can remember the smile, no – it was a smirk, on the face of George Osborne, as he presented his catalogue of cuts in the ‘emergency’ budget of 2010.  How he persuaded the LibDems to agree to it I still marvel at.  Like rabbits caught in the headlights of sudden power, of ministerial positions, of titles like ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ – they succumbed to this illogical logic.  And these Conservatives were the party of business.  When you run a company and you are making a loss you have to take decisions.  Yes, some jobs may have to go, some savings can be made (mostly, by buying better) – but you also look at your prices – and yes sometimes they must go up.  But hang on – what about the competition – won’t they sell more if they are cheaper?  But Government is the ultimate monopoly.  The Revenue which Governments receive are not in competition with anyone else.  If taxes go up, where else can you go to pay your taxes?  Okay – a few companies may move abroad, but most will stay.

Not that the Tories have ever been shy about putting up VAT – the invisible tax.  In many countries VAT or Sales Tax is shown separately, here it is absorbed into the overall price, so the customer isn’t reminded of just how much tax they are paying.

But the Tories chose ‘cuts’ as the remedy for our failing fiscal policy.  And wow, how successful they have been.  They were certain that not only were the cuts easy to make and would have barely any discernable consequences, but the gap in the deficit would soon disappear.  It would take five years, they reckoned.  But two years in this was extended by a year, and again a year later – so that took us up to 2017.  At the election of 2015 this was pushed into the long grass of 2020.  Then we had the referendum, bye-bye George, hello Phillip – who promptly announce that 2022 would now see the deficit finally closed…

The election of 2017, by which time the deficit should have been finally over for two years – it suddenly became 2025.  That is ten years later than planned.  Three times longer to suffer Austerity.  The Culture of Cuts had become the norm….forever cuts, each new Administration salami slicing away at budgets.  Do it cheaper boys.  Hold down the wages of nurses and doctors and police and firefighters.  Choose cheaper panels to put on the side of Tower blocks – just think how much we can save at £2 a panel…

And so it went on.  And is still going on actually.  The Culture of cuts continues.  Driving down the deficit – which somehow, stubbornly refuses to quite disappear.   But now the birds are coming home to roost, too few police, too few firefighters, too few nurses….oh dear.  Did we make a mistake somewhere?