Right-wing think-tank demolishes public spending myth
In one sense we should be grateful to the right-wing Reform think-tank for demolishing the myth that we can combine deep public spending cuts with protection for front-line services. Its report, The Front Line, published today, argues:
“The basic cost of front line services means that the deficit cannot be sufficiently reduced without tackling the front line… Contrary to popular perception, the great majority of the public sector workforce are front line workers. Of the 1.4 million people working in the NHS, for example, only just over 200,000 provide administrative support.”
Reform’s response is to embrace such cuts with relish - and propose removing one million public sector jobs. Our response must include:
1) Spelling out how reducing the deficit now will undermine recovery and further damage public finances through reduced tax take. Letters published in the Financial Times and Telegraph yesterday made precisely this point (we co-signed the latter).
2) Making the case for progressive taxation to pay for extended – not reduced – public services. Compass showed one approach in its compelling report In Place of Cuts, published last month, and Unison made a similar case in its “recovery budget” published yesterday.
3) Reporting on the reality of cuts on the ground. The effects are particularly acute in Conservative “easyJet” councils – and range from library closures to the suspension of social care for the most vulnerable residents.
But in waging defensive battles, the left must not lose sight of the need to develop and spell out its own alternative vision for the public sector. Some public resources have been squandered – and services held back by misguided command-and-control management models – not least because of the growing attachment to market-based solutions over recent years.
Posted by Clifford Singer at 01:44pm on 8 December 2009
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