I have refrained from blogging in the last few days in part because it is still not clear to me how to read aspects of the budget. The tone in the speech itself – cuts are forced on the coalition, they are not ideologically driven etc – appears disingenuous. The talk of fairness – we will all suffer – seemed at odds with some of the more kneejerk benefit cuts. And we have ‘Mad Frankie’ Field back, thinking the unthinkable all over again, wielding his dental pliers at the shiftless and the workshy. At a macro level, I am not qualified to say what the long-term impacts will be, but it is alarming to see that some forecasts are of significant joblosses on the back of cuts in public services with only the hope that this will be balanced by job creation in the private sector.
But locally, and on a more micro level, we continue to see short-termism dominating decisions. Cuts are being made at the margins, recruitment freezes imposed. But where is the long-term thinking. Part of the problem is the relatively short timescales within which cuts need to be delivered – the budget deficits will begin to mount this year. But that is to suggest that nobody could foresee the need for cutbacks, an unsustainable defence. We have all seen it coming, if perhaps not as deep. And it smacks a little of past complacency.
Having said that, the current situation is not conducive to considered and planned change. The coalition and central government seem to be spinning round faster by the day – announcements and revisions/reinterpretations follow each other in rapid succession. The demand for 25% savings over 4 years has about as much clarity of thinking as other announcements. But it is someone else’s problem – local government, agencies etc. So it will probably stick, more or less.