Sunday, 27 February 2011

Damaging Cuts

The announcement of each of the following cuts has provoked protests which seem to me to be perfectly justifiable. They are listed in no particular order of priority, except that I believe the cuts to the BBC World Service to be the most stupid.

BBC World Service
Sure Start
Probation Service
Women's Refuges
Local government services to the elderly, roads, SEN support and fire and rescue services
Unniversity teaching in humanities
Adult learning needs
UK Film Council (which financed that nice little earner, The King's Speech")
Forestry Commission (there is a cut to funding as well as the now abandoned privatisation threat.)

Compared to the £9billion on defence procurement which has simply been wasted, as we learned this week, and the £42billion on uncollected tax, the savings on each of the above are peanuts.

Incidentally, John Lanchester's highly readable explanation of the financial crash, "Whoops", has a vivid way of explaining the difference between a million and a billion. A million seconds lasts just under twelve days, a billion seconds lasts almost 32 years! When I first read this I didn't believe it, but a few minutes on a calculator (or a bit of long division if you can remember how to do it)confirms it to be true.

Deficit scaremongers make much of the dubious idea that the burden of our debts will fall on our children and grandchildren. But, as Martin Wolf has pointed out (Financial Times, 25th November 2010):

...governments should not sacrifice the future to the pressures of the present. What is the sense of cutting spending today if the result is a poorer country tomorrow? This point turns on its head the refrain that we should at all costs avoid burdening the future with additional debt.

Since Lloyd George's "People's Budget" of 1909 we have spent a century, albeit with some backward as well as forward steps, building up a more responsible, caring and civilised society. We have a duty to hand that on to our children and grandchildren, not destroy it by attacking the easy targets and ignoring the waste and tax avoidance and evasion of the powerful.

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