Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Did I miss something?

While All the news channels and newspapers are going on about Osborne's "tough" budget cuts, I'm still trying to work out what they heard that I didn't.

Aside from the completely expected rise in VAT and CGT there was little in this budget that put any flesh on the bones of the cuts we are all told to expect. A public sector pay freeze? Well, no doubt the public sector will complain, but let's be honest - this was two years overdue (at least).

Instead the Chancellor has deferred adding any detail on the cuts until October - which makes me wonder why he had this budget now when half the stuff he mentioned was deferred until next year anyway! It looks to me as if this was designed to grab headlines - which it has - and, perhaps more than this, it looks like it was forced by the Lib Dems to push their election pledges.

When it came to actual cuts, there was no detail whatsoever - hardly surprising as the government haven't held their comprehensive spending review yet - but the media have gone mad over the prospect of a 25% cut in public sector spending.

Which wasn't what was said - if I understood it. I thought the Chancellor said the cuts would "average" 25% - not that public sector spending would be slashed by 25%. There is a difference - if you cut the spending of a minor department by 50% and that of a larger department by 1% you'll get an average cut of around 25% - but that won't necessarily slash the combined spending of those two departments by 25%.

If the budget of the first department is £6 billion and the second is £60 billion then you'll save around £3.5 billion pounds off a total spend of £66 billion - which is about 5%. So, although you've cut departmental budgets by an average 25% the actual savings in money terms is only 5% - hardly the sort of thing to solve this crisis.

So, unless I missed something, I'll defer my opinion on whether this is enough to stave off the coming crisis until Osborne actually adds some specifics. So far, all we've got is a paltry few billion pounds worth of cuts which won't make the slightest difference in the long run - or even in the short term.

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