Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island

George Osborne’s Budget speech reminded me of the old saying, an empty vessel makes the most noise. He was talking about a fantasy island of his own imagining far removed from the real country in which all the victims of his austerity programme live. True, as journalist Paul Mason said, faced with the consequences of his own projections, he blinked. Without explanation his Autumn Budget projected surplus for 2019-20 was cut from £23 billion to £7 billion. However, he has merely increased the punishment planned in the early years of the next Parliament.

The Office of Budget Responsibility called these plans “a roller-coaster profile for public service spending” which would mean “a much sharper squeeze on real spending than anything seen over the last five years”. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies the cuts in 2016-17 and 2017-18 will be “twice the size of any year’s cuts over this Parliament”.

Swindon Council Leader David Renard put his name to a statement by local Council leaders prior to the Autumn budget. It said that “more of the same” cuts to local government funding would lead to vital services “being scaled back or lost altogether”. Now, what Osborne is promising, if the Tories stay in power, will mean even worse cuts than those which David Renard thought were unacceptable.

Perhaps Swindon’s MP’s, who give credence to the fantasies of George Osborne, might profitability read Financial Times editorials. A recent one said this:

“Mr Osborne’s steadfastness stands in contrast to the actual sequence of events under his chancellorship. The deficit he promised to vanquish remains large, and the economy that he vowed to restore 6% smaller than forecast. Progress towards reinventing Britain as a productive, exporting powerhouse has been scant.”

The FT describes the Tories cuts agenda for the new Parliament as “deliberately and unnecessarily extreme”. Instead of erecting “unnecessary fiscal hurdles” the next Chancellor should turn his mind “to the unresolved structural problems”. “Britain leans too heavily on the housing market to drive demand and too little on exports and investment”. These, together with the “woeful” productivity growth pose “a greater long-term threat to the nation’s finances than imaginary bond market bugbears”.

The Economist described the budget as “a strange mix of prudence and lunacy”. Despite the existence of the OBR, it said, Osborne has shown that spending figures “can still be fiddled”.

I don’t know what Osborne is taking but it certainly leads him to make the most preposterous of predictions. FT commentator Martin Wolf described Osborne’s prediction that Britain would become the “most prosperous major economy in the world” to be “absurd” and “vainglorious” (i.e. boastful vanity). Or to put it another way the man is shot away.

As for “paying down the debt” the coalition’s austerity measures are responsible for increasing the national debt which is expected to break through the £1.6 trillion mark by 2017-18.

The social disaster which has befallen millions as a result of the coalition government will be amplified if the Tories manage to hang onto power and implement their £12 billion more of welfare cuts. For those who caused the crisis they use the kid glove for the poor they use the iron fist. That’s why another five years of Tory government would be so disastrous for the mass of the population.

Martin Wicks

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser

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