Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Conservative 'massacre' of public services

I was catching up on the day's news before going to bed and got distracted by this article in the Independent. George Osborne will be giving his Budget speech on Wednesday and the news media are full of speculation about what he'll be saying. The article I've linked to isn't really about that, though; it looks at what Labour might have been doing had they won the election last May. You can read it yourself to get all the details but I just wanted to mention a few surprising statistics. From the article:
Government spending totalled £343bn in 1999-2000, which, if it had just kept pace with inflation, would have reached £438bn by 2009-2010. In reality, spending in that year reached £669bn, an increase, in real terms, of 53 per cent, over a 10- year period in which GDP had grown by less than 17 per cent. When you factor in how much of that GDP increase was the result of unprecedented levels of private debt then the truly unsustainable nature of the public spending becomes vividly apparent.

That's right, after cancelling out the effect of inflation, Government spending increased by 53% from 1999-2000 (roughly when Labour stopped following the previous Conservative government's spending plans) to 2009-2010. And that increase was not based on the UK's gross domestic product going up by a similar amount in the same time period as GDP only went up by 17% from 1999 to 2009 (ignoring the effects of inflation – this wasn't stated in the article but I checked the figures on the Office for National Statistics website, geek that I am).

The other little snippet from the Independent article is that, according to the level of cuts set out by the Government, the welfare budget in 2014-15 will (again, accounting for the effect of inflation) be 34% higher than it was back in 1999-2000. So what gets portrayed as virtually the destruction of the welfare system will still leave a system rather more generous than how things were 12 years ago. Finishing with another quotation from the article:
When government departments have become accustomed to year-on year real-terms budget increases of about 4 per cent, prudence can be mistaken for butchery, and the sort of efficiencies which the private sector has long regarded as normal are seen as justification for strike action.

Something to bear in mind next time Ed Balls or Ed Milliband start moaning about the Government's ideological slashing of the welfare system, perhaps?

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