24 Jun 2010

Joining Camerons' "Spending Challenge"

Chris Riddell 20.06.10
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have written to public sector workers asking for their ideas on how the Government can do more for less. Well, as a public sector worker, I've not had my letter yet and I'm not sure if this is a real consultation or just more PR to deflect from the savage cuts that we face? Below is my submission but before that other stuff....

Cartoon from The Observer

I remember back in February when it was claimed on the Conservative Party website that David Cameron has quelled his desire to slash public spending by saying that he would not make ‘swingeing cuts’ if the Conservatives win the general election. In an interview with the BBC at the time Cameron said that he would be ‘making a start’ to reduce the current deficit which has been interpreted as a more sedate tone over cuts. Well if these cuts proposed are not swingeing then I don't know what is.....

The so-called ‘Spending Challenge’ website claims to be "aimed at engaging the country in thinking about public services and how they are provided." It is claimed all serious ideas will be considered by the Cabinet Office and Treasury and passed to departments to consider how they might be implemented. A summary of the submissions will be published later this year. Well let's see if they take account of potentially the most important move they can make....see my submission below...I have to say I have my doubts when I hear today that the Equality Act has been withdrawn - see here - apparently they will implement the bits of the law they like and not the other bits- this is a real failure to understand the issue.

Ironically I was at the District Council today talking about equalities with a policy officer when I heard this news....I was trying to see how we could ensure how equalities is given a higher profile - I am concerned that there is still a lot of misunderstanding about why it is so important and at a time of cuts it maybe the sort of area that is not seen as a priority...anyhow to my submission.....not one I spent hours on as noted above I do wonder how much they consider these issues....

My submission:

There is one radical answer that will have a significant impact on many of the problems faced by public services. One approach that does not need to cost more yet will cut obesity, cut crime, cut prison populations and more. The evidence is overwhelming.

I recommend reading the research collated in 'The Spirit Level' by Wilkinson and Pickett or for a summary see The Equality Trust website: www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

We must build a more equal society. Britain has become one of the most unequal societies in Europe. It is not just the poor who suffer from the effects of inequality, but all of us. For example incidences of mental illness are 500% higher in the most unequal societies. We also see more drug abuse, alcohol abuse, obesity, teenage pregnancies, more consumerism, shorter lives, less well educated children, more crime and more people in prison. Researchers have checked the relationships between inequality and these issues: internationally among the rich countries, and then again among the 50 states of the USA. In almost every case they find the same tendency for outcomes to be much worse in more unequal societies in both settings.

We need to start now to put in place policies that will create a fairer Britain. That means:
  • smaller differences in pay before tax (like in Japan) and/or
  • redistribution through taxes and benefits (like in Sweden)
If these cuts proposed by Lib Dems and Conservatives lead to greater inequality then we will only be adding to our expenditure. We should not forget that a more equal society benefits the vast majority of the population including the more wealthy.

The public sector phase of the Spending Challenge will end on 9 July and the process will then be opened up to the general public. Well I'll be writing a bit more on the cuts and budget v soon but also want to note Green party view here which has a response to the budget and a link to a report on the cuts.

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