Spending reviews

Most will recognize the need for government to control expenditure, even though there will be a wide range of views on how money should be spent. Every year when it announces its spending plans this is eagerly anticipated by watchers of what is going on and the game of identifying winners and losers gets to be played once again. Yesterday, the Chancellor made his Autumn statement which set out his plans on such matters. For some watchers this was eagerly anticipated given the austerity mindset of the government and its objective to get to a budget surplus during its lifetime.

It is not my objective to go into the details of what was announced as no doubt there will be plenty of opportunity for those interested to check out for themselves and review the analysis (for example, check out here, here and here). My interest is not personal, and for from that perspective the announcements appeared fairly neutral, but from the view of one who describes himself as a community activist with a particular interest in helping the poor and the vulnerable.

Before being accused of being left wing in my own political philosophy and not a fan of this government (both of which is to some extent true), I do believe it is important to reduce debt, protect security and reduce welfare, all of which are considered to be right wing causes. As I have gone at pains to point out in the past, I see both taking a left or a right wing stance when it comes to running the country and managing the economy as ideologically, philosophically and theologically flawed, and what I care about more is upholding the principles of truth, justice and righteousness, recognizing that when it comes to commenting on the fine points of matters like the Autumn statement, I may soon be out of my depth.

The highlight for some when it comes to what was announced is regarding its U turn over abandoning plans to scrap working tax credits, which would have severely impacted the less well off. I am neither for nor against working tax credits because I do not understand the ideas well enough or the alternatives, but I have no doubt this would have resulted in more suffering for the less well off, and am skeptical when the government claims by putting more people back to work and raising tax thresholds this would compensate. What I do agree with, and this is the crux of the matter, is that the welfare budget remains alarmingly high and my feeling is that there is a degree of arbitrariness and unfairness in that the money does not always goes to the right people.

Given the number of people that have lost out when it comes to recent cuts in welfare payments e.g. because of increased sanctions, and this a lot more so under this government than the previous one, I remain skeptical, as I do with the government’s plans for rolling out universal credit, fearing more casualties because of benefits cuts. Another aspect, closer to home, concerns local authority funding, which each year has been cutback with serious effects, manifesting itself in many different ways, often resulting in cuts and reductions in services. The announcement LA’s can raise extra money to fund older person social welfare is an interesting one that no doubt has ramifications. In the light of the forthcoming Southend full Council meeting (12th December), one keenly awaits its response.

Some announcements such as help toward increasing the house building program is to be welcomed, and no doubt there are other aspects too, such as more help toward bolstering the security provision. But it all begs the question how the government is to find the money to balance the books and what else is in the pipe line that will hit the more vulnerable members of our society while at the same time doing what Conservative governments generally do and that is protect the rich. I await developments with interest and I look forward to an opposition that does better than basing its case on quoting from Chairman Mao’s little red book.

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