David Blackburn

Byrne’s cuts deception

Byrne’s cuts deception
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Liam Byrne has caught the Brown bug - not for raging in his underpants you understand, but for fiscal conceits. Tony Wright, the Public Administration Select Committee Chairman, called Liam Byrne (and the opposition as well) to task for misleading the public on the dire effects of cuts. Wright may be proved right: frontline services could well be decimated by the cessation of funding. But he missed Byrne’s deception. The indispensible Andrew Sparrow reports:

‘Byrne said that between 1985-86 and 1988-89 public spending as a share of GDP dropped by 8.6%. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15 it is forecast to drop by 5.9%.’

Because Treasury figures have been constantly out, the percentages, both of GDP and real terms departmental spending, are likely to exceed Byrne’s breezy optimism. The point was made by the IFS’ Gemma Tetlow in the wake of the Pre-budget report, which Fraser blogged about at the time.  Tetlow established that there would a cumulative 12.3 percent cut in non-ringfenced departmental spending over two years, and she stated that it would amount to 19 percent over three. Byrne plans for a fourth year, who knows what the cumulative figure will be on that? Small wonder the ghosts of Galtieri have risen again if the Defence budget faces a possible 25 percent cumulative cut. All in all, it's a very long way from 'Mr 10%'.