David Blackburn

Cable: no budget should be ring-fenced

Cable: no budget should be ring-fenced
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Vince Cable has joined the cuts debate, arguing that the “time for generalities is over” and that “politicians must not shy away from explaining in detail how they will tackle the problem of deficits and debt”. He identified 9 areas for specific savings: public sector pay and pensions, centralised education, family tax credits, defence procurement, quangos, asset sales, ID cards and the NHS super computer. Crucially, he stated that no department should be “ring-fenced”, and proposed cutting fees paid to hospitals and scrapping the strategic health authority, a move backed by Michael Fallon in a Telegraph article last week.

Indeed, it’s striking how much common ground there is between the Tories and Cable, notably on ID cards, quangos, centralised education, asset sales and the public sector. But, for the Liberal Democrats to state publicly that no department should be ring-fenced indicates what a parlous state the public finances are in, and ought to give the Tory leadership a wake-up call about their commitment, reiterated by Philip Hammond on Sunday, to increase real-terms health spending and protect the international development budget.