David Blackburn

The government protects yet more spending

The government protects yet more spending
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This morning’s papers announce that cuts to the defence budget will be considerably less than 10 percent, following an intervention from David Cameron. Liam Fox has fought a valiant rearguard to protect his budget; success has come at significant personal cost. 

And that’s not all. The BBC has learnt that the schools budget is to receive a real terms spending increase when the Fairness Premium for the disadvantaged and the Pupil Premium are added to the final reckoning. This is politically interesting: education is the one issue where Labour’s opposition has been coherent. Michael Gove was eviscerated over his incompetent cancellation of the school building project and his free schools programme has not been the immediate success its supporters expected.

Time will restore Gove’s reputation; in the meantime, a real terms increase in the schools budget (no matter how welcome) must be viewed as a concession to Labour – it completely contradicts the government’s mantra of doing more with less, revealing an attitude to public service provision inspired by Gordon Brown’s spending habits.

Protected spending comes at a cost. If defence and education are being privileged, together with health and international development, then cuts must fall heavily on other departments – policing, prisons and rehabilitation, and it is a foolhardy government that plays fast and loose with crime. However, that assumes the cuts will be as swingeing as we’ve been told; there is a growing sense they might not be.