Peter Hoskin

The spending battle begins

The spending battle begins
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Mark the date, dear CoffeeHouser – for this the day when the spending cuts began.  George Osborne is set to give details on his £6.2 billion cuts package later today, but we already know the broad outlines of it all: £900 million from the business department budget, £500 million from chopping down some quangos, £150 million from cutting Whitehall recruitment, and so on.  One encouraging fact is that only £500 million of these cuts will be "recycled" back into the public sector. The rest will go towards getting the government's annual overspend down.

But let's not pretend that this is anything other than a start.  With the deficit at £160 billion (not to mention total debt rising towards £1.4 trillion), much more will need to be done to get the public finances under control.  In which case, it's striking that the unions are already grumbling about these initial cuts, describing them as "dangerous" and as a risk to the recovery.  These words foreshadow the battle for hearts and minds that will be waged over the next few years.  But the more blame the coalition sucessfully pins on Gordon Brown's government, and the more the unions engage in unpopular disputes like BA, then the more likely it is that Cameron and Clegg will triumph.