Peter Hoskin

The unions up the ante

The unions up the ante
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The front cover of the Times (£) provides a dreary snapshot of what the coalition can expect once the cuts start to bite. Unison have responded to job losses in the NHS by arguing that the government is "conning" the public over the impact on frontline services. And they're threatening to all get all litigious about it. As one of the union's spokeswomen tells the paper, "If we are not happy with the [government's reply], we are reserving the right to issue urgent judicial review proceedings." You wonder whether they'd have done the same against Labour's proposed 20 percent cuts.

And this will be just the start of it. As Reform's Andrew Haldenby pointed out on Coffee House this week, the sheer bulk and cost of the NHS frontline means that it will inevitably be trimmed – but, thanks to the government's ringfences, these savings will be recycled back into the health service. The same cannot be said of education, policing, or any of the other areas which will face proper cuts, so the unions' anger is only likely to increase. That will mean strikes, of course. But, going off these early signs, it will also mean more trips to the courts. And the latter could well be more disruptive to the business of government.