Peter Hoskin

Why ministers block cuts

Why ministers block cuts
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After Michael Fallon's claim last week that the shadow cabinet hasn't got "the faintest idea" of the commitment necessary to tackle the debt crisis, this anecdote from Benedict Brogan's column should act as another warning to David Cameron:

"Whitehall is gripped by short-termism, yet in a world dominated by the targets culture introduced by Labour, is this any surprise? When ministers themselves prioritise short-term results that can be ready for the Six O'Clock News or the autumn conference, how can the Civil Service hold out for the long view? Take the permanent secretary I know who was asked by Gordon Brown to deliver a 5 per cent real terms cut in his departmental budget (long before the Prime Minister was prepared to admit such a thing), only to have his ministers – all cronies of Mr Brown – veto every suggestion for shedding jobs, for fear of alienating the militants in the PCS union."

Should the Tories win the next election, you suspect that one of Cameron's biggest organisational problems will be keeping his Cabinet on side, at all times, with the cuts agenda.