For the third day in a row, the head of a prominent independent body has given Gordon Brown a kicking. After Lord Turner’s attack on Brown’s regulatory system, and Mervyn King’s comments yesterday, Steven Bundred, the chief executive of the Audit Commission, today laments our massive public debt. His article in the Times (headline: ‘Our public debt is hitting Armageddon levels’) is well worth reading in full, but here are a few key passages:
“Those who are too young to remember [1975-76 and 1993-94] would do well to learn about them fast – because even the dark years of the mid-1970s and the early 1990s may look like days of wine and roses quite soon…
…With the debts of the nationalised and part-nationalised banks now on the public sector balance sheet, the ratio of public sector debt to GDP in the UK exceeds that of Italy and Japan. And it is set to grow much higher. On the basis of the planned levels of borrowing, it could exceed 65 per cent of GDP in 2010-11.
And at that scale of indebtedness, the Armageddon scenario most feared by the Treasury – that there will be insufficient lenders to match the planned level of borrowing – begins to look a distinct possibility.
That is why tax increases and spending cuts are inevitable immediately after the election, assuming that there are signs of economic recovery by then – and why any managers of a public service who are not planning now on the basis that they will have substantially less money to spend in two years time are living in cloud-cuckoo-land.” All of which casts Labour’s continuing dependence on the ‘Tory cuts’ attack in a rather unflattering light. Brown seems more and more to be positioning his party on the wrong side of the political dividing lines.