In economic terms, the role of the Comprehensive Spending Review is a fairly
straightforward one: to set Departmental Expenditure Limits for every government department, and outline some of the policy measures that will be undertaken to keep spending within those
Fraser Nelson has already ably summarised the real impact that the spending review will have on
public expenditure, so I won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say that, yes, the cuts are significant but, no, they aren’t nearly as severe as the BBC would have us believe.
But just as interesting as the cold, hard numbers themselves is what they will tell us about the government’s wider agenda. Will this government be a bold, transformative one that genuinely
alters the role of the state in our lives? Or will it simply be a penny-pinching government, fighting a losing battle to keep down costs in a terminally dysfunctional public sector?
My worry is that the government has failed to take on board the lessons of those countries that have successfully and sustainably dealt with huge budget deficits, and is set to take a salami-slicer
approach to spending cuts, lopping off a percent here and a percent there, without ever asking the fundamental questions about what state is for, what it should do, and how it should do it.