Colin Talbot contends that yesterday’s budget was all spin and no substance. It amounted to a series of modest changes with little immediate relevance and a continued refusal by George Osborne to take responsibility for the UK’s economic condition.
The Chancellor delivered this year’s Budget with a lot of shouting but the sound and fury disguised the essentially dolittle nature of his proposals. The main, modest, changes he proposes mostly do not kick in for 2, 3 or 4 years, when most agree what we need is action now to kick-start the economy. Like the Chancellor’s rather shouty delivery, growth in the economy continues to be choked off and is forecast to continue to be stuttering.
Much of this is a result of the Chancellor’s own actions – by cutting public spending too quickly but also, and even more importantly, by convincing businesses and households that in 2010 we were on the brink of financial collapse, fatally undermining business and consumer confidence.
Mr Osborne continues to blame anyone and anything for the British economy’s poor performance, except himself and his policies. It is true that world, and especially European, economic performance has been poor – but this is also because of austerity policies Mr Osborne has supported. Other parts of the world not pursuing reckless austerity are doing better.
The only real surprise in the Budget is the size of the massive Whitehall underspend of £11bn – including under-spending on investments – is a sign not of good but of very poor control over spending. This money was intended to provide public services people rely on – to fail to deliver them will be a disaster for many.
This was originally posted on Whitehall Watch
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Colin Talbot is Professor of Government and Public Administration at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Colin’s main area of expertise in is public services and public management reform. He has advised a wide range of international public sector organisations and/or carried out research in countries as diverse as Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Japan, Hong Kong, Malta and Sweden and spoken at conferences and seminars in over two dozen countries.