Saturday, 6 April 2013

A government bereft of ideas abandons the economy for a pint of beer

Budgets come and budgets go; they rarely live up to their headlines. Much of a Chancellor's budget is flim flam, but they can set the tone, and they are often revealing more for what they don't do than for what they do. They are also best judged later rather than in the immediate aftermath of their delivery.

I am impressed by how few of us can recall very much of significance in the last budget. It must stand in history as one of the most frivolous budgets. While the country trundles along in  recession, Osborne takes a penny off a pint of beer. The Tory backbenches cheered, but they must now wonder what it was all about, and where the Chancellor is heading. As the right wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies has said, 'Plan A is dead', but the government is bereft of a Plan B.

The government still chants its mantra that there is no alternative. But not only are there alternatives, there are several, the government no longer has a coherent financial strategy. It has lost its way. Its policies have failed in their declared objectives, and yet they still argue that theirs is the only way.

Government ministers still like to peddle the sound bite about getting the deficit down. They claim erroneously to have done so. I have discussed this nonsense in previous articles. I won't rehash the arguments. But whatever their claims once were,  the reality is that the deficit is now rising. Over £600 bn will be added to public sector net debt during the course of this parliament. This is a truly staggering sum given that the government has no plan for growth. It is symptomatic of failure, because they claimed their policies would cut the deficit. The pain would be for the gain of cutting it. We have the pain, but none of the gain.

Another reality check is that, whilst the cuts in benefits are hurting people they are not contributing much to the declared aim of getting the deficit down. The poorest are being hit the most but for very little gain in the country's finances. And far from having a strategy for growth, the government has cut 'investment spending' by a staggering 67%.  It is a flawed and bonkers strategy.

The government, bereft of ideas, has abandoned the economy for the price of a pint of beer.


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