Alex Hilton: The coalition is cutting with glee

David Cameron has announced that resolving the national debt will affect 'our whole way of life' in a speech claiming to outline a much deeper deficit than was otherwise anticipated.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

Cameron is preparing the ground for cuts through the use of a spending 'star chamber' in what Chancellor George Osborne calls a 'once in a generation' opportunity.

But Government plans aren't as efficient as one might think. In health, Andrew Lansley has axed Labour's hospital reconfiguration programme despite it being planned to reduce costs while providing a higher standard of care. Yet Lansley spent the election telling communities promised new facilities that they would still get them. Department of Health civil servants also report that ministers are insisting on signing off every spending item over £20,000.

Transport sees Theresa Villiers responsible for paring down the cost of Crossrail and the options border on idiocy. One proposal is to shorten the length of the trains. This would result in a one-off cost saving because platforms would be shorter, but for the following 100 years, the fare revenue would be lower.

The scale of the cuts required is broadly undisputed, though Labour would focus a little more on growth stimulus and taxes than the Conservative plans. The difference is more a matter of enthusiasm. Ministers are positively gleeful at the prospect of slashing services; Eric Pickles' director of special projects at the Department for Communities and Local Government has even been tasked with working out what to do if the cuts are so large the department ceases to make sense as a standalone entity.

They have the air of overzealous butchers, when Labour would have been more like a surgeon taking care to preserve the body of public services intact.

The final cherry will be the 'public consultation' on cuts announced this week. Because niche services are unlikely ever to receive broad support, the Government has locked in approval for most cuts and so far it is managing people's expectations of losing those services.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blog Labourhome.

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