A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Comprehensive Spending Review is painful but necessary
20/10/2010 23:04:00

Today we got to hear the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

It contained some good news (see below), but overall there's no denying that it will mean reductions in a number of public services and it will cost some people their jobs (although hopefully most of the reductions can be achieved by not replacing people when they move to another job or retire).

A number of constituents have contacted me to question whether what the Chancellor is doing is necessary. I believe it is. More importantly, so do the International Monetary Fund and the Governor of the Bank of England. This year, the Government is borrowing £1 in every £4 it spends. We can't go on like that - sooner or later, the markets are going to lose confidence in our ability to pay all this debt back. And the cuts they would then require would be much more painful than those the Chancellor announced today - anyone who has ever got into debt will tell you that the longer you leave it before doing something about it the more painful it is.

But there's also a moral case for taking action. At the moment, the Government is wasting £120 million of our taxes every day paying interest on its debt. That's money that could be spent on police officers, teachers, doctors or nurses. And, if we don't do something, that figure is going to keep increasing. We have no right to burden our children in this way.

Finally, the evidence from abroad is that when a country needs to balance its budget, spending cuts are a much more effective way of doing so than tax rises (see here for example, although it's rather technical).

So I think the Chancellor's overall strategy is right. But has he got his priorities right?

Broadly, yes. The NHS and schools - the two public services that people tell me are their top priorities - aren't being cut at all. And, despite the tough times we are going through, the Government is going to honour its commitment to provide more help to the poorest people around the world. We should be proud of that.

He also prioritised those areas of spending that will help get our economy growing again - transport infrastructure (Boris did a great job lobbying for Crossrail, the Tube upgrades and the protection of the bus network in outer London), investment in science, extra apprenticeships. That's really important. The Government's strategy will only work if there is growth in the private sector to replace the jobs we will be losing in the public sector.

And one final piece of good news is that Croydon will be one of 16 areas to pilot the concept of community budgets - different departments pooling their budgets to provide more effective help to families with complex needs.

I have two concerns however. First, funding for the police. They have not been cut by as much as some other services and the Chancellor referred to a report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary that said that significant savings could be made to police budgets without affecting front-line policing. He better be right. Crime is the number one issue in Croydon and cuts in front-line policing would not be acceptable.

Second, local government. The Spending Review envisages government support for local councils falling by about a quarter. That is going to make life difficult for councils across the country. It will be particularly difficult for councils like Croydon that have had tough settlements in the last few years and are already pretty efficient.

Overall then I think the Chancellor got the judgement about right. But there is no getting away from the fact that these decisions are going to cost some of my constituents their jobs and impact on some of the services we all use. I have a great deal of sympathy for public servants who are paying the price for the previous Government's mismanagement of the public finances and the behaviour of some banks.

One way in which the Government can save money is to relocate some of its operations from central London. As the local MP, I will be lobbying hard to try to bring some of those jobs to Croydon to mitigate the impact of yesterday's announcement.

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Gavin Barwell, 133 Wickham Road, CR0 8TE, Tel  020 8663 8741      © Gavin Barwell  2019       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG