Thursday, 17 June 2010

Making cuts fair

The one thing that was always expected regardless of who won this year's election was a cut in public spending. You can't spend money you don't have for very long and over the last year the government spent some £170 billion more than it received in taxes.

Many government departments are now having to review their spending and look again at the projects they are supporting. Last week the Department for Transport announced they could not confirm their support for any transport projects until they know how much money they will have this autumn. This could affect some projects here in Cornwall.

I think the most important thing we need to see in next week’s emergency Budget is fairness. As the Chancellor, George Osborne has said before, we are all in it together and must share the pain of any cuts. Last week, Vince Cable expressed the view that the North should be spared some cuts in spending, putting more pressure on other regions. Such an approach would be completely unfair in my view and would not be the right way to maintain public support for the difficult decisions ahead.

I hope that many important projects in Cornwall will still be able to go ahead, albeit in some cases by cutting their cloth to fit the new financial reality and I am going to be making their case over the summer.

Cornwall College was a victim of the fiasco last year where funding for a rebuild of the college was suddenly withdrawn. The new coalition has found a way to make some money available to colleges caught out in the disaster but in return has asked them to revisit their plans and find ways of saving money. I think this is the sort of solution we are likely to see more of.

Our schools in this part of Cornwall need capital investment and have been overlooked over the last decade, and I will be making their case too. But many schools say they would be only too happy to spend less on the architects and consultants who proved to be such a costly component of the old "Building Schools for the Future" programme run by the last government. When money is tight we should spend what we have on schools and children's education rather than architects and consultants.

And when it comes to other development projects we have a strong case too. In some instances there is match funding from the EU. In others the projects form an important element in the regeneration of our towns.

Finally when it comes to making savings, I think it is clear where government should start. We need to cut back the 900 or so quangos and government agencies that currently exist. Many duplicate the work of each other and have grown out of control. In difficult times, it is where we should start.