43 and 36 – Locking in the Smaller State: George Osborne’s ‘Summer Budget’

The general consensus is this is a “big” Budget with lots in it. It is, but unfortunately most commentators are missing the really big picture.

To be able to grasp what lies behind George Osborne’s ‘Summer Budget’ 2015 you need to remember just two numbers: 43 and 36.

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Danny Alexander, George Osborne and who ‘commissioned’ welfare cuts proposals – an object lesson in how to be economical with the actualité

I just heard Mr. George Osborne once again peddling his line that the documents revealed by his former Treasury buddy Danny Alexander were in fact “commissioned by the Chief Secretary himself”. This make it sound like Alexander was actually responsible for the proposals for draconian welfare cuts which he says came from Tories. It has worked enough to be repeated by plenty of journalists. Continue reading

Who Governs Britain After May 7th?

The media is rife with speculation about who will do deals with whom after May 7th and what the possibilities are. What is obvious is that most of them are working on old assumptions about how Governments are formed which predate the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 (FTPA), which has fundamentally changed the way these things work.
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Could the SNP block a Labour Budget? No.

The SNP are claiming they can ‘block Labour budgets’, ‘end austerity’ and ‘stop Trident’. Their problem however is simple – most of what they say is based on assuming that Westminster works the same way as Holyrood does for budgeting – and it doesn’t. There are huge ‘constitutional’ and practical obstacles to implementing the sort of radical challenges to Government tax and spend decisions that the SNP and others seem to be mooting. The first set of problems is that in the Westminster parliament only the Government can propose taxation or spending measures. These can be defeated, or amended, but only by cutting spending or lowering or removing taxes – not by increasing either. Continue reading

Government Efficiency? Calling 118 Directory services when you can get the same service for free

Government departments wasted at least £60,000 over the past three years making 59,874 calls to 118 Directory Enquiry numbers, when you can get the same service online for free. I know it’s not much, but it does seem fairly ridiculous for civil servants to be using an expensive service (over a pound a time) when you can get the same thing for free. The BBC’s ‘You and Yours’ consumer programme found this out through a series of FOI request – the full table of results are below (published with their permission). The research was done by reporter Adrian Bradley @adebradley). I appeared on the show to discuss with presenter Winifred Robinson (@wrobinson101) why this might be happening…..(it’ll be on the BBC iPlayer shortly). Continue reading

BUDGET 2015 – The Big Picture on Public Spending

When is a “Long Term Economic Plan” not a “Long Term Economic Plan” – when there’s an election coming.

Last November Chancellor Osborne announced spending cuts throughout the next Parliament that would have reduced spending to 35.2% of GDP – which as the OBR pointed out would be the lowest since the 1930s.

In Budget 2015 the total spending plan for 2019-20 has suddenly jumped – to 36% of GDP (a whole 0.8%).

This has been achieved by a sudden £17.4bn jump in spending in 2019-20 (see below), but a significant drop in spending earlier in the Parliament compared to the Autumn ‘Long Term Plan’.

This extra £17.4bn in 2019-20 looks very much like a deliberate sleight of hand purely to ensure the 35.2% of GDP is tweaked upwards.
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The Bust Up after the Budget?

Most of the commentary in the build up to the last Budget of this Parliament will, predictably, focus on the contents of George Osborne’s little red briefcase on 18th March.

Few will focus on what might happen afterwards – the Parliamentary procedure for implementing Budgets. That’s because these are usually pretty uncontroversial – Budget announcements usually get ‘rubber stamped’ through Parliament with little fuss and bother. But maybe not this time….. as I have speculated before. Continue reading