I hope David Cameron will move us on from “cuts” and constant reminders of the deficit crisis inherited from Labour. I think all with ears to hear know the financial inheritance was dire and the country was fast running out of credibility to carry on borrowing. Those that disagree are not about to change their minds.
Today we need to hear that important public services can be maintained and improved, given the extra money to be committed to them. We need to know that the government intends to manage the public sector through a period of slower growth in spending. The government needs to do more, weeding out areas of undesirable and wasteful spending, cutting back their administrative overhead substantially in accordance with their stated plans. It needs to show that the public sector can do more for less and deliver better quality services for the cash available.
Yesterday’s promise of welfare reform from Mr Duncan Smith sounded fine at the high level of intention and vision. The success of the plans will rest with the detail. Most important is how Mr Duncan Smith intends to ensure that people who can work do work, or at least how they can increase their chances of the elusive job offer. The terms on which benefit is offered and witheld are crucial. In the end a series of sensitive and difficult judgements have to be made by officials acting to implement the new policy.
The move to a single benefit paid to people out of work, and in part continuing as an in work top up where needed also sounds fine. It depends on a new universal national computer programme to be devised, and a complete means test bringing together the various means tests around the current benefit system. Again there remains the issue of how it will be set up, paid for, tested and made to work.
The one big cut many of us would like to see is a big reduction in the cost of benefits to the unemployed because many more are back in jobs. Putting in place the two pledges – more money if you get a job, and no money if you turn one down unreasonably – as quickly as possible must be central to making that happen.
The more progress the government makes in cutting the avoidable costs of welfare by promoting jobs, the better. The more reassurance the PM gives to those who need good health facilities, good schools, and access to income because they are disabled or ill, the better. Labour will with certain public sector unions fight a campaign claiming it is cuts all the way and the vulnerable will suffer. Mr Cameron has to show he will not let the vulnerable suffer, whilst at the same time squeezing out the waste and worse from the system.