The Coalition is right to want to bring the budget deficit down, and right that to do so it needs to cut Labour’s spending plans. The surprise has been that it has failed to cut some of the most obvious items that many people would like to see cut.
Top of the list is the wish to see us out of Afghanistan. Many people are uneasy about our presence there, and wonder if we should ask our troops to make yet more heroic sacrifices. We are there to allow the Afghans time to train and prepare to take over policing responsibilities. Aren’t they ready yet, is the most common question I have to answer.
Next comes the wish to cut out overseas aid payments to the more successful emerging nations like China and India. Many well intentioned voters think it would be good to spend more in the poorest countries in due course, but in the short term why not cut the obvious candidates and save the money so we borrow less?
Next comes a strong desire to spend less to the EU. Mr Cameron has responded to that mood and is seeking to negotiate a freeze on spending, but other member states still want the budget to rise. At least the government’s stance will stop some of the more ridiculous increases they were proposing.
Numerous contributors here and correspondents would like us to spend less on banks. It is high time we started to get our money back. Why not require repayment of more of the special liquidity, if the banks now have cash available for bonuses? Why not get the asset disposal programme underway where the state owns the equity?
My own view is we should not be spending on refinancing and propping up the European Central Bank. That should be the responsibility of the Euro zone. Much of the Irish loan was to refinance advances made by the ECB to Irish banks, which the ECB should have carried on doing. There is then the additional Euro 700 million of subscribed capital which is contingent risk for the UK, and the £10 billion swap from the Bank of England. It is most important that the UK government says it will not be spending any more on support for this body, directly or indirectly. It should make clear that ECB advances to say Spain are the responsibility of the Eurozone and we will not be involved in any refinancing of those.
Some would also like to see the government spend less on renewables and go for cheaper relatively clean technologies based on gas for our power generation. Cancelling or deferring HS2, the new train track through the Chilterns, would also be popular with many in that part of the world.
More reductions like these could be popular. That would leave more money for priorities in healthcare, for the disabled, and to put keep some planes on the aircraft carriers, whilst also reducing the borrowing more quickly. What more if anything would you like done on spending? Which of these ideas appeals to you?
If we had bigger savings, we could think of lowering taxes more on saving and earning. We could also afford to keep the Harriers and buy some more snow clearing for our highways. Why not offer payments to farmers and other owners of heavy duty vehicles to go out and clear more of the roads?