I am told that there is a new welcome emphasis on the public’s views at Downing Street. They are taking polling more seriously. It was worries by the public about the Health reforms that lies behind the recent decision to consult again and if necessary to change the plans.
I trust they will also follow the polling in other respects. Polling shows that a majority do think the deficit is a big worry, and a majority think the state needs to live within its means. I suspect if the public were asked, they would also say charity begins at home.
The British public are generous to people in a crisis or in great poverty. They like the fact that the UK is a generous donor to try to prevent starvation or to help clean up after natural disasters. They should be asked, however, if they think this country should give £80 billion over the the lifetime of this Parliament by way of EU contributions and overseas aid. I suspect they would say economies could be made in these big programmes, whilst continuing to respond warmly and generously to humanitarian and natural disasters around the world.
The Secretary of State for Overseas aid has himself said that many of the inherited programmes did not do the job intended or did not offer good value for money. As he cancels or streamlines those, couldn’t we save the money for a year or two whilst we get the public finances back into more robust shape? Wouldn’t new programmes that offer better value for money be improved by taking a couple of years to think them through and consult on them before committing the cash?
The Prime Minister fought to limit the increase of the EU budget. With the EU wanting UK support for their new programme of economic governance, wouldn’t it be a good time to ask again for cuts in the EU budgets? As every Euroland country in trouble is told to slash its own spending, isn’t it time the EU as a whole agreed that cuts could best start at the EU level? Why is the EU unable to show by example how to control public spending, when its main message to all its member states is to get the deficits down? Bail out packages do not seem to solve the problems of Greece or Ireland, so why should we go on contributing to them? Don’t they need pro growth policies? Aren’t the weaker banks of the Euro system the responsibility of the European Central Bank who can lend them what it takes?
I suspect this would all poll rather well. Let’s hope for some action. People would like this deficit reduction business over more quickly.