It’s that time of year again when spending is reviewed. Every year I have been in Parliament spending has gone up, and every time all the debate has been about cuts. That’s the way the public sector likes to organise its debates. There are cuts in forecast increases, cuts in real rather than cash spending, cuts in baseline budgets that overstated the spending, and sometimes even real cuts in real activities. Whatever the cuts made total spending goes on upwards and upwards in cash terms, and usually in real terms as well.
This spending round is a bit more significant than normal. it is the start of a probable five year Parliament, and the start of a Conservative government. The government does wish to control the rate of increase in total spending. It has also ensured real increases in defence, pensions, schools, the NHS, overseas aid and the EU payments, so it needs to probe more incisively the other spending areas that do not have one of these special protections.
This week MPs have been lobbying the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary over what they would like to see in the new budgets. I am therefore inviting all of you to make your requests known.
Some of you will want to cut overseas aid and end our payments to the EU. Those options are not on the table as far as the government is concerned, though ending the EU payments is in the power of the British people when we get to the EU referendum.
MPs have been proposing a number of good ideas. The huge expenditure on climate change research, administration and policies could be usefully cut back. After all, as the proponents tell us the science is now completely settled, why do we still need people studying and researching it in government departments?
The large land banks of the state sector are far bigger than any likely operational needs. It is time to sell some of that land, and to get some of it into better use for homes or commercial premises.
The vicious circle between Housing benefit, higher social housing rents, and larger surpluses by housing associations could be altered to give tenants and taxpayers a better deal.
What are your ideas?