Editorial: Up the creek without a paddle

Cuts in UK public spending have hardly been decided yet, let alone taken effect.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
But they are a miserable business and we're already fed up to the back teeth with them. So much waste has occurred in the public sector. The £191m spent on the lawyers' feeding-frenzy of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, for instance, looks hard to justify when libraries and public lavatories become a thing of the past, soldiers get sacked by email and we smash up nine Nimrods at £450m apiece before they have even taken to the air.

Cutting in a hurry to save money when you're cash-strapped may work within families - you take fewer holidays, hang onto the car for longer and dump Waitrose for the odd trip to Lidl. But nations, such as the UK, where the ratio of total government spending to GDP has reached 47.6%, don't find the process so easy. The ship of state travels many more miles before you can lop the funnel off and throw hundreds of containers plus crew members overboard. Then you discover you've cast the chef and chief engineer adrift, so nobody can eat or fix the engines.

As the vessel slows, there are some wayward ideas being kicked about out there. The Government could do with some positive economic/business thinking and a bit less ugly political posturing. When Eric Pickles came up with the fiendish wheeze of outing every local authority manager on a salary of more than £58,000 and then putting them in the stocks, he probably felt pretty pleased with himself. But it's a crude and stupid idea, designed to alienate those public servants whose help he is going to need if he wants to deliver his master's plan of a 'big society' (whatever that means).

Making the public sector better and more efficient should have occurred when the sun was shining under the days of New Labour. But Blair bottled and Brown couldn't see the point. Now the cuts will almost certainly make its performance worse, because that is the sad but inevitable result of an angry and dysfunctional organism trying to perform amputation surgery on itself. The only thing we can hope for is a return to the sunny uplands and to give it a long hard look when we all feel a bit more flush.

The alternative to tackling the pitiful state of the nation's coffers is to get cash into the exchequer. That means growth. With both our Top 100 Entrepreneurs list and our new Business Heroes awards in this edition, you can look on this as MT's enterprise month. We need all the smart, energetic and determined individuals to create and sustain businesses we can get at the moment. Earning more as a country makes so much sense - and is so much more pleasant - than the damage and bitterness of slash and burn.

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