Spend and be damned or save and hope for the best?

Published: 25 July 2017 Ezine

Author: Warren Town, Director of Industrial Strategy

Are we seeing politicians squabbling over which party is best for economic prosperity? Surely not!

As the Tories congratulate public sector employees for sacrificing their health, wellbeing and pay for the good of the nation, Labour want to see an end to ‘austerity’ so they can spend, spend, and spend.

The current statements from the government are all the more galling when the Chancellor falls back on old chestnuts that have long since been debunked, such as public servants have good pensions compared to the private sector, they get increments and so what are they bleating about?

It is as if the government provides a pension and pays hard working public servants through gritted teeth.

Obviously, the Chancellor would rather public servants tug a forelock and bow when they collect their pension or pay packet. After all, why should people that treat the sick, educate the young (and old) and protect the public, expect to be treated fairly? 

It is staggering to comprehend that the government is prepared to sacrifice public service provision to balance the books.

The obvious response is that we do have alternatives.

Labour and others have made statements about ditching austerity in favour of paying everybody anything they ask for or desire.

The question then is not so much is this a feasible policy position, but is it credible?

Much of what Labour has said in the lead up to the election and more recently about promising the earth and a bit more, has fallen well short of credible once you do the maths.

There is just too much rhetoric and too many assumptions and too few concrete figures to back up much of the claims that they have made.

The danger is that with wages falling, the economy stagnating and costs increasing, the general public may grasp any option to see change, no matter how remote or credible.

Whether you are for or against Brexit, the economic future post 2019 is still uncertain and more than a little shaky.

So, if you do support ‘spend and be damned’ or ‘save and hope for the best’, the future of public service provision, especially the NHS, may hinge on more than just a deal with the EU.

We are already seeing the UK fragment, with Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland flexing their muscles for more freedom.

The danger is that with increasing independence we will also see fragmentation of public services. Already Wales has agreed to ditch many of the contentious provisions in the Tories 2016 Trade Union act, leaving them more open to a constructive dialogue with the unions.

If this trend continues we will see further differences in pay and conditions across the UK, with England being left behind and relying on localised arrangements that have less to do with quality and more about affordability.

The future promises to be interesting and challenging for all.