Budget cuts? Spell out what you really mean
My last minute plea to the politicians debating the Budget today is that if they call for cuts in spending they should spell out exactly what they mean and not hide behind phrases such as ‘efficiency savings’ and ‘protecting frontline services’.
Genuine efficiency savings should always be part of managing the public sector. But offering spending cuts and refusing to say what services will be cut gives efficiency a bad name.
Nor should we have any pretence that front-line services can be preserved by hitting the back-office. If you cut the support for public servants who work with the public, they will have to do the back-up work instead. That means doctors, nurses, police officers spending too much of their time doing admin tasks that, while necessary, could be done by support staff.
Public services provide a vital function and are popular with voters. The size of the public sector will be a crucial issue during the election. But we need an honest debate about it, not smokescreens and euphemisms.