The first cut is the deepest, or at least that’s how the song goes – clearly the coalition haven’t listened to much Rod Stewart (or if we’re being picky Cat Stevens), because the first cuts made to public spending have been a little shallower than we might have expected. It’s great news of course that schemes to create jobs have been cut (as the reality of those schemes is many of the jobs ended up being public sector), it’s superb, and humanising, news that the Ministerial car pool is being shelved, and even better news that the frankly ludicrous child trust fund has been axed.
But amongst the many cuts announced this week you couldn’t help but feel that this was simply a prelude: the ’emergency’ (in all senses of the word) budget being where the sharpness of the axe really will be felt. I applaud the immediate cuts, but I’m mindful that in many cases these were the easy ones – the government has a really messy job ahead of it, because it isn’t just going to be expected to make cuts: it’s going to be expected to change whole sections of society’s outlook away from it being the Government’s core job to provide employment.
You see, the problem with all Labour governments is that they have all historically mixed up private and public sector, it doesn’t matter which one you’re in, so long as you’re working – except that’s economic nonsense: public sector jobs don’t generate wealth or tax revenue. While this is perfectly acceptable for core essential services (security, defence, health and teaching) it’s totally ludicrous anywhere else. Under New Labour the public sector exploded; whole towns and cities where unemployment was traditionally an issue suddenly found themselves awash with work opportunities – all paid for by the tax payer, and all – ultimately – doomed to be unaffordable.
This is the attitude we’re going to have to change, the coalition is going to have to make people understand that jobs created by government don’t raise tax revenue – they’re subsidised jobs paid for by an ever shrinking group of entrepreneurs and business owners and the people who work for them, the people by and large who have smaller pensions, work longer hours, have less holiday and less job security. There is something horrifically unfair about this – Labour perpetuated that it was all for the ‘fairer’ society – but it failed to do this miserably by creating a society where a huge proportion of the jobs were paid for by mugging Peter to pay Paul.
You can browse the Grauniad or any number of local authority websites to find the dredges of this era of profligacy at the private sector’s expense: Community street football advisors, Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Officer, Biodiversity awareness officers, vast numbers of ‘communications’ and ‘pr’ advisors – the list is as bizarre as it is endless; these non-jobs (as highlighted by the TPA) are a fallacy, and it’s going to take a long time to convince people that this society can do without endless state-sponsored jobs, and even longer to convince people that they can (in many cases) create their own wealth, start their own businesses, and most importantly that you can thrive in the private sector if you’re willing to throw away the unaffordable perks of being paid by the public purse.