Daily Archives: October 21, 2010

Jim Pickard

The most striking finding from today’s IFS research (aside from the poorest half getting hit harder) is that young families get punished while pensioners escape relatively lightly.

Anyone wondering why this is the case should read this research from De Montfort University and Age UK showing that 4 in 10 votes cast are by the over-55s. 

The spending review did not end in the way most people expected. When Cameron’s top team gathered around the Chequers table on Sunday to tuck in to roast lamb and Yorkshire puddings, there was virtually no talk of squeezing out extra savings to balance the books. They had money to spare.

This was not the impression given to the rest of the cabinet, or indeed the BBC. But the truth was that the Treasury was sitting on a small cash-pile. After agreeing all the big budgets, there was £1bn or more left in the emergency fund for the quad — Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander — to distribute.

“They went from the horsemen of the apocalypse to Father Christmas overnight,” said one official close to the final days of the spending negotiation.

This back of the sofa discovery is a feature of spending rounds. The Treasury always set cautious targets so there is some flexibility at the end. But how Cameron handled the mini windfall is revealing. It gives us an insight into both his priorities and the methods he used to bluff the BBC into paying for the World Service. 

Jim Pickard

Bad news for the government – and terrible timing given the massive cuts to housing budgets in yesterday’s CSR. Figures released today reveal that the net number of homes added to the housing stock in England fell to a record low in 2009-10, down 23 per cent on 2008/9.

Just 128,680 net additional dwellings were provided compared with around 167,000 in the previous year. This figure is even lower than the previous record low of 130,510. 

Jim Pickard

The first post-CSR survey of public opinion I’ve seen has been published by KPMG and Ipsos Mori. They have spun the results as:

The majority (59%) of the British public believe that it is necessary to cut spending on public services in order to pay off Britain’s high national debt 

This was a remarkably opaque spending review given all the fuss the coalition makes about transparency. There were no figures for public sector net-investment, much to Chris Giles’ annoyance.

There were also no calculation of combined cuts to department budgets, covering resource and capital spending. This was not beyond the wit of the Treasury — indeed the table was at one stage in the review. Osborne’s team have kindly passed it on so we can finally publish what they left out. It gives a much better idea of how cabinet ministers fared.