events archive

The cut-price state: miserable austerity or freedom and accountability?

7:30pm, Tuesday 14 July 2009, Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

As the seriousness of the economic downturn becomes ever more apparent, there is a growing consensus that the state of the UK’s public finances are unsustainable. And yet, for all the talk of making ‘hard and painful’ choices, neither of the major parties seem prepared to face up to just how profound the crisis is. While Brown re-runs old arguments - ‘Labour investments vs Tory cuts’, the Conservatives have been coy about their own spending plans. In reality there is little to choose between them. The government talks about making ‘efficiency savings’ and David Cameron about achieving ‘more for less’. Likewise, he makes the case for greater accountability but isn’t this on the New Labour agenda too? Meanwhile economists’ warn of the gathering storm ahead, and the sacrifices to be made.

Instead of tired and evasive rhetoric, it’s time to have an honest debate about public spending, and ask some important questions. Such as, what role should the public sector be playing in society and in the economy? Can the welfare state be reformed, can public money be put to better use? Tory leader, David Cameron has argued that a ‘post-bureaucratic society’ is the key to balancing the books, as well as cutting down the over-weaning state. Could fiscal austerity, in this way, be a catalyst for essential reform of public services, and getting the state out of people’s lives? Or does the obsession with auditing and financial transparency risk creating even more red tape and regulation to keep things in check?