Osborne’s new balancing act

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GEORGE OSBORNE struck a careful balance when he outlined his vision for a world-leading economy while setting out, at the same time, another round of spending cuts to help Britain to balance its books. At least the Chancellor was not afraid of mentioning the budget deficit – one of two glaring omissions from Ed Miliband’s unforgettable conference speech.

GEORGE OSBORNE struck a careful balance when he outlined his vision for a world-leading economy while setting out, at the same time, another round of spending cuts to help Britain to balance its books. At least the Chancellor was not afraid of mentioning the budget deficit – one of two glaring omissions from Ed Miliband’s unforgettable conference speech.

Yet, as the political skirmishes intensify ahead of next year’s general election, it was also important that Mr Osborne – who looked and sounded like a Chancellor of the Exchequer in command of his brief – did not promise “more of the same”. People need to be encouraged to vote Conservative for positive reasons, a message that the No campaign struggled to articulate in the referendum on Scottish independence, and the Chancellor achieved this with a very aspirational – and dynamic speech – that explained clearly how economic growth will create the jobs of tomorrow and pay for hospitals.

His freezing of work-age benefits, and those measures set out by Iain Duncan Smith, highlight the Conservative Party’s desire to be on the side of strivers in a low-tax economy, while Mr Osborne’s pension reforms will be applauded by savers. Spending restraint is far more preferable to tax rises.

Understandably, a confident Chancellor challenged the country to “choose the future, not the past” as he portrayed the Tories as “the party of progress” as it looked to eradicate the deficit on the back of a new era of prosperity for all. “Our long-term economic plan is working,” declared Mr Osborne as listed the economic achievements of the coalition. His challenge is making sure that this message is heard loud and clear when Europe, and Ukip’s electoral threat, is distracting so many Tories.

With a resurgent economy, Britain will be much better placed to decide whether its long-term future rests in the European Union – or not.

Police on report

Abuse response is unacceptable

SO MUCH for South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton’s recent assertion to Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee that his constabulary’s response to child sex exploitation, and other incidents of suspected abuse, is “much improved”.

He might like to rephrase this assessment in light of today’s perturbing report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that exposes huge disparities in how different divisions of his force respond to such occurrences.

In the aftermath of Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the Rotherham sex grooming scandal, much attention has inevitably focused on the culpability of senior officials at the borough council and their complacency.

Yet this should not exempt South Yorkshire Police from the public’s opprobrium after the HMIC identified disturbing incidents in Doncaster where “insufficient action” was taken to investigate a gang suspected of preying on a group of vulnerable youngsters from a children’s home in the town. This, according to inspectors, was despite the police knowing that the men concerned “were likely to pose a risk to other children”.

These are precisely the type of failures which allowed the Rotherham abuse to spiral out of control. They are also shortcomings that need to be addressed once and for all if public confidence is to be restored. And this will only happen when every officer recognises that abuse allegations need to be taken as seriously as burglary offences – and that this mindset becomes enshrined in the day-to-day work of the under-fire force.

A special teacher

Ann Maguire is remembered

THERE ARE good teachers and then there are inspirational ones. The tributes paid to stabbed Leeds teacher Ann Maguire proved beyond all doubt that she belonged firmly in the latter camp.

Known as the “mother of the school” at the city’s Corpus Christi Catholic College, she was loved and respected by pupils, parents and colleagues alike for her warmth and compassion.

Such high regard for her professional and personal qualities was made clear at the memorial service held at Leeds Town Hall yesterday following her tragic stabbing at the school in April.

Here was an individual who enriched children’s lives, nurturing them both academically and emotionally. She did not seek personal reward for her work, the satisfaction of seeing her pupils do well was sufficient. As her husband Don noted, she was someone who did the everyday things in a very special way. Her school, and city, are poorer places without her.