Despite Labour’s bluster, the confirmation of a further £11.5bn of cuts in 2015-16 offers a template for the rest of the decade – public services striving to do more with less money and halting many of the inefficiencies which led to tens of billions of taxpayers’ money being squandered by poor planning and ineffective controls.
This austerity message – and the changes to local authority pay arrangements – will inevitably cause major challenges for some town halls, but Mr Osborne deserves credit for his attempts to introduce a “value for money” culture to every nook and cranny of the public sector.
As such, this speech is a precursor to the next election – coalition efficiency or Labour profligacy?
There were some pragmatic reforms that were long overdue, like Mr Osborne’s first attempt to bring together the NHS and social care budgets, so the vulnerable are not left stranded at an A&E unit on a Friday night because of the organisational failings of some local authorities.
Other commitments, like “a major contribution” to flood defences, were so general that even Mr Osborne appeared unsure of the sums involved, even though £11.5bn is a tiny fraction of the mind-blowing £745bn that will still be available to the nation in two years’ time.
That said, private enterprise will only offset the latest tranche of public sector job losses if the Government begins to implement its growing list of infrastructure and job-creation projects – the lack of progress to date left David Cameron looking flat-footed when questioned by Ed Miliband at PMQs.
And Yorkshire’s over-dependence on the public sector will not be helped by the further widening of transport’s North-South divide, a likely consequence of yesterday’s settlement.
While £10bn will be allocated in the next Parliament to Michael Heseltine’s new growth fund to enable local enterprise partnerships across the country – Yorkshire included – to bid for schemes to finance transport and training schemes at a local level, Mr Osborne appeared to find enough spare change at the Treasury so a further £9bn could be spent on improving London’s infrastructure following special pleading by Boris Johnson.
How can Mr Osborne say “we are all in this together” when this one decision could deny Yorkshire vital funds for much needed road and rail improvements? As such, the Treasury has much to prove today when it finally lists those infrastructure schemes that have survived the Government’s cuts – and passed the coalition’s “value for money” criteria.
THERE was understandable relief prior to the Spending Review when it became clear that public pressure had spared those Yorkshire museums that had been threatened with closure by the London-based Science Museums Group.
That said, the message to bosses of attractions like York’s National Railway Museum and Bradford’s National Media Museum could not be clearer – they can no longer take the Government’s benevolence for granted.
While the seven per cent budget cut to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, will be lamented by arts enthusiasts, George Osborne has paved the way for museums to become more responsible for generating revenue and overhauling their exhibits.
Perhaps they need to take their lead from Welcome To Yorkshire which has still managed to bring the Tour de France to these parts despite receiving no direct funding from Whitehall.
The disappointment is the level of cuts to grassroots sports, like cycling, one year on from the London Olympics. While funding for elite competitors has been preserved, the decision to cut budgets for community initiatives appears to be a regrettable own goal.
Love of the game
FOOTBALL today is very different to the jumpers for goalposts era that can be traced back to the beautiful game’s origins in Sheffield in the 1850s. Then players could catch the ball and score what was known as a “rogue” – an apt term given the heartache over Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup.
Health and safety restrictions meant the rules of hacking and charging were forbidden when four schools from Sheffield played to the 1858 rules in a special tournament yesterday, though some would contend that both play an unhealthy part in the sport today.
But perhaps the biggest difference between the past and present is the issue of respect. Then players were emboldened by the love of the game, or the romance of the FA Cup. They became footballers because they had role models to inspire them.
Contrast this with today’s highly-paid professionals who, with the honourable exception of the likes of James Milner and Tom Cleverley, do not always lead by example because of a failure to appreciate their sport’s enduring importance to local communities.