Friday, 14 May 2010

Back of a fag packet blues

I fucking hate government statistics. Yeah sure Eurostat is a fuckin’ nightmare to use compared to the Office for National Statistics webpage and that’s despite the latter being run out of Wales, but then saying AIDs is worse than incurable diarrhoea isn’t saying much either give or take the mopping.

But, yeah government statistics combine all that’s bad about stats – they’re freely available to be sure in an open government style, but in such convoluted ways they’re a pain in the arse to get hold of (hmm, lets put a PDF with detailing what the tables are here and the actual spreadsheet with the numbers in it waaaaaaaaaaay over there under that rock). Added to this is their general incomprehensibility; theres the jargon that means so much to civil servants without a life that no one else understands and the different versions of the truth with clear as mud footnoted explanations as to why table 5.2b and table 5.2d, which appear to be about exactly the same thing, convey totally different messages. Then you fire in political shenanigans, the most obvious being including say PPP financed spending alongside actual, honest to god government capex so as to produce a much bigger, headline grabbing total and basically I can’t be arsed with it all.

Other than now. That the banks will need their bale out extended was one election secret, however that Britain, regardless of who won the election, is gonnae have to fuck shit up when it comes to public spending was the real big, big biggie.

So according to John Kay there is a hole in the region of £50bn to £100bn a year needing filled. Now that is a big hole and one the following back of a fag packet calculations are based on. To put this in context total managed expenditure (I think this is what public spending is called now, I could well be wrong) in 2008/09 was £630bn, so that’s 8% to 16% being spent on filling a hole rather than public services.

Except the £630bn figure includes £31bn p.a. spent on public sector debt interest. So lets knock off that cos you know those lenders have got to get paid (plus rising cost of servicing increased government debt is a useful proxy for future economic growth and the associated increase in tax revenues). Then there’s the various forms of government spending that are sacrosanct, like health and education, which according to table 5.1 of the “PESA 2010” accounted for £110bn and £83bn of TME respectively (See? Its fucking gibberish).

So if debt cost and spending on health and education can’t be changed, that means the £50bn to £100bn a year needed to fill the hole has to be lopped off the remaining £407bn worth of spending. Ouch! Allova sudden we’ve gone from a 8% to 16% to a 13 to 25% reduction in public spending on more specific things, which is seriously harsh.

The thing here though is politics is going to start playing a disgusting part; not politics in the sense of principled opposition to shit like trident, although there’s scope for that, but politics in the sense of pork-barrel plays to specific constituencies.

My favourite example of this was the mince over reopening the auld Waverly railway line that ran from Edinburgh right though one of the LibDems Scottish electoral heartlands and on down to Carlisle. Anyhow, so there’s the LibDems in power with Labour in the Scottish parliament and allova sudden the LibDem transport secretary was able to announce in 2007 that preparatory work for reopening the line were underway. Except 2007 was the same year the SNP formed the Scottish government and lawks a lawdy, reopening the Waverly line subsequently got delayed and delayed and delayed as cheucters more likely to vote SNP started getting more taxpayer funded Gaelic things and individual bridges linking their crofts to the nearest subsidy claim form office, cos you know how we’ve got to preference to the point of subsidising one way of life over all others.

So aye, applying that bloody obvious insight – politicians will try and look after the people who voted them into power – to the current situation, I’d guess when it comes to the targeted 13 to 25% hack backs in spending we’re due over the next however many years those regions, locales and demographic groups that don’t vote LibDem or Tory, don’t vote at all or else vote on the basis of being predictably thick, will get humped. As a starter for ten I’d rather no be a child or an elderly disabled or unemployed bod living in the West of Scotland from next year onwards.

A 16th May P.S. to the above is that the pork barrel stuff will be all about government capital spending on ships and shit. As for everything else it seems like middle income bods are gonnae get clobbered left, right and centre by various VAT,NI and income tax rises and freezes and also get excluded from as many benefits as possible e.g. no more from tax credits or nursery vouchers and say the end of unverisal child benefit and what not if household income is over 40 grand a year or something, the staggered introduction of all which will progressively knock thousands off people's disposable incomes and further ghetto-ise the benefit system. Lovely.

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