Voters in the UK General Election might be forgiven for scratching their heads and then going back to sleep as they contemplate the opening rounds of the campaign, largely a discussion about public sector ‘savings’ and whether or not a modest rise in National Insurance contributions, not due until April 2010 anyway, will derail economic recovery.
David Cameron’s Tory Party thinks it has identified £12bn of ‘efficiencies’ that can be wiped off its spending bill immediately, the Labour government says that most of these have been identified already.
The Liberal Democrats say that such so-called efficiencies equal cuts and there’s no way they can be found without putting up the rate of VAT – by at least three per cent, which would take it to a wholly ridiculous 20.5 per cent.
The Tories’ efficiency expert, Peter Gershon who used to work for the Labour Party on the same subject, told the Financial Times this morning that he’d identified £2bn in recruitment savings.
The paper helpfully pointed out that this equated to cutting 40,000 public service jobs, which sent every top Tory the party could round up scurrying to the broadcasting studios to claim that they had no such intention. They’d just stop hiring people.
Well it’s all good fun I suppose but surely there are some other issues to talk about?
Voters won’t be the only ones scratching their heads. The various party agencies will be praying for some rather more clear-cut issues raise their heads (all the parties say they’re going to cut, it’s just a matter of how much and how soon).
In the meantime the hapless Gershon has just lost the Tories a few million public sector votes.