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Sunday 4 July 2010

Slasher Gives It To Us Straight

The man in line to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury, until Young Dave and his jolly good chaps failed to turn the talk of a “Tory tsunami” into all out victory, was Philip Hammond, now at Transport and welcomed with the award of the nickname “Slasher”.

Hammond, unlike Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, has actually had a real job out there in the real world. His wealth is earned, not inherited, so he has a head start in the credibility stakes. When he says that there need to be spending cuts, we might not like the idea, but have to concede that the bloke making the statement knows one end of a set of figures from the other.

And on today’s Andy Marr Show, Hammond was living up to his nickname. There would have to be cuts in departmental budgets of 25%, or in some cases maybe more. That means a lot of job losses, but at least this has already been conceded. What has not found universal acceptance is the idea that all of these losses, and more, will somehow be compensated for by a substantial increase in the private sector.

Moreover, what Hammond wasn’t pressed on was the effect of such large cuts on that same private sector. If such things as road building projects get the axe, this impacts directly on the civil engineering sector. Less employment there means all the smaller firms that depend on the civils also suffer. And, as I’ve noted previously, cutting “back office” functions also results in job losses. This then impacts (for instance) on suppliers of IT services. Bad news for the M4 Corridor.

If the private sector is getting hit by the fallout from the cuts, just how is it going to put on all those extra jobs to take up the slack when the public sector shrinks? I suspect that Hammond is going to find that one harder to square. But at least he’s giving his news to us straight.

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