How likely does Cable think a double-dip recession is?

Vince Cable, Business Secretary, says “well below 50-50”; the Treasury says one in five.

Decca Aitkenhead's enjoyable interview with Vince Cable in today's Guardian includes this revealing exchange on the possibility of a double-dip recession:

The risk of a double-dip recession remains, he acknowledges, very real -- perhaps a little more so in his mind than the Treasury's. "As I recall," he says, "the government's own forecasting risk puts it at something like one in four, one in five." But asked for his own estimate, he says, "Well, you know, certainly well below 50-50," which sounds somewhat higher than one in five.

Like Nick Clegg's declaration that he had slept with "no more than 30" women, this is an answer that reveals far more than it intends to.

As Aitkenhead suggests, "well below 50-50" does sound rather higher than one in five. If we take into account that a cabinet minister quoted on the record is unlikely to suggest that a recession is probable, it's quite possible Cable thinks this is an underestimate.

It may be that he has studied the growing evidence of the risk of a double dip, long forecast by our economics columnist, David Blanchflower. Today's news that the recovery in the jobs market will stall this year is another sign of the trouble ahead.

To his credit, Kenneth Clarke has previously warned that a double-dip recession is "quite possible still" and that the coalition's cuts could damage growth. Let us hope that he and Cable are having words with George Osborne.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.