Osborne's cuts get even bigger

Spending on public services will now be cut by 16.2 per cent over seven years.

Should you ever hear anyone suggest that the coaliton's cuts are not harsh, savage or draconian but are in fact "soft", "mild" and "insignificant", just show them this graph. At its lunchtime briefing on George Osborne's autumn statement, the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that the coalition's cuts are even larger. Spending on public services will now be reduced by 16.2 per cent over seven years. As IFS director Paul Johnson commented in his opening remarks, "there has been no period like it in the last 60 years."

The largest cuts for 60 years

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It's worth noting that the total level of cuts falls to 5.3 per cent if you take into account increased debt interest and higher spending on welfare benefits (both examples non-discretionary spending - spending required by law). But no one can now deny that public services are being cut at a rate that modern Britain has never experienced.

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.