UPDATE: A peril of blogging under time pressure. I have mis-represented the Policy Exchange June 2009 paper. That argued for £100bn of cuts in underlying spending, with £55-£65bn in cuts in total spend. Its recommendation is thus much closer to what is now planned than I suggested in the Original Post.
But now look where we are. It was indeed “just for starters”. The government’s proposed underlying spending cuts now amount to £116bn. And Osborne’s programme now implies spending cuts continuing for six successive years. The Policy Exchange study of international and historical episodes of large spending cuts identified that in the most successful spending cuts programmes, spending was still lower, six years later, than in the peak year. But Osborne’s programme is much more radical than that. It isn’t simply that spending is still down after six years. No, on his programme, if delivered, it will be still falling!
When we criticise Osborne – and I do – we must not forget either the huge task he faces, nor the political constraints under which he operates, nor the remarkable scale of the plan he actually has.
I remain a strong supporter of this plan. More may still need to be done — what he did today was a start, but if things go ugly, he’ll have to do more. But what he has already announced is, in itself, huge.