Behind Brown's spending review
Handouts for cops and generals
CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown was forced to announce new money for public services in his spending review on Tuesday. But this follows three years of slavishly following Tory spending limits.
As Andrew Dilnot of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said, "This week's figures follow three years of exceedingly low growth." Brown's extra money will not repair the damage done by years of cuts. The "rise" in NHS spending unveiled on Tuesday is the same rise heralded in the budget just four months ago.
Even the increase in education spending is much less than is needed to repair school buildings and recruit enough staff. Two groups will be cheering Brown-the police and the armed forces. After a direct appeal by General Sir Charles Guthrie to Tony Blair, military chiefs have won the first rise in their budget since the end of the Cold War. The armed forces will now collect 500 million a week. The police also got a massive boost.
- Public spending, excluding social security, has fallen from 29.1 percent of national production in the last year of John Major's Tory government to an average of 27.5 percent during the first three years of Labour. It will recover to only 28.2 percent next year.
Sums for schools?
BROWN PROMISED that an extra 12 billion will go into education over the next four years. But his last big announcement on education spending, a rise of 19 billion, turned out to be less than a third of that when independent experts unpicked the government's distorted figures.
And the money for schools comes with strings. It is being used to increase competition between schools and undermine attempts by local authorities to plan education. Schools will have to meet more targets and fill in more forms to get extra funds.
And the government is determined to push through divisive performance pay for teachers, even though the High Court ruled last week that it had exceeded its powers in introducing the scheme without proper consultation. Payment by results is to be extended to sixth form and further education colleges.
Brown spoke of stopping the "brain drain" in higher education which is supposedly leading to academics and postgraduates moving to the US. But he did not announce the abolition of tuition fees and the restoration of student grants, which would allow people to go to university without ending up over 10,000 in debt.
BROWN'S STATEMENT did nothing significant to address the poverty and class divisions which are growing in Britain (see page 5). Pensioners were given no hope of a proper rise in the basic pension or that New Labour will restore the link between pensions and earnings. There was nothing for the thousands of people who see their jobs go every week, or for people who have to exist on benefits.
New Deal bad deal
"THE NEW Deal is succeeding," said Brown on Tuesday. But such claims suffered two shattering blows last week. The government-funded National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that the programme had directly created just 15,000 jobs for young people. A day earlier parliament's education and employment committee said that over half of those who were supposed to have got a job through the scheme would have found a job anyway.
The committee also found that the private sector "units of delivery" which take on the jobless are much more expensive than the public sector. Unions also hit out last week at the sort of jobs which New Deal trainees are given. The City of Swansea council is recruiting eight young people who will be paid the minimum wage to pick up dog dirt for six months.
THE HOME Office has extended its definition of "violent crime" to include "common assault" and "harassment". These categories make up the vast majority of violent crimes. Yet "common assault" can be as little as giving someone a push, and "harassment" giving abuse. "Assault on a police constable" is now also included in the violent crime figures.
Reality doesn't match hype on rise in 'violent crime'
THE CHANCELLOR promised more money for police this week, after new crime figures were released. Police statistics showed an overall 3.8 percent increase in crime, and an apparent climb in "violent attacks" by 16 percent from last year. They also highlighted a 25 percent increase in reported robberies.
New Labour home secretary Jack Straw blamed young people and drinking as the problem, and promised a "crackdown" and more money for the police. But the figures are not as simple as portrayed by the politicians. For starters, non-violent crimes-burglaries and car break-ins-still make up 80 percent of all offences.
Of the "violent crime" figure, up to 10 percent of the increase is due to mobile phones being snatched. These are more likely to be reported to the police for insurance reasons. These "violent" robberies are increasingly carried out by school students on others of their own age, in school or on the way home.
Usually it involves someone snatching your phone and then running off-upsetting, but not heavy violence. The mobile phone companies could put a stop to thefts by making mobile phones theft-proof. But instead companies like Virgin have actually made it easier to re-programme someone else's phone.