Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Spinning and swimming

Disraeli warned us of lies, damned lies and statistics but you'd think in this post-McBride era it would be difficult to spin real figures.

I've spent the day swimming in figures, amid claims and counter-claims of spending cuts that result from the Chancellor's Budget.

His "efficiency saving" is your spending cut, or not if savings are recycled into public services. Then again, if efficiency savings worth billions are possible, what is that money currently being wasted on?

The Wales Office put the Welsh share of the "efficiency savings" at £216m "over two years", which neatly avoids the point that there are none in the first of those two years.

Alistair Darling has promised higher savings in the years after 2011. More pain (or value for the taxpayer?) is on the way.

Fears that the Welsh Assembly Government would get more than £400m less than expected are based on the UK Government allowing WAG to spend this year £120m from next year's budget - and not repeating the move next year. If WAG got an early birthday present, would it really complain when another gift from the same source didn't arrive on the same day?

The Plaid Cymru deputy first Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, has accused "London Labour" (headed by those well-known cockneys Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling) of imposing cuts on Wales.

The Wales Office insists the Assembly Government's Budget will still rise in real terms. Even if it gets £400m less than it expected - or hoped - would that really slash a £16bn budget?

Ministers say this 2.5 per cent cut in the expected (not actual) budget would still prove challenging, although many in the private sector face far worse at the moment.

The Institute of Directors makes the point: "We either squeeze public spending or higher taxation squeezes the life out of the economy".

But then the IoD never had to get elected.

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