*** UPDATE ***
A story on the front page of yesterday’s Sunday Times caught my eye – I am now particularly acute at spotting job related news. The headline is, UK’s fast recovery saves 90,000 jobs.
The story is a classic of its kind. Based on a ‘preview’ of what the new Office of Budget Responsibility is expected to say on Monday morning the story asserts that, ‘As many as 90,000 civil servants, council workers and other state-employed staff facing the axe may now be safe.’
The good news is put down to better than expected growth and the extra tax revenues that have accompanied it. The story also has another ‘preview’ of an announcement from Ernst and Young’s Item Club. It is ‘expected’ to say that only 400,000 public sector jobs will need to go. So that’s how you get to the 90,000 saved jobs. You take the 490,000 previously predicted, lop off the new figure of 400,000 and you get the 90,000 saved.
Hey presto! Good news. Move on.
But, I am not so sure.
The Times did not mention the news that the Local Government Association, that well-know bunch of bleeding hearts, is now saying that local government will be losing 140,000 jobs next year and not the 100,000 it first thought. The trouble is in the detail of the government’s plans for delivering the CSR2010.
The detail that many departmental ministers seem not to have bothered to read. The Local Government Chronicle had an interesting story this week that @patrickjbutler picked up on in his cuts blog. It was about the news emerging from the Department for Communities and Local Government that ministers there were now trying to find a way to ease the front loading impacts of the cuts to council funding.
Of course, I am fervently hoping that the economy is picking up steam and the private sector is hiring. I hope to be working in it soon. But these stories today remind me more than a little of the seasonally adjusted optimism that got Lord Lamont into so much trouble when he was the Chancellor.
There’s a power set of interests stack on either side of these stories. The government wants them to be true, its opponents don’t necessarily. And then there are folks like me stuck in the middle waiting for some white smoke to appear from somewhere with good news.
I am sceptical about the stories. Everything I know about budget setting in public services tells me that local public services are going to be incredibly cautious about any ‘good news’ being leaked right now. The fundamentals of what the CSR2010 and the departmental expenditure limits and annually managed expenditure totals that flow from it mean have not altered one jot. I heard a gentleman from the Item Club on the news this morning saying the fact the cuts in public spending were back-loaded meant that many jobs that were at risk could now be saved.
Hmmm. This analysis ignores two things. First, there are a lot of us that have already been given the push. The forecasts ignore this – it’s already happened – our jobs have gone. Second, in local government – as we have seen – the cuts are actually front-loaded. So I am not that cheered up by this seasonally adjusted good news.
That’s the key. Unless there is real good news, the type that has money attached to it, it is getting pretty close to being too late to prevent the inevitable grinding out of this particular budget setting glacier.
So I’m raising half a cheer and getting on with preparing for the certainty of my redundancy. I’ll leave the political classes to fret about headlines around forecasts and predictions. That’s what passes for statesmanship these days.