The end of austerity? I’d put the celebrations on ice

The end of austerity?

The new chancellor Philip Hammond has signalled a scaling back of austerity and it has been reported that the economy is now entering a “new phase”.

But what does that mean for public sector spending – and does it also mean that I need to start penning my next book?

I’d hold off any street parties celebrating the demise of austerity for now. There’s a long journey ahead and I’m sure many of you are still facing challenging targets and budget deficits. However, let’s hope that this means that spending reductions won’t be as dramatic as some facing public services which are currently upwards of 20%. And that’s if you are one of the lucky ones.

Changes at No 11

Philip Hammond has been appointed Chancellor six years after Liam Byrne, who was then Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, left a note which said “I’m afraid there is no money”. Although during that time we have recovered from a recession, it sadly is still a similar story. And the uncertainty around the implications of Brexit on the economy has suggested that we may indeed enter a recession. Only time will tell but there are some worrying signs that things are not quite back to normal, whatever normal was in the first place.

So what next? It has been confirmed that there won’t be an emergency budget but there will be a revised economic strategy I’m the Autumn Statement. By this point Mr Hammond will have seen the first forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility on the state of public finances post the referendum. This will certainly be interesting and I’m sure will set the tone for government spending. The initial focus of being more inclusive and a promise of better times does not imply a rise in public spending. A little too soon to hope for that. So keep doing what you are doing and stick to your plans I suggest.

The end of an (austerity) era – really?

Do any of us believe austerity may be coming to an end just because there are signals of an abandonment or slackening of achieving a budget surplus by the end of this parliament? I don’t think that will be many of of us.

Amongst all the uncertainty there are things that will remain unchanged:

  • There is still be a budget deficit which will need to be addressed. We still need to close the gap. Just how this is addressed will be high on the agenda for Philip Hammond alongside Teresa May and her cabinet.
  • The public sector will have to continue to deliver reductions – however, as I’ve said earlier let’s hope that the government can ease some of the pressure on the level of reductions needed year on year.
  • The public sector needs to work efficiently and effectively. We still need to have cross-cutting programmes that identify innovative ways of doing more for less, not just this year but every year.

Oh and the small matter of disengaging or remaking our relationship with the EU. I am sure that will have a couple of surprises along the way for our economy and that of the EU and beyond.And as for my second book, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Whilst How to Survive Austerity tackles the subject of the austerity measures George Osborne introduced, many of the learnings within my book, and particularly the CHERISH programme are still as relevant as ever.

Remember no role or service is ‘safe’ and the methodology will help you to measure the value of your service against the best in the public and private sector, and to demonstrate that value. I would of course be happy to receive suggestions now for my second book. Now there’s a game we can all play.

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