It has been an eventful few weeks, indeed months in the States, with the first round of cuts coming thick and fast in last week's business plan. I will hopefully blog on this subject in more detail in coming weeks, but I do want to say that whilst I doubt there is any States Member who does not believe that there are genuine efficiency savings to be made across the board, it must also be said that the 'Comprehensive Spending Review' is flawed in its inception for three reasons:
1) It was rushed. In their haste to meet deadlines, many Ministries have clearly had to make cuts that they were reluctant to - two prime examples being a reduction in the number of staff manning the borders at Immigration and Customs, something that was a step too far for the loyal Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, Jackie Hilton. In an impassioned and compelling speech she outlined her fears that the cutting of these posts could likely represent a false economy in the long run, as drugs and criminals were allowed to enter the island, with the very real social and economic costs that would ensue.
Similarly, Assistant Minister of Health and Social Services, Judy Martin, also felt unable to support her Minister in the removal of a Child Psychologist post at a time when suicides and social issues relating to the young and vulnerable are acutely high.
2) The cuts are arbitrary and presume that there are net savings to be made in all departments and at the same levels. Even if it is taken as fact that the overall budget can be reduced without affecting front line services, which I doubt is the case (indeed, some of the cuts have already passed are service cuts), it is completely unfounded to think that pro-rata cuts, that is to say a 2, 5 or 10% cut to each department's budget is either possible or sensible. Certainly some departments will be leaner than others, some not so. This leads to my third criticism that:
3) The Comprehensive Spending Review is nothing of the sort. The CSR is a complete misnomer: it is not comprehensive at all, because it is simply looking for areas of saving and not areas which are currently underfunded. The Treasury Minister, in his haste to make cuts to expenditure, is ignoring these areas (notwithstanding that funding for certain necessary health department spending, have been allocated). By ignoring these areas - some of which will equate to greater social misery and long-term false economies - he has ensured that the CSR is little more than a slash and burn exercise; an insidious exercise hidden behind a reasonable sounding title.
True, the spending Review does look at what areas can be cut and which areas can, or might, but it does not take into account the areas that actually need more money. But then like a law or a document, it is always much easier to point out sins of commission than sins of omission.
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