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The Comprehensive Spending Review: The Disraeli Room debate so far

Adam Schoenborn summarises the recent Disraeli Room debates on public sector cuts

The Comprehensive Spending Review is finally here and, with it, a 19% cut to departmental budgets over the next four years. Over the months since the election, the Disraeli Room blog has had a wide-ranging debate on where, when, how and how deeply to cut. It is worth taking a moment to summarise some of that debate in light of the following announcements:

A 25% cut in resource spending for Business, Innovation and Skills

Of particular note is a cut in spending on University funding from £7.2bn to £4.2bn in line with the recommendations of the Browne review, which called for students to pay a larger share of the cost of their education.

ResPublica Fellow Prof Alan Riley has argued that these reforms will return British Universities to the top of world rankings,

The Browne Report provides a route to global academic predominance. By advocating uncapped fees while providing a series of funding mechanisms to limit the effects of fees on poorer students he provides the groundwork for growth in the higher education sector. Once the Universities have significantly expanded their size the Browne funding mechanisms will be redundant as the Universities will have the resources to fund any British resident student who requires support.

A 24% cut in resource spending for Culture, Media and Sport

Arts Council England (ACE) will face an overall cut of 30%, and the government is asking it to pass on cuts of only 15% to "front line" arts organisations.

I have posited that artists are right to argue that “this risks destroying this remarkable and fertile landscape of culture and creativity, and the social and economic benefits it brings to all” but wrong to protest tax rises for those who have made millions from the creative industries. Ultimately, successful artists should lead a drive for renewed civic responsibility, especially as philanthropy will need to play a greater role in arts funding for the foreseeable future.

£1 billion for a Green Investment Bank

While Jonathan West worried that the Treasury lacked the political will to invest in the promised Green Investment Bank, and Simon Beard worried that they lacked the resources, both felt there was room for more civic engagement in the green economy – including by running the Green Investment Bank as a mutual.

International aid budgets have been ring-fenced

Although there remains concern that funds are being diverted away from need and towards areas prioritised for national security. Earlier this year, Samuel Middleton addressed the thorny issue of diverting aid to national security projects, asking the pressing question: What is international aid for?

£7 billion in welfare cuts, in addition to the £11 billion announced in June

Welfare funding and reform has been a hot topic on the Disraeli Room blog. At a macro level, Imran Hussain, Head of Policy, Rights and Advocacy at the Child Poverty Action Group, set out a fairness test for budget cuts to welfare.

The fairness of cuts has been a particular concern for our Children and Families Unit, not least because the IFS has forecast that the cuts will hurt families with children the most.

Dr. Sandra Gruescu, Head of the Children and Families Unit, has argued that child benefit should be means-tested on the basis of joint family income; that raising the statutory retirement age with life expectancy will hurt the most deprived and that savings vehicles should be safeguarded with new incentives, such as privately-sponsored match-funding and discounted access to public amenities.

Watch this space over the next week, as ResPublica's Unit heads analyse how the CSR will affect their respective areas of research. Our chief economist Greg Fisher has kicked off the debate with an argument for moving the debate beyond Keynes vs. Hayek.

Comments on: The Comprehensive Spending Review: The Disraeli Room debate so far

Gravatar Alan Rogers 11 November 2010
It is a small project but I think it sheds light on the practical problems of the Big Society idea.r/>For two years I have been trying to persuade everyone I can get to listen that, in Wales, hospital chaplaincy should, like the Air Ambulance Service, be funded by a charitable trust. This trust can only be created by the “faith communities” and will only be created if the Assembly Government declares it to be required.r/>The reactions have been revealing.r/>The Church in Wales, by this I mean the Archbishop and all the Bishops, say the amount involved (£1.37 million per annum) is “small fry” and the NHS has accepted responsibility for religious care in hospitals so the C in W has no need to act.r/>The minister Edwina Hart says she thinks the service is “best” funded from the NHS budget. This is just an opinion and she offers no supporting evidence or any analysis of “best” for whom. A simple stakeholder analysis refutes her opinion.r/>Why is the minister so adamant? Does she fear offending the “faith communities”? Does she fear offending UNITE the union? The impressively named College of Health Care Chaplains is a professional branch of UNITE.r/>Why is the C in W so reluctant? Does it not have faith in the charitable qualities of adherents?r/>There will be no transfer of financial responsibility from the state to the “faith communities” while these attitudes persist.r/>Alan Rogersr/>r/>

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Detailed Summary

Date Published
22 October 2010

comprehensive spending review
Welfare and Public Services

About The Authors

Adam Schoenborn

Adam Schoenborn was a senior researcher for ResPublica from its foundation in 2009, until he moved to Canada in April 20...