Cuts, cuts, cuts: what, where and why?

Sunday 20 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Conservatory Economic solutions?

At the last general election, there was a consensus that public spending would have to be cut sooner or later, whichever party or parties formed a government. Even the then relatively popular Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was unapologetic about calling for ‘savage cuts’. So has the coalition government delivered? With gusto, say some some left-wing campaigners, for whom the Lib-Con public sector cuts and welfare reforms constitute a ‘brutal’, ‘callous’ war on the poor and the vulnerable, a product of ‘contemptuous Conservatism’ – even if Labour is also committed to cuts. But sceptics point out that although council spending has been squeezed, public expenditure as a whole has not declined, and call for far more dramatic cuts. So what is the reality of spending cuts, who is really affected, and how?

There is plenty of talk about the government’s swingeing cuts to public services, and how fitness for work tests, the benefits cap and the so-called bedroom tax, are branding the unemployed as ‘skivers’, fuelling a boom in food banks, victimising the disabled and making people homeless. But outside the pages of the liberal media and beyond the public sector professions, there is arguably more support than ever for genuine cuts in welfare spending to curb a perceived culture of dependency. Left-wing commentators blame the right-wing press for spreading misinformation and stoking prejudice, but somehow their impassioned defence of the welfare state fails to resonate even with those it is most supposed to benefit. So is there more to popular disillusionment with welfarism than rabid ideology and bigotry? Whatever the reality of the current austerity agenda, is there an economic or moral case for cuts? And does anyone actually have the stomach to make the necessary decisions?

Michael Burton
editorial director, The MJ, and LocalGov; author, The Politics of Public Sector Reform from Thatcher to the Coalition

Dave Clements
adviser to local government; blogger, Guardian, Huffington Post; convenor, IoI Social Policy Forum.

Matthew Dykes
senior policy officer for public services, TUC

Sally Gimson
Labour councillor, Highgate; member, Camden Council's planning and housing committees; Camden's Equality Champion

Max Wind-Cowie
deputy director, ResPublica

Dr Simon Knight
senior youth work practitioner; vice chair, Play Scotland

Produced by
Dave Clements adviser to local government; blogger, Guardian, Huffington Post; convenor, IoI Social Policy Forum.
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