There was an interesting billboard doing the rounds here in Manchester around the local elections, and I’m sure it was being plastered up all over Britain, so you have probably seen it as well. It was paid for by UNISON and has writing at the bottom that is supposed to depict David Cameron’s Big Society. It read, “Fewer 999 operators, fewer bin men, fewer ambulance drivers, fewer lifeguards” etc etc. The message was clear, “Minor spending cuts mean that nothing will every work for anyone ever.”
We’ve seen this tactic time and time again, so much so that it even has a name – the parade of bleeding stumps. It is a well known civil service tactic, by which the head of a department faced with spending cuts would overlook cutting executive salaries or trimming the fat from the department, and would instead threaten to slash front line services as brutally as possible. The Minister in charge would panic at the idea of slashing services, and back down on the spending cuts, leaving the public sector gravy train as it was.
We have seen similar tactics ever since the Coalition took power in May 2010. Left-wing groups like UNISON have been promising us an apocalypse unless we stay committed to our unsustainable increases in public spending. Apparently, unless spending keeps going up and up, there is no way that bins can be emptied or that ambulances can be driven. The fact that these cuts (which aren’t actually cuts, spending is set to rise for the next few years) could be met by cutting spending on executive pay and by cutting waste has been completely ignored; according to the narrative, any cut must directly affect front line services and the left’s favourite go to word – “the poor.”
This nonsensical stance by Labour and their left-wing cronies has been exposed this week, first by the Telegraph’s access to various council and civil service credit cards. Civil servants at the Department for Communities and Local Government spent thousands of pounds at top restaurants, on theatre and exhibition tickets, and went on shopping sprees at the public’s expense, totally £865,000. They also disclosed that despite many town halls moaning about how brutal the cuts will be, it has not stopped them from spending millions of pounds on everything from iPads to video games, to Tiffany jewellery and Gucci products. It seems that cuts to front line services are preferred to cuts in spending on Michelin-starred restaurants, five star hotels and first-class plane tickets!
This week has also brought the news that bonuses of senior executives at the Department of Health have doubled in the past five years, with around 1,600 NHS managers earning over £150,000 a year – more than the Prime Minister. Some NHS executives will retire with annual payouts of up to £110,000.
It is tempting to throw scorn at such civil servants and executives, but really they are only accepting what is offered to them. There are not many people in the world that would turn down an enormous honey pot pension on principle, and we should not expect it of others. Instead we should be looking at who it is that has made the decision not to reform such lavish lifestyles funded by the tax payer, and has instead chosen to play the “bleeding stumps” card and to cut frontline services, when little if any cutting was required.
The idea that there is minimal waste that can be cut in the public sector, and that any cuts must therefore come from frontline services and hurt the poor and vulnerable is ridiculous; and yet it is a myth that is successfully being spread around our country by various left-wing groups committed to a big government agenda.
The public are being lied to, and it is time for those of us who believe in fiscal responsibility and accountability in the public sector to stand up against the parade of bleeding stumps. We do not need to bankrupt our country in order to pay for hospitals and schools, and curbing spending to responsible levels does not require a Dickensian nightmare on our streets, despite what UNISON and Ed Balls might say to the contrary.