It is hard to interpret the call for 40 per cent spending cuts in some departments, reported over the weekend. On the face of it, cuts on that scale would transform the nation, and almost certainly for the worse. It is hard to imagine the welfare state, as we currently understand it, surviving.More
Food is never out of the news. At the moment Jamie Oliver is (rightly) indignant because Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been slagging off Jamie’s successful campaign to revitalise school food (presumably to justify the coalition government’s plan to restrict access to free school lunches). More
Big Sticks, Big Solutions and the Unmentionable Funding Proposal
Now don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of the proposals launched this week by the Green Investment Bank commission. Let’s celebrate a report that explicitly recognises market failures, and applies some big brains to how to encourage investment in useful low-carbon infrastructure. Let’s hope that George Osborne, having set up the commission, acts quickly to create the GIB.More
"If you want to build a ship, don't call together some men just to gather wood, prepare tools and distribute tasks," proclaimed the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "Instead, teach them the longing for the endless sea."
The evidence of the recent budget, in which the environment was like a salad leaf abandoned to wilt in the June sun, suggests that the wrong approach has been taken to building a green economy.
It's a shame, because there is no shortage of tasks and tools to distribute, and a long list of patient, rational reasons why we should do so.More
This week, I was lucky enough to see American social media evangelist Clay Shirky talking about his latest book, The Cognitive Surplus. Shirky argued that the new creative and collaborative possibilities unlocked by the internet will allow us to unleash this surplus – the vast reserves of time, skills and enthusiasm that we currently fritter away in front of the television – to solve some of society’s biggest problems. But, while I liked much of what he had to say, it struck me that Shirky is being both too too ambitious and too cautious. More
In the wake of George Osborne’s first budget speech, many are wondering how the coalition government’s plans to cut the deficit will affect the public sector.
The case of the legal aid and human rights charity Refugee and Migrant Justice provides some rather grim warnings. The organisation is currently under administration because of changes in the funding of legal aid, which attempt to ‘marketise’ legal aid provision.More
In the library of the Treasury, there is an ancient copy of one of Keynes’ pamphlets, and it has been scrawled over by Treasury officials with the words ‘bankruptcy’ and ‘insanity’.
Keynes was challenging the Treasury idea, which seems to have been in their DNA since time immemorial, that the way out of recession is to get people to save not spend. The money has to be in the banks, ready to lend.More
The government wants to build a ‘Big Society’ at the same time as a imposing a very big squeeze on spending for public services. This will not work unless spending is focused more sharply on preventing needs arising or intensifying ,and on supporting individuals and groups so that they can do more to help themselves and each other.More
One good thing about the budget: the recognition by George Osborne that the financial crisis began with the banks. This was the justification for the £2 billion bank levy – though, as nef’s Tony Greenham points out, this is only a third of what they paid out in bonuses.More
This horrible something will include rising unemployment, bankruptcies, home re-possessions and businesses shutting down on the High Street and elsewhere. So much we know.More