Oh George, what have you done?

Three years ago this country entered the deepest recession for seventy years, brought about by an international banking crisis. The last government steered us through some choppy waters and we emerged from the recession last year. They bequeathed the incoming coalition some very positive economic indicators.

In less than a year we have lurched from good growth figures to negative growth. This gives me no cheer, despite my repeated warnings that the coalition’s plans were bad and destructive. The cuts are not only going to be catastrophic for public services, it is damaging the economy.

With rising taxes and unemployment it is no wonder that public confidence is failing. The coalition’s plans for dealing with the deficit are cuts that go too deep, too fast, and do nothing to stimulate the economy. Growth is needed, and the private sector has not produced it. Remember that Osborne’s promises included job creation in the private sector.

I am no deficit denier; clearly the deficit should be tackled. I do deny that cuts are the only way – I think increased tax take through economic growth would have gone a long way to sorting out our debt. I also think that last year’s recovery was clearly fragile, and the coalition’s plans were too drastic and too soon.

In the eight short months of this Tory government we have seen a bust in double-quick time. 2011 promises to be a painful year.

And what does the Chancellor offer up by way of explanation for the latest set of bad economic figures – snow. Did it never snow during the Labour years?

We need a change of direction, and we need it now.

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Audit commission report

Perhaps it is the circles I move in, but I missed any publicity for this: http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/localgov/nationalstudies/Pages/whenitcomestothecrunch12aug2009_copy.aspx

This is the Audit Commission’s report “When it comes to the crunch”.

This 104 page report may be a bit much for some people, but the executive summary on page 5 is a good précis.

I quote:

The recession is affecting each area differently; areas that were already deprived have been worst affected so far.
• Councils in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber regions have reported the most impact, those in the South West and Eastern the least.
• Manufacturing, finance and distribution have seen the greatest falls in job numbers, and the NHS and education the greatest increases.
• Low-skilled jobs have been worst affected; these are often concentrated in deprived areas.

Amongst their recommendations are:

Central government should work more effectively with councils and local strategic partners by:
• clarifying its overall strategy and the outcomes desired from each national scheme, and explicitly assessing whether local knowledge would help achieve them;
• designing simpler schemes that can quickly address emerging local problems by: devolving funding to local authorities or local strategic partners; joint commissioning; or applying flexible qualification criteria;
• explaining the rationale for involving local bodies, or not, in all national schemes;
• managing national schemes against planned outcomes, avoiding detailed, bureaucratic processes; and
• engaging now with the localities that will need support as the wider recovery begins, using mechanisms that already exist, including local and multi-area agreements.