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Views of the week: 3 December 2009

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LGC rounds up the best comment, analysis and opinion from the past week.

Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph on public sector job cuts

The cuts needed to restore the public finances to a healthy state must mainly be derived from the public sector payroll. An audit is needed of every job and payment on the public sector payroll, just as any business would do in a time of severe financial difficulty. There is no doubt this would put state employees out of work.

However, unlike the millions with obsolete skills whose industries contracted in the 1980s, many of the most unnecessary people in the public sector today have aptitudes relevant to businesses.

They are computer-literate, white-collar staff who, in many cases, would be valuable to expanding private sector firms, but to whom the taxpayer does not owe a living.

The next government must not lose sight of the need to transfer of scarce resources from the unproductive to the wealth creating sectors of the economy. Cuts in the short term will ensure growth later.

Camila Batmanghelidjh in The Times on child protection

Children who have been profoundly devastated by relentless exposure to violence do not need lessons, like those the government proposed last week, to know that it is bad. What they need is a robust child protection system that has the resources to save them.

Of the 550,000 children referred to child protection services every year, an average of only 33,000 are placed on the child protection register and 32,000 deregistered to keep expenditure low.

Decision-makers would prefer not to spend their money at the source of the problem, but instead choose the far easier option of running advertising campaigns and advice lines that reach the general public with an educational message.

Bruce Anderson in The Independent on a new cadre of social workers

Some form of intervention will be necessary to cure the UK’s social ills. One possible solution is a new cadre of social workers made up of middle-aged housewives, those leaving the armed forces or the police, businessmen who have retired early. They should each be given a case-load of underclass single mothers to turn into decent mothers who can bring up non-criminal children.

That might sound coercive, and it would have tough-love elements. But, like the Victorians, we have to remoralise the underclass and secure value for money from public spending on welfare.

Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph backs tax-increment financing

With huge pressure on the public finances, and with huge demand for better transport infrastructure, it is time to look at tax-increment financing. Introducing this system, under which public bodies can borrow against anticipated future revenues to pay for infrastructure projects, would enable the delivery of what are currently prohibitively expensive projects without raising taxes.


Pick of the Blogs

The Launch of ResPublica - Giles Wilkes, chief economist, CentreForum thinktank

Phillip Blond’s new thinktank [ResPublica] has not really done anything yet, but everyone seems enormously excited about it because of its apparent close connection to David Cameron, who was at the launch.

So what does this approach involve? From the speech and pamphlet, there seems to be:

  • A fair dose of miserabilism - “the state has proved incapable of saving its own citizens from debt and servitude”.
  • A lot of fairly typical “capitalism has failed” stuff, including the perennial “why can’t all companies be like John Lewis?”.
  • A repeat of the “Social Mobility Has Failed Us All” thing. University attendance rates climbing to 40% from 2-3% post-war is somehow a sign of the “state destroying the structures of working-class advancement”.
  • Oh and - wait for it - localism. Yes it now seems that only David Walker and Ed Balls will be left denying the political truth that making everything local will fix everything.
  • The prognosis: “rebuild society from the bottom up through civil association”.

I am going to ask a churlish question. How?

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