Leaders: George Osborne must change tack to drive UK out of recession
THE feel-good factor from Britain’s Olympic glory seems destined, sadly, to be short-lived. Mo Farah’s grin is undoubtedly delightful and infectious, but there is only so much it can do to distract us from the pervasive economic gloom that has the country in its grip.
And yesterday there was no shortage of evidence of the seriousness of the predicament in which Britain finds itself.
Rail fares rising at a rate greater than inflation will be a severe blow to those Scots who have no option but to commute to work. At a time when pay freezes are still the norm, these workers will have to toil that little bit longer into the day before they pay off the cost of actually getting to work.
New figures on the number of suicides attributable to the recession are desperately sad to read – each individual case is a heart-wrenching human story of hopelessness in the face of what must appear to be overwhelming forces. Alongside these tragedies, a decline in the amount we spend on food may seem a trivial indicator, but it certainly shows that Britons are becoming all the more cost-conscious in their everyday lives, even when it comes to feeding their families.
On top of all this we learn that job prospects for young people are worse than at any time since 1994. These young men and women are not only being robbed of their present, they are also being robbed of their future.
It is becoming all too clear, if it was not already, that this recession is no temporary blip between long periods of prosperity. This is the reality for what we should assume to be the foreseeable future, and this requires a new recognition from the authorities of the social implications of the recession, as well as a determination to ameliorate them.
Coming at a time of unprecedented public sector cuts, this is a difficult challenge, but an important one that cannot be dismissed with a shrug.
But while we plan for the worst, we must guard against a sense that the recession is an inevitable and immutable fact of life. There is now a credible body of opinion – ranging from the IMF to Nobel laureate economists, UK business organisations and the Scottish Government – that George Osborne’s austerity programme is insufficient to the task of getting Britain back on the road to recovery. The Chancellor seems immune to the reasonable argument that in changing circumstances, policy must change. But change it must because any notion that cutbacks alone can rescue Britain from its economic mess have been shown to be plain wrong.
In a matter of weeks Osborne will be standing up in the Commons to make his autumn statement. Surely this is a good moment for him to trim the sails of the good ship UK to catch the prevailing winds? If he passes up this chance, our economy will be becalmed for some time yet.
Budget lessons need to be learned
SOMETIMES it seems that the phrases “new computer system” and “public sector procurement disaster” were destined forever to be in the same sentence. Our story today about the Scottish police IT system that has experienced budget over-runs and missed deadlines is just the latest in a string of such mishaps.
Is there something about the public sector that makes it prone to this kind of mess? Some
characteristic of big, unwieldy bureaucracy that makes nimbleness and shrewdness impossible? One would hope not, but it is a conclusion that is hard to avoid when looking at the facts in this and other comparable cases in the NHS and elsewhere.
The aim of this particular IT system was an honourable one – giving local communities information about how they were being policed.
Moves towards greater accountability and transparency in the police force should be welcomed. But only if the costs of achieving that goal are not disproportionate.
What we must avoid is the sense that “these things happen” and write off the lost millions as a regrettable fact of life. Too often in these cases, money is lost without anyone being held accountable for that loss. This cannot be allowed to be the case in this instance. In particular, questions need to be asked about what lessons can be learned in advance of the standardisation of other police computer systems that will be necessitated by the creation of a single Scottish police force.
This is all the more important at a time when every penny is a prisoner, and the millions lost in this farce could have been spent on front-line policing, or any one of a dozen more pressing social needs.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east