Price of largesse

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) points out that the three main political parties have some way to go to itemise how they will deal with diminishing the deficit (your report, 28 April).

While the IFS was critical of each party, it singled out Labour for not publishing its comprehensive spending review just before the election; that would have informed the other parties, as well as the public, about the dimension of the problem.

The parties' reticence is not surprising. After all, if 167 billion of deficit, plus the debt interest, is to be eliminated, and given that capital expenditure is usually contract-bound at an early stage, then revenue expenditure will have to bear the brunt of the reductions and that means cuts on salaries, so many public sector jobs will have to go.

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The recently appointed Independent Budget Review panel is examining the situation regarding Holyrood. Its remit is to consider the options for up to 3bn of annual savings. That will no doubt increase, post-election. The Holyrood funding arrangements mean that whatever money comes our way, it has to be spent on something. Spin-offs from English policies (such as NHS reforms) meant that, until 2007,we were awash with money, resulting in staff numbers rising from about 500,000 before devolution to nearly 600,000 now.

The first port of call now, therefore, must be to examine these extra posts to ascertain whether they were really required.

Using the yardstick of an average salary of 25,000, about 120,000 jobs would have to go to achieve the saving of 3bn. It is unfortunate for workers that their recruitment happened at a time when taxpayers' money was treated like confetti, and that, now this mess has to be cleared up, they will have to be disposed of.


Thomson Crescent