UK spending cut predictions did not come true

Fraser Nelson writes in The Telegraph:

George Osborne could disband the Army, fire every diplomat, release every prisoner, discharge every policeman, axe the entire foreign aid budget – and still not be able to balance the books.

In NZ that would save $7.1 billion a year. We now have balanced books but at the height of the GFC and subsequent deficits the deficit hit $20 billion!

Councils certainly weren’t protected: their funding fell by 40 per cent. Many of their leaders predicted one long winter of discontent; the Mayor of Liverpool went so far as to predict riots in the streets. The leader of Birmingham City Council warned of “the end of local government as we know it”. They should have had more faith in their own staff. One of the greatest untold stories of the last few years is how councils have found new ways of delivering better services for far less money. The Local Government Association’s own polling has found that council taxpayers are just as satisfied as they were before the cuts.

Maybe NZ Local Government could learn from the UK.

The arts budget is down by a third, yet the calibre of theatre, galleries and musical performance in Britain has never been stronger – as the arts pages of this newspaper regularly attest. Government belt-tightening has not damaged British cultural life because so little of our culture depends on the government. The most important factor is the genius and creativity of playwrights, composers, musicians and poets — of which there is, happily, no shortage.

Yet Labour here complain that Radio NZ has not had any funding increase, and that this is crippling the country. They’re damn fortunate compared to their commercial counterparts who have had huge revenue drops.

Perhaps the greatest single surprise has been law and order. The Police Federation warned that the government would “destroy policing in this country for ever”. That was 10 years ago, when the spending boom was in full flow. Under Theresa May, the policing grant has fallen 20 per cent – yet surveyed crime is down by 30 per cent. As it turns out, the size of the police budget does not dictate criminality levels.

Spending and outcomes are not the same thing.

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