Magazine article Public Finance

Reserve Judgement

Magazine article Public Finance

Reserve Judgement

Article excerpt

It used to be glamorous foreign trips to estates and villas owned by the likes of Cliff Richard, Robin Gibb and Silvio Berlusconi. Now it's a domestic break sampling the delights of the Suffolk seaside. Gordon Brown's choice of holiday destination says a lot about his style as prime minister compared with his predecessor. But it is also symptomatic of the belt-tightening being done by both individuals and government as the country heads inexorably towards recession.

Inflation and unemployment are up. Lorry-driver protests have forced the government to postpone for a second time the planned increase in fuel duty. The Labour Party has even had to cancel its traditional spring conference. And, of course, public sector pay rises have been severely curtailed.

So much so that around half a million local government workers took part in a 48-hour strike this week. Schools were closed and rubbish piled up as teaching assistants, school clerical staff, dinner ladies and binmen all withdrew their labour.

Pay levels are low in local government and a 2.45% increase is, in effect a cut. …

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