Magazine article Public Finance

Drowning, Not Waving

Magazine article Public Finance

Drowning, Not Waving

Article excerpt

In the midst of the recent flooding crisis, Prime Minister David Cameron made the rather rash promise that 'money is no objecf when it comes to helping families and businesses cope with the extreme weather.

Ministers soon toned down this unexpectedly generous offer, suggesting that there would be no blank cheque. But the principle was clear: money will be found when there is a national emergency to deal with.

Of course, national emergencies come along every now and then. Some of them can be predicted; some of them can even be prevented in advance.

Flooding is a case in point. According to the Committee on Climate Change, the government will have spent £500m less on flood defences than was needed between 2010 and 2014. As a result, the country will suffer £3bn in avoidable flood damage.

Spending £500m to prevent costs of £3bn doesn't seem a bad investment And the same argument could be made across the public services - in public health, education, criminal justice and beyond.

Moreover, as Paul Woods points out in this month's issue (pages 32-35), local government funding is itself at crisis levels. A number of councils, he believes, will become unviable if disproportionate cuts to the poorest areas continue.

Woods, director of resources at Newcastle City Council, calls for Chancellor George Osborne to rethink the cuts and head off an impending calamity. …

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