Our chil­dren will be the ones to pay

Na­tional debt is build­ing up

Sunday Sun - - Comment&analysis -

CHAN­CEL­LOR Phillip Ham­mond still hasn’t bal­anced the books.

The Govern­ment spends more every year than it re­ceives. In other words, it’s still run­ning up a deficit.

That means the na­tional debt is go­ing up rather than down.

And even­tu­ally, all that money has to be paid off - if not by you and me then by our chil­dren.

Cut­ting debt was the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for all sorts of things the Govern­ment did. Re­duc­ing po­lice fund­ing, for ex­am­ple, or giv­ing nurses and teach­ers a be­low-in­fla­tion pay rise.

Ge­orge Os­borne, the for­mer Chan­cel­lor, once said he’d get rid off the deficit by 2015. It didn’t hap­pen.

And now, ex­perts at the Of­fice for Bud­get Re­spon­si­bil­ity, the Trea­sury’s of­fi­cial watch­dog, say we’re go­ing to have a deficit un­til 2030. But some­thing’s changed. Even though he talks tough, it looks like Mr Ham­mond is plan­ning to ease back on aus­ter­ity.

For one thing, he’s dropped a heavy hint that he will give nurses and other NHS staff a de­cent pay rise.

In re­cent years, their pay in­crease has been lim­ited to 1% a year.

It’s bet­ter than noth­ing, but when in­fla­tion is more than 1% it means their pay is be­ing cut in real terms - which is what counts. And in­fla­tion is 3%.

In his Bud­get state­ment, Mr Ham­mond said he was ready to pro­vide fund­ing for a new pay sys­tem “to im­prove re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion”.

In other words, he’s will­ing to pay them more. And that’s just part of it. Polic­ing Min­is­ter Nick Hurd has been telling po­lice and crime com­mis­sion­ers they can ex­pect good news when they re­ceive their fund­ing al­lo­ca­tions in De­cem­ber, or so the Com­mis­sion­ers say.

Since 2010 po­lice bud­gets have been cut or frozen - which again means they were ac­tu­ally cut in real terms.

And the im­pact has been sig­nif­i­cant, be­cause it means there are now fewer po­lice on the streets.

A change of pol­icy, even if it just means that po­lice forces get a fund­ing in­crease to match in­fla­tion, will pro­vide some re­lief.

Mr Ham­mond said last week that he had cho­sen “a bal­anced ap­proach”.

It meant that he was deal­ing with the debt, he said. But that wasn’t the only con­sid­er­a­tion.

Re­duc­ing the bur­den of aus­ter­ity is the smart move po­lit­i­cally.

Labour is promis­ing a spend­ing spree paid for by more bor­row­ing and mas­sive tax rises that will hit the su­per-rich but, ap­par­ently, leave the rest of us un­touched.

They haven’t ev­ery­body.

But Labour’s vi­sion looks more at­trac­tive if the only al­ter­na­tive from the Tories is con­stant mis­ery. con­vinced

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