Julian Knight: Hold fast, George, we can't afford you to lose focus on cuts now

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The Independent Online

Cuts, cuts and more cuts. Every tin-pot pressure group and think tank is trying to get its particular gripe and grievance viewed through the prism of the "c" word, and it's being slavishly and unquestioning reported, I am sad to say, by the BBC in particular.

The fact that all the coalition is trying ultimately to do is slow the increase in spending so that it equates to the position of 2006 – hardly a time when the c word was being bandied about – seems to escape most. But there you go. Expect the hysteria to reach a new crescendo this week with the Budget. Chancellor George Osborne is in a slightly better position than thought, likely to borrow £8bn less this year than predicted. Note that I say borrow less, we are still in dire straits. He is being urged to give a little to motorists and perhaps temper the cuts a little. But to do so could prove disastrous and expensive. We are walking a fiscal tightrope akin to the mid- 1970s, and a hint of softening or lack of focus now could lead to us being deemed no better than a Portugal or Greece – both of which are borrowing less than we are, by the way.

It's our size that is our saving grace combined with the fact that we have a just-about-credible plan. If the Government loses focus now, interest rates will shoot up and that will prove catastrophic to all. What's more, £8bn less borrowing means less interest, which is a good thing, but if we splurge this cash – which remember we don't have – then we will just have to pay it back plus interest in the future.

We're the dodgy dealers

From one widely reviled character to another, the Great British Estate Agent. The National Association of Estate Agents says complaints about estate agents are 28 per cent above the level seen in 2008. The industry Ombudsman described the 1,338 complaints as "unacceptably high", and, in response, everyone trots out the same old "aren't estate agents appalling" line.

Having bought and sold property, the worst I'd say about the agents I dealt with were that they were a mixed bunch – there was one dodgy dealer – we nicknamed him "gorgeous George" – with a perma-tan and a lie for every occasion; but there were also highly professional ones. I can't always say the same for their clients. A lot of recent anger at agents has been in the rental sector with "gazumping" of would-be tenants, but it's the landlord who's responsible for this, not the agent. Those dodgy agents that do exist do so with the collusion of sellers and landlords because they know that, by hook or by crook, they get a good price for property. We are all likely to know who our local dodgy agents are, and it's sensible never to use them. But people do so because they are greedy. I think the estate agent complaints figures say more about us as a society than the much maligned agents.

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