Mr Brown is right to spend more, but he must also spend wisely

Share

Well underspun, Mr Brown. The Chancellor's statement was low in hype and gimmickry, so we could see more clearly the strengths and flaws of his plans.

Well underspun, Mr Brown. The Chancellor's statement was low in hype and gimmickry, so we could see more clearly the strengths and flaws of his plans.

First, the strengths. The substantial, sustained increases in health and education spending are vital to Britain's future as a civilised and economically efficient nation. The really striking boost to spending on transport - the percentage figure is high because spending starts from a much lower base - is also long overdue. Decades of underinvestment in road and rail are holding back both our economic effectiveness and our quality of life.

There are a number of other welcome spending increases. On defence, it is time to declare that the peace dividend from the end of the Cold War has now been cashed. We have to recognise that a foreign policy in defence of human rights wherever Britain has a responsibility is going to be expensive - and the parallel increase in the international-development budget is part of that. Small things such as the extra money allocated for the BBC World Service and for the Food Standards Agency should also be applauded.

But the weaknesses were glaring, too. The overall picture was one of alarming advance on all fronts. It simply cannot be the case that, in all main areas of public spending, more money is needed. Of course, because of the demands of health, education, transport and defence, there will have to be what the Chancellor called a "step change" upward in total spending. But the only cut Mr Brown offered yesterday was £1bn in savings on fraud and errors in social security. And there, we suspect, we are back in the land of funny money and double counting.

There is a terrible political danger in such across-the-board generosity. It sends the wrong signals about the Government's determination to target money where it can do most good. It almost invites voters to return to the bad old pre-Thatcher ways of assuming that the Government should simply throw taxpayers' money at every problem. Yes, transport needs a big increase, in capital spending especially; but in the long run, we, as drivers and commuters, have to recognise that, if we want less-congested roads or faster public transport, then we, as users, are going to have to pay for them.

Michael Portillo, the shadow Chancellor, mocked New Labour politicians for having claimed that they were going to be wise spenders, not big spenders. But Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have in fact put such spin behind them: the point is that they will be praised for being bigger spenders, but only if they can also prove themselves to be wise spenders.

That is what Mr Brown failed to do. Some excellent innovations were built on, such as the diversion of education funds directly to schools. But where were similar radical ideas for the health service? What about giving patients the right to spend their tax money on going private if the NHS cannot treat them quickly?

Mr Brown spoke a lot of targets, public-service agreements, penalties and inspections - all the old devices of state bureaucracies. Without convincing new mechanisms to ensure that the extra money really is "tied to output and performance", there is a danger that, by the middle of the next parliament, he will be remembered as a good old-fashioned Labour splurge-and-spend Chancellor.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mukesh Singh, who appears in the film, was sentenced to death for his part in the 2012 rape  

The depressing similarity between the Delhi rapist Mukesh Singh and Oxford's Police

Sophia Cannon
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot