Two cheers for big spender Brown

Share

Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was intended to be the centrepiece of Labour's pre-election campaign. The three-year spending proposals were designed both to provide evidence that the Government knows where it is going, and at the same time to wrongfoot the Opposition - enabling Labour to challenge the Conservatives to name the cuts they must make to fulfil their inane "tax guarantee".

Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was intended to be the centrepiece of Labour's pre-election campaign. The three-year spending proposals were designed both to provide evidence that the Government knows where it is going, and at the same time to wrongfoot the Opposition - enabling Labour to challenge the Conservatives to name the cuts they must make to fulfil their inane "tax guarantee".

That it was something of a damp squib can be put down to three reasons. First, the rows over spin and leaks diverted attention from the Chancellor's big moment. Then, too much had been trailed in advance for there to be many surprises. Most significantly, Michael Portillo's watering-down of the tax guarantee ensured that the Tories were not caught as financially short as they might have been.

As expected, the big recipients of Mr Brown's largesse were health, education, transport and defence. But for a man who has consistently talked of "hard choices" in public spending - suggesting that services will gain only if they make uncomfortable compromises - the Chancellor seems to have squeezed too few quos for his billions of quids.

On transport, John Prescott's 10-year plan includes vital investment - but it is a truly missed opportunity. In return for increased funding of 75 per cent, Mr Brown really could have tightened the screws. Mr Prescott - the man who in 1997 said "I will have failed if in five years' time there are not far fewer journeys by car" - has ruled out motorway tolls for a decade, as car numbers relentlessly rise. For a government obsessed with targets, it was a tragedy that none was set for reducing the use of cars. Meanwhile 100 new bypasses will rip the countryside apart.

On defence, Mr Brown was right to put money into restructuring the armed forces to better suit their new role as world policemen. There is no use sending troops to Kosovo, Sierra Leone and East Timor with faulty equipment. But with so many guns, ships and tanks that don't work properly, a wholesale reform of arms procurement should also have been driven through by the Treasury beancounters.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, did spectacularly well from the CSR. And rightly so. For people to believe that "education, education, education" is truly the Government's top priority, cash needed to be given for schools, universities and teachers. But, again, not enough was demanded in return. With Mr Blunkett's plans for performance-related pay delayed by the courts for at least a year, the Chancellor should have insisted, particularly after his Laura Spence outburst, that universities should suffer financial penalties if they fail to become less exclusive. It was also an opportune - missed - moment to signal an end to the charitable status of public schools.

The £13bn injection into the health service had already been announced, though we must wait until next week to hear where it will go. But in the week when yet another doctor, the gynaecologist Richard Neale, has been found guilty of a series of botched operations, doctors, if they are to receive a deserved pay rise, should accept in return regular revalidation of their skills.

So, disappointing in parts it may be, but the CSR offers - at last - real hopes for improved public services under Labour. Some opportunities taken, others missed. We now wait to see which parts of Mr Brown's war chest the Tories would plan to claw back for Michael Portillo's tax cuts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution