Public sector cuts: the view from Wales

The IFS forecast that public sector cuts are likely to be deeper than those experienced during the 1970s has triggered a strong exchange of views in Wales.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies forecast that public sector cuts are likely to be deeper than those experienced during the 1970s has triggered a strong exchange of views in Wales. With the IFS predicting that by 2017 public sector cuts will total between £47 billion and £57 billion depending on which party wins the election, in its State of the Nation report, the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts public spending in the regions, such as Wales, will be “harsh”.

One prediction from the Financial Times suggests Wales could be looking at spending cuts of 10 per cent. Speaking in Wales yesterday, the Chancellor said:

“Wales is at risk from Tory cuts which would derail the recovery leading to more job losses and cuts in key frontline public services. Labour will secure the recovery and with it jobs on which Wales depends. We cannot put that at risk.”

Shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said:

“We have set out our plans to cut government waste this year so we can protect frontline public services.”

For the Welsh nationalists, Plaid Cymru – who according to the FT are being spoken of in Conservative circles as potential allies in a hung parliament – the party’s Economic strategist, Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym, said:

“Plaid wants to see public services protected from spending cuts. If Wales had fairer funding we’d be getting at least £300m extra per year that would safeguard up to 9,000 jobs in the public sector. Let’s be clear – a vote for any of the London-based parties is a vote for severe cuts in health and education and in public sector jobs.”

The Liberal Democrats, however, explained they would make the cuts needed in a fair way. Liberal leader in Cardiff Kirsty Williams said:

“If cuts are made to the Welsh budget, the Welsh Liberal Democrats would ensure that the core services that people rely on are protected.”

In his interview with Jeremy Paxman last week, pressed about where public sector cuts would be felt first, David Cameron said:

“The first one I think I would pick out is Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, it’s quite clear — almost every party I think now accepts this — that the size of the state has got too big.”

In its State of the Nation report, however, the Centre for Economics and Business Research makes clear that both Northern Ireland and Wales have a roughly equal sized public sector at 70 per cent of GDP. Welsh secretary Peter Hain warned:

“With every passing day David Cameron’s big society sounds more and more like the same old Tories –  tax cuts for the few at the expense of cuts to essential services. This is precisely what Labour have been warning about throughout this election campaign. This was no gaffe by David Cameron – this is his real agenda now coming to the surface.

Last month, Leftfootforward reported a warning by the National Audit Office for Wales that public services in the country faced “significant pain”.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.