The most obvious thing about today’s £6.2bn worth of cuts is the degree to which Whitehall departments have successfully ‘passed the parcel’ onto other parts of public services: local and devolved government, quangos, universities, private sector contractors and suppliers, and others will take the bulk of the pain. A few headline grabbers like reduced 1st class travel are meant to convey the idea of shared-suffering but the reality is Whitehall has done rather well, so far.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to save £704m; local government £1.165bn in total; £600m comes from quangos; and nearly £3bn from consultancy, IT, suppliers and property – i.e. mostly from the private sector – totalling at least £5.5bn of the £6.2bn announced.
The reduction of £3bn into the ‘public service industry’ probably equates to about 45,000 jobs and in local and devolved government probably another 40,000. Add to that another 10,000 or so from quangos and the rather tiny jobs freeze in the civil service (only about 2,400) and you get almost 100,000 public and private sector posts to be eliminated in this financial year as a direct result of these cuts. (More or less the same ball-park as the figures I suggested before the election, but a slightly different mixture).
That Whitehall has managed to successfully play ‘pass the parcel’ with the cuts is hardly surprising – cuts made this quickly by a new set of ministers with little experience of their new fiefdoms will have been highly reliant on the Mandarins to tell them what can go.