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Two key points of Lib-Tory deal: £6bn and borrowing review

Paul Mason | 15:22 UK time, Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Two big measures stand out from the Liberal Democrat/Conservative "agreements reached" document. First, the £6bn in-year cuts will happen but there is a caveat:

"subject to advice from the Treasury and the Bank of England on their feasibility and advisability."

Mervyn King gave his approval this morning as to their advisability, but as to their feasibility we will have to wait. There is still nothing concrete beyond what Peter Gershon produced before the election.

Now for the big one:

"New forecasts of growth and borrowing should be made by an independent Office for Budget Responsibility for this emergency budget."

This means:

a) The new government does not trust the Treasury projections of growth
b) It will probably revise the borrowing forecast - most likely upward.

It will be a big ask for whoever is to lead this OBR body. The options are to revise the Treasury's methods or to go straight out to the private sector forecasters who have constantly been more sceptical than HMT.

And the document begs a question. When George Osborne referred to Budget 2010 as a "work of fiction" he may not only have meant the growth projections. The long term deficit reduction plan relied on raising:

  • 17bn from reversing fiscal stimulus
  • 19bn in tax rises
  • 38bn from cuts
  • 17bn from the proceeds of growth as housing and the finance sector revive

If we break this down it is the last one that is subject to variability: the Con-Lib government's crackdown on bonuses and bank structure looks harder than Labour's. And its fiscal tightness may bear down on growth harder than Labour's plans did. So that 17bn may, as its critics suggested, be a triumph of hope over optimism.

So there could be quite a big shock in Budget 2010 two-zero, which will happen within 50 days.


  • Comment number 1.

    In addition to the deflation yet to fully work its way through he economy from the last government 'protecting' the recovery there appears to be a further wave of public sector cuts coming from the new government. Local and central government workers clutching their not inconsiderable redundancy pay headed for benefit offices and to sign on for job seekers allowance and freed from income tax and NI.

    Yes the £17Bn increasingly looks like a work of fiction without a happy ending.

  • Comment number 2.

    What does 'growth' in the housing sector look like? Okay, increased sales but what else 'grows'? Is it a revival of housing bubbly bubbly we are aiming for?

    Is it 'growth' if it is foreign buying up of property in the face of weak pound, which is a large part of the 'housing recovery' that has occurred? If so, what is good about that?

    I know I would like to see the phrase 'housing ladder' dumped in Brown's redundant attache case, never to emerge. No one lives on a ladder, and it just expresses eternal unmet aspiration. Classic neoliberal language.

    Similarly, its debatable whether a revived finance sector means the jobs that we need for real 'growth', especially with cheap onshore outsourcing increasingly on offer. And the last 'high growth financial sector' was the cause of the all the problems.

    Have we got to sit through another set of huge mistakes which we then pay for? A stockbroker's son and a banker's son? (wince)

  • Comment number 3.

    Focusing on the role of the Bank of England as fiscal adviser to the Government makes me wonder about independence and credibility in its monetary role. Isnt there a danger that fiscal stuff is getting intertwined with monetary stuff. Darling's budget admits an £18bn contribution to Public Sector Net Debt by face value reductions in QE gilts since they were bought. I'm not sure your question at the BoE conference asking what plan did the BoE have to sell QE gilts and how was it being modelled was answered.Was it?

    Reading excerpts of the Inflation Report I see inflation will stay above target but is supposed to be brought down later by the effects of spare capacity. But, the evidence of deflationary spare capacity is thin/inconclusive.I note the BoE are not sure what is happening with all of this.Its all edged about with maybe this, maybe that.Upside pressures on prices and company pricing decisions are real.

    I agree that interest rates should be kept low but wouldnt it be less of a contortion to adjust the inflation target upwards?

  • Comment number 4.

    what happened to the freeze for the first twelve months that the Lib Dems were not going to budge on?

  • Comment number 5.

    Personally I think I am more likely to be relieved than shocked when realistic projections are offered.

    It will be nice to be treated like adults by our leaders for a change, the last 17 billion of the deficit hole plug is the fiscal equivalent of believing in Santa Claus surely.

    Tell it to us straight, out living standards will have to drop significantly, there will be no ringfence around the NHS or anything else, there can not be.

    The national effort should be concentrated in building a fit for purpose nation in line with the inevitable new economic model that must emerge in the coming decades.

    Simple as.

    As a nation we enjoy a good struggle to give us an excuse to pull together, give our lives a sense of purpose,fulfillment and community. We are rubbish at enjoying affluence, we are only truly at our best when we are 2 nil down with 15 minutes to play. I guess we will hve change to prove that.

    I am willing to suspend my cynicism and give this new administration a chance so expect amore helpful tone from me, for as long as they are as good as thier word anyway.

    We shall see.

  • Comment number 6.

    A billion here and a billion there: soon you are talking about real money.

    The election was fought on fantasy budgets with the truth yet to come.

    We will spend the next few years with Labour & Chums howling about The Cuts whilst the Coalition of the Damned point out that their policies are a direct consequence of Labour & Chums depraved accounting when they were in office. I don't envy the new government the task they have and they won't get it all right either. One thing though they won't be as ghastly as their predecessors.

    It is going to get very tough all across the country for most people. As for the so-called recovery well, if you slosh cheap money like it is going out of fashion - which it will - then you are going to get some positives.

    Don't stand near a revolving fan in early July for fear of low flying articles, brown in colour and Brown in origin.

  • Comment number 7.

    @2 Stay cool!

    All your fears may be true of course, but probably not with uncle Vince on the team. I don't entirely agree with his economic approach: I think the problems in the system are insurmountable. However, he does actually understand the way things work, and fail, and his record shows that he is not afraid to be honest.

    Over the years I've been a compulsive writer of letters to MPs of all shades. I've had personal and thoughtful replies in the past from both VC and DC.

    My impression is that unlike Tony Blair, DC doesn't have a Messiah complex; therefore he will allow himself to be educated by his experiences in government, and not just seek to impose his will. I hope that the inevitable sycophancy he will experience as PM doesn't tip the balance of his mind.

  • Comment number 8.

    There are two options. Announce an emergency budget just at the end of July or in the first week of August with a slash and burn approach cutting as much as possible quickly and seeing how long they will last in power.
    Go smoothly before going for the jugular around Xmas time. Either which way the issue is cuts, how deep and when.
    They will find empty coffers like the Greeks did, ask for an IMF bailout once the City traders start betting against bonds, sterling etc. and wealth or what remains of it will be transferred just like under Brown, from the poor to the rich.
    The 'big society' will soon come unstuck as the collapsing society and in the not too distance future the poll tax riots will once more look like a tea party.

  • Comment number 9.


    The mask slips - sooner or later - even on the, seemingly, human ones.
    Ask not what Dave, Vince, Nick can do for (to) us, ASK WHAT DRIVES THEM TO DO IT!

    I, and many like me, spent my working life messing about with 'stuff' - turning it into other stuff. However, certain professions - of which politics is one - draw individuals who want to mess about with PEOPLE'S LIVES. Those who get to the top of politics - if the past is any indicator - are weird; some very weird indeed. And Prime Ministers - because of the feudal, hierarchical Westminster system - are subject to little in the way of control. I have listed before the bizarre consequences.

    Things will never get better - we can't go on like this. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? I keep thinking that Dave and Nick (creatures of Westminster) have DRIVES of which we (and probably they) know nothing. One thing is sure: Westminster is a vile place in which MPs put up with behaviours that ordinary folk shun - what is it that keeps them there?

    Can you see what it is yet?

  • Comment number 10.


    'New Politics with grown up behaviour' - yeah right - but never while Westminster figures in our governance.

  • Comment number 11.


    Come on Barrie, your starting to give hopeless cynics like me a bad name. Give them a chance.

    Could this be the new 'CAMELOT' (see what I did there :))

    On a more serious note I would not object to the popular press adopting such a label as it will by its very use put pressure on those inhabiting the newly formed 'round table' to adhere to the ego less greater good ethos that fascinating English myth engenders.

    Dare to dream.

  • Comment number 12.


    p.s can I apply for the job of Merlin?

    Or has Vince Cable got that one covered already :)

  • Comment number 13.

    Vince has just proved he is just mortal after all...

  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry SARAH CLARKSON #7 but uncle vince knows all about the Mode 4 labour liberalisation in trade agreements, that is the provision for cheap workers to be brought from outside the EU, into the EU and especially into the UK,vwhich is what his good friend Lord Valance of Tummel has been lobbying for in Brussels.

    He says he works closely with Lord Valance, and knows all about Mode 4 - which he calls non descrimination. But Mode 4 allows cheap labour to be brought in, diplacing British workers.

    Well he'd better realise the economic implications quick smart - the difference between UK workers paying taxes and mortgages here, or foreign workers living rock bottom cheap here, avoiding taxes, repatriating earnings and then claiming for families when they go home.

    From every point of view it is worthwhile if UK workers are employed

  • Comment number 15.

    Migration and immigration is what our 'rulers' are using to drive economic growth. When economies are expanding they mirgants fill newly created places and when it economies are recessing migrants bring down labour costs infact, they bring down labour costs in both instances so its a win win for businesses. The environment this creates is the one we are living in; a one where the incentive is to chase money and become as affluent as possible at the cost of anything else. This is England.
    AND...if you had not noticed the minimum wage is an irelivant Public Relations exercise that is subverted through other means then look again. We are governed not by democratic means people; We are governed by business and money and corruption.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.


    The minimum wage is fast becoming the 'normal' wage.

    When firms bring in their own workers, whether its under EU free movement of 'service suppliers', otherwise called 'posted workers', UK Points Based 'intracorporate transferees', or ditto under upcoming 'Mode 4' trade agreement commitments, we're heading for a situation where the minimum wage is THE wage. Union agreed wages have no legal standing in this country. Most wages are actually held up by limited labour supply anyway, which is what such migrant labour provisions undermine.

    We get told all the time that its only unskilled UK labour that is negatively affected by migrant labour. But all these provisions are for skilled labour.

    Is the minimum wage what skilled workers want to be in competition for, here?

  • Comment number 18.

    Paul, the Inflation Report May 2010 "money" section 1.5 details where the portfolio transfer of QE-created money deposits has gone. Bank capital and debt instruments boosted to repair the bank balance sheets.Gilt bank market makers' profits boosted. Its boosted corporate debt raising to pay off bank debt, helping to repair bank balance sheets and help FTSE 100 big boys.There's still a large overhang of real estate debt which lurks on bank's balance sheets which is yet to materialise in to losses.Banks' balance sheet problems remain unsolved and risk premia are increasing on UK banks.Talk now of banking coming under increasing political pressures and serious problems in refinancing wholesale funding without taxpayer guarantees.Investors in banks now want higher returns on their debt and equity with customers paying the bills.

    With Darling's paultry fiscal boost of a VAT cut, now reversed, QE was supposed to be the big boost for the real economy. The banks, it was said, had received taxpayer capital and finance guarantees to aid them to recovery. It now transpires that QE was in fact an additional bail-out to the financial sector/City. The real economy is now only to be given the news that it must now start paying off the debts created by these interventions. Of the £200bn QE money created, it appears that £18bn has been lost on paper values which adds to the taxpayer's burden.I dont recall whether this was added to the cost tally of financial sector interventions.

    QE asset purchases were almost exclusively directed at gilts to avoid credit risk to the BoE but has now exposed BoE / taxpayer to market risk on QE gilt values. SMEs have missed out on the public largesse.

    These issues move in parallel to deficit reduction but noone's debating these growth destroying issues candidly. Perhaps this is what the Big Society is about. Perhaps I should stop moaning and roll my sleeves up, get my mates together down the pub and print our own shire-pounds and get the air-ambulance to drop them over the shire for the benefit of my local community. Fixed, round of applause from Dave and Nick, George and Vince.

  • Comment number 19.

    17. At 10:32am on 14 May 2010, stayingcool

    Good point.

    Now two questions.
    1. What happens to the students,their debt, while competing for minimum wage, their ability to buy things like homes, the furniture for those homes, cars, etc?
    2. What happens to the UK unemployed workers? Will they be labelled as scroungers and then banned to tented camps and food kitchens like the American victims of this recession rather than the suffering, sacrificial lambs of economic strategy?

    The Cornerstone christians would put the fear of god into me if I thought there was any evidence to support the existence of it/him/she.

  • Comment number 20.

    # 15 and 17

    Its the minimum wage PLUS tax credits...The state governs the wage levels of far more people than just those on the legal minimum. Its a system that works against low paid single people who can't get the same levels as families, and those who earn over the tax credit cut off limit, who fund it all.

    Also, those university educated eastern European migrants who 5 years ago were content to serve you coffee and pre-wash your bags of salad, well they're breaking out of that sector now and are increasingly to be found in every strata of the jobs market. And why not? They work twice as hard as anybody else, for half the pay, if you were an employer wouldn't you employ them? Think of the extra profit you would make! Its just a bit disingenuous for the politicians to always refer to these people in terms of 'fruit-pickers' the inference being...Don't worry about all these foreigners you see everywhere, they're not going to compete for your job.

    I don't expect anything will change until the downward pressure on wages threatens to affect house prices, as soon as the banks start panicking about falling asset prices a la Japan ( 40% house price fall over 20 years ) then we'll soon see it being addressed in government. I give it 10 years tops.

  • Comment number 21.

    There has certainly been a lot of deliberately misleading rubbish about migrant workers - that they are only unskilled so dont worry (as if the unskilled UK workers forced into competition and out of jobs dont matter), when, as you say, the fact is that EU migrants are often not unskilled; and the Points Based System for migrant workers from outside the EU is SPECIFICALLY for skilled labour.

    So there go those big fat lies.

    Then there is 'doing jobs that UK workers won't do'. Well, of course UK people would be reluctant when Easter Europeans living in dormitories have forced eg agricultural wages down from about £300 to £140 a week. Obviously anyone who can claim might as well live that way, for that non-difference.

    And for how long will people do 'jobs that UK people dont want to do'? Till about 5 minutes after they have worked here long enough to claim unemployment benefit. It doesn't take much to work out that people doing 'jobs that no one else wants to do' will be the first to make the shift when the chance is there. Unless they continue to work in those jobs as well as claiming.

    And their kids, if they are working, certainly wont be 'doing jobs that UK people dont want to do'.

    So all short term thinking, expecting to be out of govt or retired by the time it hits fan? Mmm, just what's happened!

    And you can apply all that to all the lies about an amnesty. (No guarantees that that in the wheeling and dealing behind closed doors, that wasnt a commitment to that). More rubbish, based on poor research, pretending that the UK will make £3b from legalising illegals. As soon as people are legal (and the Spanish experience shows that people pile in when there is a hint of it), they can access welfare, public housing, claim 'cultural rights', bring families in etc - clearly more cost than benefit. And then the next wave comes.

    We need a break with the lies, and honesty on all this, including figures for the different types of migration, and a clear spelling out of the EU rules to which we are now subject with public debate and exploration on the potential to change them, and especially on the secret trade deals being done at EU level, which most people would be surprised to find out include concessions to labour migration, big time.

    And, at risk of sounding like an old record, its only the media that can demand this, making up for their failure to address the situation while it was getting in this state.

  • Comment number 22.

    There has only been one subversive rock band over the last 30 years.......'the the' (and maybe 'muse' as well)

  • Comment number 23.


    For some time now for many the Minimum Wage has become the Maximum Wage.

    The Minimum Wage has also depressed differentials in pay scales for the semi-skilled.

    Whilst it has protected people at the bottom of the working population, the Minimum Wage has unintentionally served to suppress pay amongst working people. A case of levelling down rather than levelling up.

    The same can be said of tax credits which in many ways have brought back the Speenhamland System by which the taxpayer subsidises wages causing employers to pay their employees less.

    This is not to disparage either mechanism but to point out the apparent deficiencies in the way the legilsation has been implemented. A review would no go amiss.

  • Comment number 24.

    We are all immigrants.

  • Comment number 25.

    So - to whom does a country belong?

    At core, the deciding factor with wages and workers' rights is labour supply (and always has been - note the effects of the plague, 14th century, on labour shortage and then labour rights. Which is why labour supply is being increased here, effectively without limits. And why its so difficult to achieve any labour rights in countries where there are no women's rights, thus endless birthrate and thus endless labour supply. We are getting the overflow, courtesy of transnationals, from places where this has not been worked out.

    Although voices about 'we are all migrants' think they are being 'nice people', the fact is that as working conditions are destroyed in a place like the UK, as the model is lost, the chances of other countries ever getting them recede. Dont forget in most of the world, labour has no power. So its a levelling down.

    So I ask again, to whom does the responsiblity for a country, and indeed for that country's responsibilities in the bigger picture, belong?

    Privileging a comparatively few (in global terms) workers from other countries, with most benefits going to transnational corporations, is not 'development'.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ stayingcool - 'Nice People'?

    "in the creative world of finance, rules are a stupidity tax for those dumb enough to follow them"

    This is not about the colour of your skin or the way you talk; its about what you believe in.

    A country belongs to whoever is prepaired to take it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Prepared to take it?? Seems to anticipate a rather passive stance on behalf of the people here! Dont count on it.

    Finance is for life mate, not life for 'finance'

    'Creative world of finance'?? Is that the one that I, my kids and grandkids are now paying for?

    I did suspect that, rather than being a 'nice person', you were part of the business lobbying for cheap labour.

  • Comment number 28.

    Actually, I agree with stayingcool.

    This isn't xenophobic: I don't blame economic migrants for trying to improve their lives. I know some of them personally and they are good people. But they are being used by some employers and classes of employers to keep wages to the minimum, and evade taxes.

    Take the care "industry" in my part of the world, which is of course partly state funded.

    Care homes can't retain enough workers on the minimum wage becaue there is a seasonal holiday trade which pays more at certain times of the year. So, they import workers, sometimes families of workers, typically from the Philippines and East Africa. They then provide them with accommodation, of a sort, the cost of which is deducted from their (nominal) wages. These people then can send money home, to the detriment of the British economy, whilst seasonal unemployment is higher, and the jobs market is distorted. It is alleged that there are tax advantages for the employer for this, though I don't pretend to know how that works.

    The end result is that the state is subsidising employers to damage the British economy and public finances.

  • Comment number 29.

    PS, the gross salary for a full-time care worker is less than £11000. It's hard and demanding. These people, who look after our parents, are paid considerably less that the £17000 quoted for bank clerks, who merely handle petty cash.

    What does this say about the priorities of our society?

  • Comment number 30.

    Henry James wrote:

    'Do you have to be religious to excell(sic) in Capitalism?'


    Only in Israel!

  • Comment number 31.

    #29 Sasha Clarkson

    Neither a care-worker nor a bank clerk add any 'value'.
    Where value is exchange-value, which is the only value that matters in a capitalist society.

    Of course a care-worker is of more use-value to society than a bank clerk.

    To have a society based upon use-values requires an end to capitalism & the dominance of exchange-value & profit.

    Social democracy can promote use-values when there is sufficient profit & the re-distribution doesn't interfere with capital accumulation.
    Those days are long gone.

  • Comment number 32.

    Note a jittery exchange of letters between Mr King and Mr Osbourne on 3.7% CPI inflation. Much talk of fiscal and monetary independence, I see.

  • Comment number 33.

    Come on Paul, you have had a nice rest after the election. We need a bit of your realistic analytical skills on projected inflation to chew on now.

    RPI 5.3% , CPI 3.7% expected to drop back to close to the target by the end of the year Hmmmmmmm.

    Not entirely unrelated to the interesting debate above on minimum wage either...

    Capitalism goes full circle and becomes communism with most of the population only able to afford survival rations comprising Netto own brand Turkey twislers, oven chips, plus a crate of larger and a cheap broad band connection, whether they be a qualified car mechanic or on benefits with 6 kids..

    It leavs an ever seperated elite whom by virtue of existing wealth and leverage rise above the tax trap threshold and into the realms of offshore accounts, posh cars and fancy foreign holidays.

    The middle ground (people like me) aka hard working families and small business which underpins everything in terms of national stability get murdered.

    I am finding it very hard to believe inflation will die back as they hope (and pray) it will. I just dont buy the 'overcapacity' argument calming it down this time around. Those benefits will be outweighed by commodity price rises. We now import coal to Newcastle (well Teesside anyway), everything we make and sell and eat and burn comes with a hefty imported raw materials component.

    Even if the pound stays flat from here on in, I still cant see commodities going down in price outwith our direct control.

    It must therefore be an absolute knife edge between inflation and interest rates with so many 'hard working families and small business' endebted and only just managing to survive by virtue of 0.5% interest rates underpinning tracker mortgages. If inflation stays high and wages low (as implied) defaults will start to rocket as pressure builds in the system over time. Even worse if interest rates have to go up, even a fraction.

    I can only make 'macro' assessments as I am not a professional economist but it just does not stack up.

    It appears hard working families and small business are being deliberately coaxed into accepting a very reduced standard of living over time, cleverly managed such that it occurs too slowly for outright rebellion to occur.. hence the guarded 'hopefulness' about inflation dropping back later this year. Expect that prediction to be revised to 'mid next year' and so on...

    Like the experiment with the frog who will not move from a pan of water brought staedily to the boil until he dies, as oppose to the frog chucked staright in there, who leaps out immediately.

    laboratory frogs are we!

    But whatis the answer? I am all for a strategy of 'buying time' at the moment but only if the time bought is used to figure out how to turn the gas off under the pan that is staedily warming up.

    Outside of fringe groups like NEF and individuals on here, I just done see any evidence that is happening, which is really scary!!

    I do feel sorry for this incoming government. What difficult job they have, not of their own making.

    Am I close anyone? I really am interested in stress testing my 'uneducated' economic assessments with those of you who post here whom clearly live this stuff / make a living from it.

    Am I anywhere close? If not why not?

  • Comment number 34.

    @ Jericoa - "It appears hard working families and small business are being deliberately coaxed into accepting a very reduced standard of living over time, cleverly managed such that it occurs too slowly for outright rebellion to occur..hence the guarded 'hopefulness' about inflation dropping back later this year. Expect that prediction to be revised to 'mid next year' and so on..."

    But if it were done any other way, then there would indeed be great and rapid disquiet amongst the workers (GREECE)

    We're all rats in a cage running on the wheel of capitalism being drip fed by politicians who have no desire to alter the system what-so-ever.

    It is the aim of this governement to 'parachute' us all down as gently as possible to a living standard which is sufficiently squalid and thus motivation enough to follow, like the sheep we are: CAPITALISM.

    The reason England is and has been traditionaly so strong economicaly in our capitalistic world is because of the massive stratification of our society. People elected with narrow interests make decisive decisions, for better or for worse (first past the post)

    Capitalism is a perpetual motion machine. It creates the environment where education of the poor is dismissed in exchange for a job and money! the means of survival as decreed by our society

    EDUCATION! very simply; the difference between survival and death (in the extreme)
    capitlasim is the system that allows us to do that to each other, maybe why its so popular.

    we are all complicit; capitalism plays to basic human instincts to better himself by whatever means necessary. the majority of us have for a very long time, wanted to have advantage of some sort in life, over the other people around us; basic human caveman instincts gives more insurance for survival.

    Every time we go out and buy something we do not need; we are perpetuating the system that is litteraly enslaving us but that in itself not injustice enough, allowing some of the obscene accumulations of wealth manifest of late.

    It is the inequality in our society that maintains this status quo. The people at the top need poorer people to covet what they; we are many, thay are phew.

    People change this world.

  • Comment number 35.

    33. At 1:45pm on 18 May 2010, Jericoa


    You sound like you are Prof Krugman who won a Nobel Prize not so long ago. He focuses on the US where he is from but we can assume our economy mirrors theirs in way too many areas. Wage decline for the majority over the decades and massive increase in wealth for the majority. He's worried we are now experiencing the lost decade experienced by Japan not so long ago.

    We seem to be heading to a global division. Most of the Latin American countries have shifted towards socialism and refusing to put corporate profits ahead of people. After the failure of Copenhagen, they've even moved forward despite us and seem to be attracting a lot of interest from the third world. Meanwhile we seem to be sticking with what we've got and what we've been doing. It looks like they aren't willing to hang around waiting on the alleged world leaders to come up with economic and environmental solutions. Changes in global politics and economics are afoot, quietly without registering on our radar.


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