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Conservative conference blog: Boy George wields the axe

Osborne looked grave as he stood at the lectern, or at least he tried to – I felt he was enjoying the moment. ‘We’re in this together’ and ‘it’s time for honest choices’ Boy George warned us.

Blitz spirit and all that. But this was really just a nice way of saying that the public sector is going to have to go on a diet big-time in the next Parliament: rations only. Taking a leaf out of Obama’s book, Osborne wanted to lead by example. So he offered cuts in salaries of ministers and quango bosses (stuffed full of Labour cronies anyway say the Tories), the number of MPs to be cut by 10 per cent and their pension scheme closed to new entrants. Will the Members’ Dining Room be serving Spam too?

The ask was a 1 year pay freeze for all but the lowest paid public sector workers and our boys on operational deployment. There will also caps on public sector pension payouts. Osborne pledged to cut the cost of Whitehall (which has a fairly amorphous definition) by a third by the end of the next Parliament. I wish him well, that will be an uphill struggle. Will the public sector unions roll over and take one for the team? What do you think?

The 50p tax band remains for now (unfair to give a tax cut to high earners when we are asking the public sector to make a sacrifice he said). Not many claps for that. He rowed back on the IHT commitment – saying that it would be enacted not in the first budget but sometime in the next Parliament. Lukewarm response to this also. Tax credits will not be paid to families earning over 50k. The hall seemed to think this very sensible.

A nation of savers is what the Tories want. So presumably you should get them young and build the habit early. Erm, no. CTFs will be binned, apart from for the poorest third (baby bonds apparently an unaffordable luxury). But BSP will be linked to earnings during the next Parliament, which is the quid-pro-quo for the state pension age rising to 66 – convenient in the Parliament after next. And then the big one: “We will reverse Gordon Brown’s pension raid” – to rapturous applause – but there wasn’t any detail on what exactly this meant.

So the stall is set – the cuts narrative is in place. The public sector will fear that the pay freeze next year is just the beginning of a Tory campaign. We could be in for a bumpy ride.

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Comments

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  1. Cross them off your voters list George..
    The public sector, the people who will have to work longer, those on benefits, bankers….who else is left?

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